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Richard Pollack
Episode 1121st May 2021 • Architecture and Innovation • CERACLAD
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Richard Pollack, FAIA, founder and president of Pollack Consulting a Sales, marketing, strategic and tactical business consulting for the Architectural, Interiors, Engineering, and Construction professions.

For more information, you can visit:


0 (1s):

This is the architecture and innovation podcast by CERACLAD, featuring one-on-one interviews with designers, contractors, city managers, and civic leaders, as well as thought leaders committed to sustainability, innovation and solutions that are attractive, affordable, and create healthy living environments. Our podcast illuminates the challenges, breakthroughs, and proven solutions brought to industries, organizations, and our communities from the office and manufacturer of Sera clad in Redmond, Washington, and on location. This is the architecture and innovation podcast. Our guest today, I'm going to give a warm, happy, welcome to Richard Pollack, a fellow of the AIA, not just an AIA, I mean, not this but a fellow and a founder and president of Pollock consulting, a sales marketing, strategic and tactical business consulting for the architectural interiors engineering and construction professions.

0 (59s):

For more information, feel free to visit Richard's website @ That's Richard N P O L L a C Richard, welcome to the architecture and innovation show. So honored and always happy and really excited.

1 (1m 19s):

Tom, it's great to be with you and it's all good.

0 (1m 25s):

Richard, we've talked about this, in our virtual green room, but in, in the past, is that it's all good. And why? It means so much to you share with your audience today, how you got it, what it means or whatever you want with it, but it's, it's really important.

1 (1m 45s):

Yeah. Thank you. First of all, a welcome to everybody listening. That's great to, to have this venue, it's all good. Basically came from an old colleague of mine who I'd heard, say this some years back and it just resonated, it was something in sync with my head, but it was much better than my, Hey. Yeah, I was fine. Everything's okay. But it's all good. And it's a powerful statement. It amps me up. It amps up the people that I'm around. I have so many people in my life and career that, you know, will, when they see me, absolutely say Pollock, it's all good.

1 (2m 30s):

And that's, I think part of the shtick, you know, it's like, I've never been the, the reticent, you know, hide in the whole architect. It's always been, let's be a little bit out there and that's part of it. I love

0 (2m 45s):

This may be a bit out there, but this is of course my opinion. And you may not disagree or maybe your bias with it is I think what you're doing Richard, as an architect, as a business person and as an advisor is in my strong opinion needed by virtually every single architect designer, building product manufacturer and

contractor. Oh, look, I got choked up. I'm choked up. Hahaha. I'm also serious about that. I'm so serious about that. What in your experience has changed the last couple of years to where there is more of a value to the advice and the recommendations that you bring to those in our built environment.

0 (3m 29s): I think.

1 (3m 30s):

That one of the things is to become more powerful. You know, it even goes back to architectural education where you do not learn anything about business. You don't learn about marketing. You don't learn about sales. I love to say sales. And in addition to business development, because architects hate to use that term, but that's what we do, whether it was selling to a, a client or we're selling a design, you know, once we have a client, but it's, it's about pulling all of the, the business side of what we're doing and, and using that to make our businesses better.

1 (4m 11s):

So, you know, it's been a traditional thing that people would say, oh, I got to design business. And just as a little switcheroo, I said, I have a business that does design. And I would explain that, you know, with my architectural firm, and then since then, and knowing that most architects are coming out of school without any real education, that it's important to get a perspective on how better they can run their firms. How can they can be more effective with their business development sales and build more equity into the firm for both themselves and their staffs, because that's part of what it's about.

1 (4m 54s):

I mean, you look at any business that's out there and yeah, we can argue that some of them are perhaps too profit focused, but architecture has traditionally been not profit focused. It was always, the old saw in architecture was, yeah, I'm going to keep practicing until I go out of business. You know? So it's like, no, the goal is to make money and have a business that continues. And, you know, it was, it was great in my career that I was able to transition my firm to a new generation when I retired and to see it continue to succeed is great.

1 (5m 36s):

And that's what it's about. You know, it's not a short-term thing. It's making a business

2 (5m 41s): Better, making

0 (5m 43s):

A business better. What is the fear factor in your experience, Richard, of why they're afraid of the sales and

business development in architecture and engineering specifically?

1 (5m 56s):

when I started my business in:

1 (6m 43s):

And I didn't know anything. I knew nothing about business. So I looked at it and I said, so let me understand. So I'm going to borrow money from you. I'm going to pay you interest on the money I borrow from you. And you're going to charge me a fee to do that. I said, that doesn't make any sense to me at all. And the banker says to me, well, how about 500 instead of a thousand for the fee? And I literally, my face was like, oh my God, you can negotiate with a bank, had no concept of this at all. So I said, then I think zero is the right numbers. So how about two 50?

1 (7m 23s):

I said, yeah, no zero. So for the entire course of my career and my business, we get the paperwork each year. It would have the fees on it. And then there'd be a call from us to the bank and they'd say, oh, sorry, made a mistake. We know it's supposed to be zero. So this is the kind of stuff you learn. And then you find out that, you know, the same thing with sales. When I, again, I started my firm, I had come out of another firm that I joined when I first moved to San Francisco and started it up and didn't call anybody. I had relationships with at T and T and some other, you know, major law firms and things like that, and never bothered to call them finally did and called up my client at, at and T.

1 (8m 9s):

And he says, oh my God, you just think about this. This was before electronic communication. This is so where are you? What's happened. What's going on? And so I started my own firm. He says, oh, great, come out to pleasant. And tomorrow we're going to give you a ton of work and, you know, hung up the phone and went, oh my God. So you actually have to ask and I'll be damned. So yes you do. So that, that's part of what it's about. I mean, you know, the consulting thing is educating my clients about these kinds of things. It's like, and what I've also said, it's kind of, it's kind of an interesting shtick.

1 (8m 51s):

If you look at a McKinsey and a Bain and the other, you know, the big accounting firms that do consulting, they present multiple options to a client because then they're not really responsible for anything. You know, it's just how you can do this. You can do that. You can play this game or that game. And I say to my potential

clients, when we're first talking, I said, so this is going to be a very different thing. You're going to ask me things, talk about things. I'm going to tell you what to do based on my experience and what I've gone through, the mistakes that I've made, the things that I've learned and where I suggest you go and, and how you approach it.

1 (9m 32s):

And you can choose not to do it. You can yell at me if you don't want to be bothered about it, but that's how it's going to be working. I'm not going to say you can do a or B or C or D. I'm gonna say, here's what you gotta do. And that's it.

0 (9m 49s):

I love it. I absolutely love this. I really do. You're listening to the architecture and innovation podcast presented by CERACLAD. We're talking today with Richard Pollak, founder and president of Pollock consulting. For more information, feel free to visit his website @ Again, that's Richard N Pollack, P O L L a C Richard, I like that. It reminds me of that commercial. This was while back EF Hutton. You remember when EF Hutton talks people, listen. How do you become that? If there's a way, that's a left field question, but how could one become that person?

0 (10m 35s):

Because when you do talk, people do listen and act on it because they know there's much to gain and a lot to lose, if they don't follow your advice.

1 (10m 45s):

Well, it's, it's the same with, I think, anything in the world today, if there's an expert, if there's somebody that is recognized, I was lucky enough to become president of international president of idea. I'm a fellow there as well. So I'm known. And what's also interesting is that when I was first getting involved in the

associations, it was because I wanted to give back. I wanted to, you know, first of all, learn when I was really younger. It's like, let me learn from, you know, and, and, and we talked about our guns with the other day. He was one of the first people that I went to hear speak when I moved to San Francisco and I went, wow, you know, this guy knows his stuff.

1 (11m 32s):

So I'm a young practitioner I'm listening to and learning from, as I gained more and more experience and expertise, I love to mentor and to provide that both inside my firm and then doing workshops and other stuff through AIA. And so then you become known, again, none of this was done initially with this, an agenda that this I'm doing this to be more successful in my business, not at all. It's just who I am. You know, it's, I just wrote my autobiography very nice, which was a kick in us for my kids and my grandkids.

1 (12m 15s):

Not for anybody else. And it's just pulling together the things that make you a person. So that information, that knowledge base is easily absorbed by people that have an open mind. And I'm not good working with people that have a big ego that it's, this is my way or the highway. I can only work most effectively with people that are sort of like I was, it's like, you're open to learning. You're open to getting information, synthesizing it, and then using it to make your practice better and to help others do the same thing.

0 (12m 59s):

Terrific. Richard, how do you help reduce your client's ego? We all have them, but how do you help? How do you help reduce them? If there is a process mentally or checklist that you go through to say, look, here's what you're going to really have to do. Whether you you'll like it in the end, but you may not like the process. Is there a process that you have to get them there?

1 (13m 25s):

It's more getting to know me. You know, I'm a successful practitioner. The name of the firm is known. So it's not like there's a surprise. So if they're, you know, getting onto their high horses and saying, well, I'm not going to do ERF. It's like, well, that's fine. And you can continue to be the firm you are, or you can listen and you can learn. And not just from me, it was a lot of resources around us that will make everything better. And the better is how you define it. It's, it's more money. It's more, it's better projects. It's better staff. It's increased staff. It's all of the things that they're going to have.

1 (14m 5s):

You know, as, as a quick tangent, you think about architecture, it starts off with programming. So you're trying to find out what are the client's needs. And then the design is used to solve the problem that's revealed through the programming. So it's the same thing with the consulting. It's like, what are the issues that the firm is facing? And it becomes a psychology session as well with the principals, because I'll start to see the things that they're reticent about. I can then focus on that with them, find some article in Harvard business review, or other sources and say, Hey, why don't you read this?

1 (14m 50s):

Because it augments what I'm saying. So again, it's not just Pollack throwing it out on a table, but there's resources to validate what I'm saying. And I think that helps, you know, these people grow and it pushes the ego a bit to the side.

2 (15m 6s): Can

0 (15m 7s):

Can you share with us if you're at liberty to do so, you don't have to name names, of course, but a project or a client that you work with. It was really came in, just, whoa. They really need a lot of work. And in the end,

maybe a year or two, three years down the road, they became beyond successful or really bottom line is they're really happy that they work with you.

1 (15m 29s):

That's a great question, Tom. Thank you. One of the firms that I'm still working with after many, many, many years, when we first met, we had met over lunch. We had a conversation with the principal. We're in the conference room for our first real meeting. And this other gentleman slams the door, opening the door, running into the room, saying, what the hell we, what you're doing this meeting, I'm your equal partner. You haven't told me about this. What the hell is going on? And we had been talking for about 45 minutes and this other person slammed the door, leaving the room.

1 (16m 10s):

And I said, so everything we just talked about for the last 45 minutes is thrown out the window. And what we need to do now is determine the strategy. So that that person is no longer your partner, because the firm has to grow. And this person is not the right person to do it. And for example, the same from last year during the pandemic, probably the best year they've ever had. So they've gotten some of the God knows it's not all me for sure, but it's like, they've heard some of the things and have incorporated some of this into their practice. And in fact, I was a little late getting onto our call today because they said, we've got a crisis.

1 (16m 55s):

We need to talk about something. So we just had an hour long conversation about the issue they were facing and come up with solutions. And I, I get tremendous satisfaction that they're listening and it may be that they're going to adjust as they should for what specifically they want to do, but they're hearing it. And, and again, that's, I think that's my great satisfaction as well. And that's why they get better

0 (17m 24s):

Touch into that. What does bring you joy with what it is that you do, Richard?

1 (17m 31s):

Well, playing with the grandkids is pretty good. That brings a lot of that. But you know, the business side, when I see the firm succeed, when I see in, in particular, this firm was, I dunno, maybe it was 15 people when we started working and now they're well over 50 and that with multiple offices on top of that, and that was also from me, you know, they had a project remotely, some big high rise stuff going on, all kinds of interesting things. I said, well, so what are you going to do about that? Well, is as good, you know, we'll touch on. I said, no, you need to open an office there. And I pushed and pushed and pushed, and they finally did it.

1 (18m 14s):

And now that's where some of the major work is coming from to continue the firm's growth. So it's really

interesting, you know, cause I went through some of that stuff too, with opening offices and it grows it

2 (18m 29s): Nance.

0 (18m 29s):

How quickly can you see where a company can go when they first contact you or refer to you? When you, when you take a look at whatever you need to take a look at, it could be the P and L the, the personality, the character, the culture. At what point do you get an idea of here's where I think they can go?

1 (18m 48s):

This is going to sound. Now, this is gonna sound egotistical. From my perspective, even though I said, ego's bad. It's like when I would do architectural programming with a client, I would know within an hour, what the core issues were for the business, the corporation. Absolutely. No, it not. What I was told, not what was written down, but feeling it. And part of it was that I came up with a new strategy that said, when we're working with a new company, the CEO or equivalent has to sell the business to us before we start real detailed architectural programming.

1 (19m 30s):

So now you've got this perspective, that's completely different than somebody saying, I need 14 mint managers. I need 17 conference rooms. I need, you know, 150,000 square feet. It's like, why what's the rationale? So that is the driver. And it's the same thing. When working with a client on the consulting side, I can see very quickly. I can read between the lines. I hear what the issues are, and then I'll bring it out and I'll say, well, it sounds like the issue is recruiting. It sounds like the issue is business development or sales. And in many cases, and I feel good about this.

1 (20m 12s):

They go, yeah. Oh yeah. That, that is the issue. It's just, it's just from experience. It's, it's nothing super special about me, but it's experience. I love

0 (20m 25s):

t by Scott Foreman in Alabama:

effective action.

0 (21m 18s):

For more information, you can go to their website at vote, F w Again, we're talking with Rich Pollock of Richard N, the consultant and president Richard, your approach. I'm talking about the approach that you have is in my opinion, of course, I'm biased and our listeners can call me whatever they want. But to me, it's the truth is I don't think that there's a business out there that can't benefit specifically in architecture, engineering, and construction, that could not benefit from your, your advice or your counsel. Yeah. I might be smacking you on the shoulder a bit, but it's really true.

0 (22m 1s):

And that's also why you're here because a lot of our listeners are architects, engineers, and owners. Why is that so important that business facet of their practice of their company and not just the delivery of a product or a service?

1 (22m 18s):

Because that's what they're doing. They're in business. It's not just a hobby, it's not something that's done to fill in the time. And, and let's admit also that in particular, on the architectural side, most people go into the practice because they love to design love, to draw love, to come up with concepts and all of that good stuff, which is valid. But in order to deliver a product in order to deliver a building and interiors, whatever it may be, they've got to have the business side of it. You've got to have people that are paid properly.

1 (22m 58s):

They have to get proper benefits. They have to be able to grow within the organization and be mentored in that manner. So that makes the business much more successful. And that's what I think has often been missing, you know, in, in our profession. So th th that's part of, you know, when I was retiring from the architectural firm said, oh, now I get to do this more. You know, instead of the occasional workshops and whatever, now it can be, Hey, here's what we're doing. And the funny part of this is that it's not, this is the, the opposite of what I'm saying.

1 (23m 39s):

It's not like I'm doing this consulting thing because I got to make a lot of money it's to do what I want to do. It's like, I'm fine. You know, the retirement is good, everything was good. And social security is paying part of it now, too. But it's more that it gives the people an opportunity to grow in their profession and to really make things work better.

0 (24m 5s):

Well said. Your autobiography, what would touch a little bit on that please?

1 (24m 12s):

I, I wrote an autobiography for my kids and grandkids because, you know, they know something about their grandparents, but they don't really, you know, so here's an eight and 10 year old grandsons at this point. And it gives them my history. I mean, it really starts from the very beginning. The first line, the first line is I was born at a very young age and then, you know, it works through and it gets through into the pandemic as well. But, you know, it talks about family. It talks about how they came on the scene and it's history, you know, it's like anything else we all have.

1 (24m 55s):

I love to read history. So that's maybe part of the germination of this. Great. Is it out or will be, oh, wow. Out, is that it will be only for, it will be solely for the kids and the grandkids. And it has been published through blurb, but it's not for anybody else. This, this doesn't get out to anybody other than the family. Oh, wow. Oh yeah, yeah, no, that's just, for me, it's, it's actually about, I think the whole thing is about 200 pages long and it was a kick. It was an effort. Oh my God. So, and had a lot of time last year to work on it as well.

1 (25m 41s): Yeah.

0 (25m 41s):

Well, great. I'm glad to hear that. Richard, what else would you like to share with your audience that we may not have touched on that you were, as you think is important?

1 (25m 50s):

I think that one of the biggest issues facing our society and that includes, obviously the profession is diversity. We are still way too white and male, and that needs to continue to change. You know, I, I was thinking back that when I received my fellowship in the AIA, you know, it's the black robes, it's the Heredic trumpets, you know, going off in this grand church. And I was surrounded by old white guys that had pretty much the same hairstyle I've got, which is none.

1 (26m 32s):

And that resonated. It's like there weren't women, there weren't people of color. And that needs to really be a focus for the profession. You, I looked around at one point earlier in my career and somehow it had hit me. I said, you know, we diverse enough is this is this from, you know, doing the right things, to get the right kinds of different perspectives. Cause different people, different backgrounds bring different design solutions or help build them. And I looked around and without having any agenda about this, it was every different kind of person that could possibly be in the firm.

1 (27m 15s):

And there was, there was our receptionist was trans gay, straight, Asian, black. I mean, everybody and their

mother, you know, was in the firm. And I realized that that brought a lot to me as well as our clients. So, so again, I think that the diversity issue is something that every firm has to really be focused on. I don't think it's being done as much as it needs to. And it goes back to the schools because we don't have enough people of color and women in the schools that there needs to be. The percentages are way off from society norms.

0 (27m 55s):

Hmm. How much do you think would that would be affected if, if the architecture and design was introduced to the youth?

2 (28m 3s):

Oh, it'd be huge.

1 (28m 6s):

You know, we were, one of the things that I did is we had a scholarship program through the, from the architectural firm that represented minority at-risk kids and through the architectural foundation of San Francisco. And we identified kids who were studying architecture and design in the bay area, high schools, and we gave them a scholarship to go to an architectural school. It didn't go to them. It went to the school so that they had their tuition dealt with and help grow them into it. The program also went to lower grades too, but that was our focus at the time was the, the high school.

1 (28m 51s):

It, it should be throughout education. You look at corporate America, which has recognized the design is a key differentiator and helps their bottom lines. So if we inculcate that into young people and that continues to grow, I think that will add to the diversity components. It will add to more people being interested in it. And just being more knowledgeable.

0 (29m 20s):

Richard, it's been an honor and pleasure having you here today. Thank you very much.

1 (29m 25s):

Thank you for the opportunity I enjoyed connecting and hope that's been helpful forever is going to listen.

0 (29m 34s):

Absolutely. Our guest today has been Richard Pollack, fellow of the AIA. I love the, I love that fellow founder and president of Pollock consulting, a sales marketing, strategic and tactical business consulting for the architectural interiors engineering and construction professions. For more information, feel free to visit Richard N Again, Richard N You've been listening to the architecture and innovation podcast by CERACLAD, the architecture and innovation podcast by CERACLAD features. One-on-one interviews with designers, contractors, city managers, and thought leaders committed to

sustainability, innovation and solutions that are attractive, affordable, and create a healthy living environment.

0 (30m 22s): Thank you.