business and 70 percent on the business. I’m a managing partner and handle mostly the financial aspects. All three partners are vice presidents and have different focuses. One is the director of marketing and business development. One is the director of studio and the other is director of operations. “At the onset of the pandemic, we worked at home for 10 weeks and then went to a 50/50 arrangement ... This experience has made us more open to working virtually and staff appreciates the flexibility that provides.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? BH: Trust has to be earned. Trust can also be lost. At the beginning of a project, we have a long conversation with the client. I want to know all about their business – processes, enhancements, changes, etc. I want to know how they need to operate and what will help them to do and work better. I want to know – for them – what will define project success. I want to know what concerns keep them up at night. And then, we figure out – together – how we can resolve those concerns. During the job, it’s important to stay on task, communicate, be consistent, and accurate. It needs to be a fluid and ongoing process throughout the duration of the job. TZL: Are you using the R&D tax credit? If so, how is it working for your firm? If not, why not? BH: For a number of years, we did not take advantage of this. We were a C-corp at the time and it didn’t work too well. About five years ago, we transitioned to an S-corp which has a flow-through function. We can now use that tax credit more efficiently. TZL: Does your firm work closely with any higher education institutions to gain access to the latest technology, experience, and innovation and/or recruiting to find qualified resources? BH: We’re not currently connected to a university, but we do have connections for recruiting personnel. Four years ago, we decided we wanted connections with a university, but there’s no architecture school in Birmingham. So, as a graduate of Mississippi State, I created a design award
competition for the school’s students. The award provides a financial reward and it’s also something students can put on their resume. It’s the “Line Scale Form Design Award” and the firm’s partners are the jurors. From this, we hired one individual two years ago and another student approached us and wanted to come in and talk. It helps to get our name out there. TZL: How often do you valuate your firm and what key metrics do you use in the process? Do you valuate using in-house staff or is it outsourced? BH: We valuate the firm to understand the value of stock. If we ever want to sell to another group, we want to ensure we have accurate numbers. We determine the net service revenue and divide by two. For the past three years, it’s been very fluid. We do everything in-house; nothing is outsourced. TZL: Ownership transition can be tricky, to say the least. What’s the key to ensuring a smooth passing of the baton? What’s the biggest pitfall to avoid? BH: We haven’t fully transitioned. What I’ve learned so far is that I understand that none of the people being brought on will be exactly like me. We all have different interests and abilities and that’s a good thing. It’s good to have more than one person at the helm. Give them a chance to learn now with an opportunity to do tasks with oversight and the ability to adjust. “At the beginning of a project, we have a long conversation with the client. I want to know all about their business. I want to know how they need to operate and what will help them to do and work better. I want to know – for them – what will define project success.” TZL: Your website states: “Inspiration and implementation give a structure lasting appeal.” Tell me a little more about what that means. BH: It ties into our mission of balancing concept, cost, and craft. We inspire the concept and implement the craft.
HEADQUARTERS: Birmingham, AL NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 8 YEAR FOUNDED: 1995 NUMBER OF OFFICE LOCATIONS: 1 SECTORS: ❚ ❚ Multifamily: Line Scale Form strongly believes housing is the foundation for communities. The firm’s goal is to create socially conscious places that people value and are proud to call home. ❚ ❚ Commercial: Line Scale Form is passionate about the city in which its people live and work. They enjoy helping clients create buildings that both strengthen the urban fabric and foster a sense of place. ❚ ❚ Mission critical work: Line Scale Form understands the design of these complex facilities requires technically proficient teams to ensure continuous operation and steadfast reliability. ❚ ❚ Institutional: Line Scale Form has been a part of projects ranging from student residence halls, libraries, student unions, elementary schools and retail developments. LINE SCALE FORM’S PROMISE TO CLIENTS: We leave our egos at the door.
See A CHANCE TO LEARN, page 8
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LY 12, 2021, ISSUE 1399
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