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Survey Shows Business Outlook Softening for Firms

Billings and inquiries for work drop; hiring plans on hold.

The economic recovery remains flat for landscape architecture firms, according to the American Society of Landscape Architects’ third quarter 2013 Business Quarterly survey. Billings and inquiries for new work are down for the majority of firms, and plans to hire are on hold.

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Fully 80.6 percent of firm representatives responding indicated stable to higher billable hours in the third quarter of 2013, representing a slight drop from 82.8 percent last quarter. Inquiries showed a retreat, with some 78 percent reporting stable to higher inquiries for work, compared to 83.5 percent last quarter.

Comparing third quarter 2012 to third quarter 2013, the picture markedly improves. Year to year, 84.7 percent claimed stable to significantly higher third-quarter inquiries from potential clients for new project work. Additionally, 80 percent indicated third-quarter billable hours remained about the same or were higher.

Of all firms with two or more employees, 40 percent expect to hire during the fourth quarter of 2013, compared to 49 percent last quarter. Some 31 percent of firms with two or more employees said they plan to hire a landscape architect next quarter, either entry-level or experienced, a slight rise from 30.9 percent previously.

“Some of our firms indicated in the survey that the recent government shutdown led to projects being delayed or stopped and affected hiring plans,” says Nancy Somerville, Hon. ASLA, executive vice president and CEO of ASLA. “Despite these conditions, it is encouraging that third-quarter inquiries and billable hours have held steady or improved since this time last year.”

The survey also asked firms about their use of social media for business purposes. A slight majority of respondents (52.7 percent) indicated that their firms use social media to support corporate business strategies. Some 52.3 percent agreed that social media have the potential to transform all aspects of their firms’ business, including branding, marketing, strategic analysis and outreach. However, the majority of firms (55.8 percent) do not use social media to analyze potential new business, risks to business activities and measure practice performance.

The top reasons why firms use social media include interacting with clients (45.4 percent), advertising (42.0 percent) and researching competitors (37.0 percent). The most popular social media platforms used by firms include LinkedIn (84.6 percent), Facebook (64.8 percent) and Twitter (30.8 percent). The majority of firms (68.1 percent) do not collect metrics or summary information from their social media accounts.

Key Survey Highlights:
Compared to the second quarter 2013, your third quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 17.5%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 28.9%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 34.2%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 11.8%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.6%

Compared to the second quarter 2013, your third quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 15.6%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 33.1%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 29.3%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 14.4%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 7.6%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2012, your third quarter 2013 billable hours were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 26.9%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 29.6%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 23.5%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 10.4%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.6%

Year to year, compared to the third quarter in 2012, your third quarter 2013 inquiries for new work were:
Significantly higher (more than 10%) – 28.4%
Slightly higher (5 to 10% higher) – 27.6%
About the same (plus or minus 5%) – 28.7%
Slightly lower (5 to 10% lower) – 6.1%
Significantly lower (more than 10%) – 9.2%

Do you plan on hiring any employees in the fourth quarter of 2013 (multiple answers)?
Yes, we’ll be hiring an experienced landscape architect – 10.3%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an entry-level landscape architect – 14.1%
Yes, we’ll be hiring an intern – 2.7%
Yes, we’ll be hiring support staff – 5.7%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other design/architecture/engineering staff – 7.3%
Yes, we’ll be hiring other staff – 3.4%
No, we’re not currently hiring – 67.9%

Does your firm use social media to support corporate business strategies?
Yes – 52.7%
No – 44.3%
Not sure – 3.0%

Social media have the potential to transform all aspects of my firm's business, including branding, marketing, strategic analysis, and outreach.
Agree – 52.3%
Disagree – 16.8%
Not sure – 30.9%

My firm monitors social media to analyze potential new business, risks to business activities, and measure practice performance.
Yes – 34.3%
No – 55.8%
Not sure – 9.8%

My firm uses social media for the following activities (multiple answers):
Interact with clients – 45.4%
Advertise – 42.0%
Research clients – 36.3%
Research potential new business – 32.1%
Research competitors – 37.0%
Research new products and services – 33.2%
Communicate with employees and other stakeholders – 24.0%
N/A – 27.1%

My firm uses the following social media platforms (multiple answers):
LinkedIn – 84.6%
Facebook – 64.8%
Twitter – 30.8%
Instagram – 9.7%
Pinterest – 15.4%
YouTube/Vimeo – 13.2%
Google+ – 24.7%
Tumblr – 1.8%
Vine – 2.2%
Other – 12.3%

My firm collects metrics and summary information from social media.
Yes – 19.8%
No – 68.1%
Not sure – 12.2%

About the Survey

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) Business Quarterly survey asks quarterly benchmarks on key statistics including billable hours, inquiries and hiring plans. The Q3 2013 national survey was fielded October 14 to 31, 2013, with 267 primary firm contacts responding.

Comments
mphilbim@thephilbingroup.com November 6, 2013 12:21 PM
Great informarion the best yet!
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