ASLA Survey Shows Business Outlook Weakening for Firms

Words: Bronzella Cleveland

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' (ASLA) 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.

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.

About the Survey

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

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