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Episode 073: The Virtual Practice Model for Architects and Engineers – It’s Already Here (Top Replay)

Welcome again to the 2021 End of Summer Podcast Series – where I’m taking a fresh look at now the 8 most downloaded podcast episodes over the past year!  

The Virtual Practice Model for Architects and Engineers – It’s Already Here  

This series ties into a greater overall theme of issues and opportunities I continue to see express themselves in leadership teams throughout the industry and across the country, and in both smaller and larger firms. 

There are major changes taking hold right now in our industry in terms of how we work – many of which are likely to be permanent. 

To be successful, leaders and leadership teams must provide more flexibility and control for both themselves and for others – and the timing couldn’t be better for today’s episode: Episode 30 with Peter Macrae, Principal and Founder of Macrae ARCHitecture, on the virtual practice model for architects and engineers.


“Not only are there benefits to having no or much lower fixed overhead costs to withstand downturns and recessions, being able to tap into such a growing talent network allows us to be a much more dynamic organization.”

–Peter C. Atherton, P.E.


As I relistened to this episode, five key points stood out:

1 – There’s No Need to Wait 

Peter Macrae is a trailblazer and has ‘drawn back the curtain’ to share details to help both future minded firms and interested solopreneurs by explaining how his virtual practice model works on a national and full-service scale – and has been for over a decade. 

Pete’s vision for this didn’t have to wait for the future or for the ‘next gen’ – Pete began his successful virtual practice with no employees and no fixed overhead over 10 years ago at the age of 58!  


2 – Fixing the Flaws in our Traditional Practice Model 

There’s no doubt our traditional industry business model has flaws which put us at risk, and the virtual practice model Pete shares is a needed mindset shift we can begin to act on today. 

As we discuss, the virtual practice model is in many ways the same in terms of organizing and delivering our work – just better financially and in terms of meeting our client’s unique needs and in not needing to manage the time of others. However, much like what our spoke about with Ren Hayes in our last podcast episode on modern work and management (Episode 72), the virtual practice model requires a much different ‘outputs and outcomes-based management approach’.


3 – An Unbound Network of Talent 

Operating in the virtual space opens us up to talent beyond our localities and literally to anywhere in the world there is internet and qualified professionals willing and able to serve the needs of our clients and teams. 

Thinking in terms of ‘virtual’ and even just augmenting what we do can completely change the game in the ‘war for talent’. 


4 – Dynamic and More Enjoyable Resilience 

Not only are there benefits to having no or much lower fixed overhead costs to withstand downturns and recessions, being able to tap into such a growing talent network allows us to be a much more dynamic organization in terms of helping to ensure that: we and our talent are doing more of the work we love to do and are best suited for; that we serve our clients with ‘role fulfillment experts’ – not with just who’s available; and that we innovate without all of our self-imposed limitations.


5 – A Much More Viable Option 

The changes the COVID crisis has accelerated forward has only made the virtual practice model – and hybridized versions of it – more viable. 

This is evident in many different contexts for both firms, as Pete describes, but also for practitioners… which brought me to adding a link below to another very related top downloaded episode: Episode 65 with Austin Church, an independent professional freelance business coach and entrepreneur, on how to succeed ‘as’ and ‘with’ independent professional freelancers in AEC. 

If you are an independent professional freelancer or interested in becoming one, or a firm looking to work with high-performing independent professional freelancers moving forward, this episode is a great listen.


“The virtual practice model offers much more than an expanded ‘talent pool’, it’s an unbound network of talent.”

–Peter C. Atherton, P.E. 


Thanks for listening to the AEC Leadership Today Podcast!

I sincerely hope you enjoyed today’s episode. Be sure to check out Pete’s contact information and the other resources provided throughout the ActionsProve website designed to help you and your firm grow and prosper in the 21st century.  And, if you like what you heard, please leave a review on iTunes and share the podcast with your friends and colleagues. We look forward to seeing you in the next episode!


Resources Mentioned in This Episode

Link to original episode shownotes with Peter Macrae: The Virtual Practice Model for Architects and Engineers – It’s Already Here 

Podcast episode with Austin Church on “How to Succeed ‘as’ and ‘with’ Independent Professional Freelancers in AEC”: https://actionsprove.com/podcast/episode-065-how-to-succeed-as-and-with-independent-professional-freelancers-in-aec/

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About the Host

Peter C. Atherton, P.E. is an AEC industry insider having spent more than 20 years as a successful professional civil engineer, principal, major owner, and member of the board of directors for high-achieving firms.  Pete is now the President and Founder of ActionsProve, LLC, author of Reversing Burnout. How to Immediately Engage Top Talent and Grow! A Blueprint for Professionals and Business Owners, and the creator of the I.M.P.A.C.T. process. Pete works with AEC firms and leaders to grow and advance their success through modern and new era focused strategic planning and implementation, executive coaching, leadership and management development, performance-based employee engagement, and corporate impact design.

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Episode 073: The Virtual Practice Model for Architects and Engineers – It’s Already Here (Top Replay)