129: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, with Jeff Echols

A conversation with Jeff Echols.

129: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, with Jeff Echols

Jeff Echols of Shadow Partners joins the podcast to talk about the larger topic of innovation in the built environment and how it should focus on outcomes for people, whether it's employees, clients, or inhabitants of buildings. We also talk about how technology and tools are augmenting designers to solve problems to ultimately achieve those outcomes, how leaders should focus on creating a culture of innovation to address pain points and set themselves apart from commoditization in the industry, and more.

Connect with Evan

Watch this episode on YouTube

129: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, with Jeff Echols
Jeff Echols of Shadow Partners joins the podcast to talk about the larger topic of innovation in the built environment and how it should focus on outcomes fo…

Episode Transcript

129: ‘What We Do in the Shadows’, with Jeff Echols

Evan Troxel: [00:00:00] Welcome to the TRXL podcast. I'm Evan Troxel. In today's episode, I welcome Jeff Echols. As a senior advisor and the head of marketing at Shadow Partners. Jeff is on a mission to change the way AEC firms do business. He leverages 30 years of experience working in starting and managing firms to help drive innovation in the business of AEC and AEC adjacent industries.
Jeff is also the host of the build your brand podcast, the live stream show context and clarity live. And the daily short form podcast, shadow shorts. Which the latter two, I've had the pleasure of being on fairly recently, myself.
A prolific speaker, jeff has shared his experiences and thought leadership in venues ranging from conference rooms and council chambers to regional and even national convention stages.[00:01:00]
In this episode, Jeff and I discuss the larger topics of innovation in the built environment, which is really his focus at shadow partners. And how it should focus on outcomes for people, whether it's the people designing it, employees, clients, or inhabitants of those buildings. We also talk about how technology and tools are augmenting designers to solve problems to ultimately achieve those outcomes. How leaders should focus on creating a culture of innovation to address pain points and set themselves apart from commoditization in the industry, and more.
This was a great conversation with Jeff. I always enjoy speaking to him and I hope that you enjoy it too and find value in it. So without further ado, I bring you my conversation with the self-proclaimed professional pot stirrer. Jeff Echols.
Jeff, welcome to the podcast. Great to have you here. It's been a long time coming, I think.[00:02:00]
Detached audio: Yeah. Thanks Evan. It has been, I mean, we, you know, you and I, uh, talk fairly regularly
whether in person or, or through other, uh, other shows and such. But yeah, first time, uh, on Troxel, so it's an honor.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. Great. Well, you have recently taken on a new post at Shadow Partners, which is part of Shadow Ventures, and then I saw an event coming up called Shadow Summit. So you're living in the shadows full-time. It seems like there's a lot going on here. Maybe you can just give us a, a rundown on what, what Shadow Partners is, what you're doing there, how that ties into Shadow Ventures and where that all fits into the AEC landscape.
So I'm just gonna hand the mic over to you for the next 45 minutes and, and you can
say everything that needs to be said. Yeah,
Detached audio: Right. Yeah. I'll see you when you get back.
Evan Troxel: all.
Detached audio: Yeah. The, so it, it is a little bit confusing, uh, because, uh, shadow Ventures [00:03:00] has been around for a little while now, and, um, shadow Ventures is a venture capital firm. It's a, uh, financial firm. And so, uh, they're therefore regulated by
Jeff Echols: the, uh, SCC. And so,
Detached audio: you know, you look at, you look at a venture capital firm that focuses on investment and innovation in the built environment.
We're looking at, um, at seed stage startups, our second round of, of, uh, our second fund round is, is raising right now. But it's, it's all about investing in innovation. And so sometimes, Uh, that means SaaS, software, uh, that may be project management for a real estate or construction or architecture. It may be, uh, something to automate, uh, the, uh, approval process for, uh, environmental projects.
It may be, um, uh, robotics or three D [00:04:00] printing. You, you may have heard of ICON, the, uh, three
D concrete three D printing, uh, company out of Austin. Um,
and, um, so, so everything that Shadow Ventures is focusing on somehow has an impact on what's
Jeff Echols: going on the AEC world. You
Detached audio: know, shaping the world around us,
uh, which is what really attracts me to the work that we're doing now because a venture firm, venture fund is
Jeff Echols: regulated by the SCC a lot of
Detached audio: the things that we also like to do, the mission driven pieces of that advocating for, uh, innovation, for the built environment, teaching people how advisory services, consulting, those types of things.
That can't happen on the venture side of the wall, so to speak. And
so we have
shadow partners, which is where I am really. And, um, so my title is, is a Senior Advisor and head of [00:05:00] marketing at Shadow Partners. And that really means that I'm focusing on building partnerships, connecting people, uh, creating content, um, and also you, you mentioned Shadow Summit, which is our, our own conference that comes up. In the fall of every year. This year it's, uh, October 24th through 26th in Atlanta, which is where shadow is, uh, based I guess that's where all the shadows are.
And, um, you know, it's, it's a, a highly curated, um, purposefully intimate conference, 200 tickets total. And, um, most of, if not all of the folks in attendance will be executive leadership level from architecture, engineering, construction, real estate.
And so it's in a, in a real way, it's sort of the who's
Jeff Echols: who of the AEC world and
Detached audio: [00:06:00] the entire, uh, entire conference is focused on innovation.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Jeff Echols: our CEO is, uh,
Detached audio: KP reddy. He, I, I thought the way he described it to me one day was perfect. He said, um, Shadow Summit 2023 will be a CliffsNotes version of everything that's happened in terms of innovation for the built environment this year,
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: and a preview of everything you need to be planning for and budgeting for in 2024. So, um, it, it'll be, it'll be a really good conference, you know, we'll delve into AI and machine learning and, um, industrialized construction and, um, the economy, you know, the economy of innovation, but the economy as a whole. you know, there'll be startups there, there'll be, uh, investors there. And, and like I said, a lot of, uh, a lot of the c-suite of the a e C world.
Evan Troxel: Yeah, there's so many little threads I want to tug on there and, but before I do, and so [00:07:00] maybe, maybe I'll remember to come back to those threads. I, I would love for you to talk a little bit about the other work that you've been doing also to, before you got to this at Shadow Partners you have done. A ton of work with small and medium-sized firms.
Uh, you're at the Entree Architect community as well. You've got Context and Clarity podcast. You've now got a daily, is it a daily show
with Shadow Partners that you're doing live on
LinkedIn? 15 minutes. You had me on as a guest a, a few weeks ago on there as well. Uh, so I'll put a link to that one in the show notes for this episode.
But there's, there's a lot going on that have, has gotten you to where you are. And I, I, I would just love for you to kind of fill out that, that picture of, of the other parts of, of what you bring to the table here.
Detached audio: Yeah. It, um, I often think of myself and sometimes refer, I. To myself as [00:08:00] a professional pot stir. Um,
you know, my background is architecture, a couple of degrees in architecture, 20 some odd years in firms, et cetera, before I went out on my own. Um, at some point I, uh, claimed to the moniker, I suppose, of small firm whisperer because,
you know, working with Mark Ar LaPage at, at entree architect, and, um, running a lot of the education and, um, and content creation over there. Uh, there, there, there was a time, and maybe this, maybe this time is still, uh, still here, but I was having more conversations with more small and medium sized architects from around the world than literally than anybody else because I was, every single day for three years, every single weekday for three years, I was having conversations with, um, small and medium sized. Uh, architects [00:09:00] in the United States and Australia and South Africa and Europe, and, you know, all, like I said, all over the world. And so, you know, the sort of the, um, the knowledge of the business of architecture in, in that, at, at that scale, right? The small firms and the medium-sized firms, I don't, I don't know that there was anybody else that, that was collecting that much knowledge
and that, that really fed me because, you know, the ability to take that knowledge and synthesize it and then help those same people, help that same group build better businesses and, um, do things differently. Uh, this, you know, that's where the pot stirring kind of comes into, into, uh, perspective, I guess because it's, you know, we've got this This, um, traditional architecture firm model that we've been practicing for, um, you know, at least a hundred years. And [00:10:00] it doesn't necessarily make sense all the time. And I
you know, I would, I would say that many times in 2023 it doesn't make sense. So pushing people to think differently about who their ideal clients are and how they serve those clients, et cetera. The, the way they build their business, the way they run their business, and, you know, that also extends to teaching per practice at the university level. Um, first at the graduate level, and now we've, we've added undergrad, uh, to that mix as well.
when, um, when Ball State came to me and said, Hey, would you be interested in teaching pro practice? I thought about it for a minute and I said, well, I. Um, I'm, I am not an educator, right. That's not my background. I did not, I was in this college of architecture and planning. I was not in teachers college right when I was in school.
Evan Troxel: Right.
Detached audio: you know, that, I don't know, I don't know about, uh, teaching a course, but I would be [00:11:00] interested in it or willing to talk about it if I could run it like a startup incubator.
Evan Troxel: Mm.
Detached audio: And, and so this was, I dunno, five or six years ago, I suppose, and I, I'm convinced to this day that they probably had no idea what I was talking about.
And they simply needed a warm body, and so they said
Evan Troxel: Right, right.
Detached audio: So,
so here we are. Yeah.
So, so here we are, um, you know, 2023 teaching. Graduate level pro practice as a startup incubator. So it's basically a business plan,
you know, business model that we, the, the students create over the, the course of the, uh, semester.
And then it culminates in our own Shark tank, our own version of
Tank as the final. But it's, it's demonstrating to them how to go from idea to, you know, um, um, proving out that idea, finding out if anybody else caress [00:12:00] about this problem that it is that they're trying to solve, if there's anybody that's willing to pay for that solution, you know, so on how do you build this business?
How do you promote this business? How do you sell this business all the way through, through exit plan, essentially. And, uh, then they, they pitch it to the sharks?
Evan Troxel: And who are the
Detached audio: um, uh, I, I typically bring in People in the investment in VC world. And so sometimes I've, I, uh, occasionally when they're available, I have someone that comes in from, uh, MIT's Design X program or that started at MIT's Design X program. I have, uh, some CEOs of venture capital firms. Um, you know, they're, they're all people that understand innovation and investment in innovation,
and they're all in the, you know, from the a e C world.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: And, um, you know, that that's, I guess that's some pretty good foreshadowing because, you know, you mentioned, uh, context and clarity, which [00:13:00] is a show that I continue to, to host. Uh, we're on a summer break right now. We'll be back in September. But one of the guests that I had on context and Clarity live Oh, several months earlier in 2023 was KB Reddy.
He was the c e o of, of, uh, shadow Ventures and Shadow Partners. And, uh, we talked about innovation in the a e c space. And, uh, we kind of hit it off and, and, um, you know, it led to a number of conversations, which eventually obviously led to a, Hey, why don't you come join the team?
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: And, and so that's, that's where I am now. But, but it's, it's a very non-linear, non-traditional path. and, and, you know, obviously, oh, you've got, you know, you went to architecture school, you've got degrees in architecture, and you're working for this, this venture capital firm, or you're, you know, you're promoting, um, innovation in the built environment.
How does, how does that match up?
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: It, it matches up [00:14:00] because we're all trying to make the profession better. We're all trying to make
the planet better. We're all trying to, to, uh, do better by the built environment. And to me
that's what's important for everywhere.
Evan Troxel: that's what this podcast also illuminates, I
believe, along with yours. The work that you're doing is that we are everywhere and, and the
the differentiator is that we're working on the profession, which you just said
maybe rather than working in the profession.
I think a lot of us started working in the profession, and
I've said this on context and clarity when you had me on there too,
There's, we, we have intentionally shifted to working on the profession because when you're in the profession, you are very project focused
or very deadline driven. For a couple, as a couple of an examples,
you actually have to remove yourself from that to make a larger impact, I believe, in this profession and kind of get outside of those, those, you know,
those walls, [00:15:00] as it
were in architecture, right.
To, to make an impact across. And, and so you said you're a professional pot stir, but you're also a professional dot col connector, right?
You connect dots between the various players, the various companies and entities and movements going on, and that is where you start to draw that bigger picture of,
of what's, what the trends are, what's going on in the industry.
To be able to put something together like Shadow Summit, where you're gonna be saying, look, here's the Cliffs Notes version. You track all of this stuff. I think on, on that show that you mentioned with K.P., he said something like 200 pitches a week or something. He
reviews and he picks like one or two a month.
Right? It's like
that the number that that Shadow Ventures actually invest in is a very small percentage of the, the number of ideas that are being pitched at any moment. Uh, [00:16:00] and so in order to do that, well, you have to have this big picture idea of what's
going on. Right?
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. Yeah. I mean, you know, going back to your earlier point about being in the profession, I, I think you're exactly right. If you really wanna make a bigger impact on the profession, and, and I think beyond, you have to, I believe you have to be outside the profession.
Um, you and I talked, and I know you presented this at, at the Entree Architect Community annual meeting
in Austin, back in, I guess it was November of last year, you said that you had, made a presentation on, basically on innovation in the profession.
And, uh, you'd presented it to a bunch of architects at a, i, I won't give the location in case you don't want that out, but, uh, you were at a, a, uh, an industry conference
and you
Evan Troxel: kind of don't think that the, uh, the location matters. Like I
I feel like the way that architects in general receive this information is
it's like a fire [00:17:00] hose. I don't know what to do with it. Uh,
and I kind of don't even want to know
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. And I, and I think your point about it's deadline driven, right? If I'm a project architect, project manager, whatever my, my title is, whatever my role is, I am focused on the next deadline. I'm
focused on getting this set out by Friday.
Um, you know, getting, getting, uh, the information to the permitting office by Friday, whatever it is. And in, in that, Um, in that ecosystem, in that context, it's incredibly hard to innovate, right?
It's incredibly hard to be able to take a step back and say, are we doing this right? Do we have the right tools? Do we, you know, all of those things. And I know you know this very intimately from your roles in the past. Um, but to continue that story, you said in, I think maybe the next week or something, you presented basically the same information to a bunch of [00:18:00] CFOs of
firms and they were really interested,
and that makes a lot of sense, right? Because the CFOs are not architects probably,
um, but they are charged with allocating resources for the firm and controlling those resources, you know, et cetera.
And so they are interested, I. Are we doing this right from a inefficiency and, you know, all the, all the things that they're paying attention to. The r o i certainly of, of all of these things. And so they may be more open to talking about the tools, the innovation, et cetera. 'cause it's a different perspective. And I think that that rings true everywhere. And you, you know, you, you, if I jump back to what you just said about the connecting the dots, that's one of the things that I love about what I do
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: is because, you know, you mentioned the, the show that I do for Shadow now, it's called Shadow [00:19:00] Shorts. 10, 15 minute conversations every day. Um, Yesterday, I think it was, I talked with the director of Innovative Concrete Technologies at the American Concrete Institute.
And one of the things he's really interested in is connecting with, with startups that have technologies having to do with concrete construction. And he is also interested in connecting with, with specifications writers.
And he is also interested in connecting with contractors. You know, and there's this whole ecosystem, right? When we step outside the architect's office, if that's our context, we step outside that office. We go, oh, you know, there's this ecosystem of all these people, the real estate developers, the the owners, the, the occupants, all of these people are affected. By these things that we're doing. And so being able to connect the dots and get people, whether it's at Shadow Summit or if it's, if [00:20:00] it's on the Shadow shorts program or it's simply into all the other stuff that I, you know, the, the real day-to-day work of, uh, because partnerships and, and building community is, is part of my charge, is how do I connect the c e o from this engineering firm with the startup founder who has something that could help their workflow.
You know,
as a, just sort of a simple example. And, um, and yeah, K.P. Is reviewing lots and lots of pitches from startups all the time. And, you know, not many of 'em get funded. And that's,
that's just sort of the reality of the space for
different reasons. ,Right.
They may be at a different stage, they may not be ready.
They may, it may not be right, the right fit. Um, we may look at it and go, yeah, I don't think so.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: you know, there's, there's always that as well. But, um, but it's, it's a lot of, it's a lot of fun and it's very gratifying when you [00:21:00] say, Hey, here's this, here's this, um, uh, company in our portfolio that has this drone technology to scan all the bridges in your city. And when they're scanning that, those bridges in the city, they identify cracks and they identify things that need to be addressed and things that are okay. And, and, you know, you come out with this documentation of this crumbling infrastructure in your city and all across the United States, and they make it, uh, fast and efficient and affordable.
And that's good for all of us.
It's good for everybody that drives over that bridge and walks
under that bridge and,
and so on and so forth. So, um, that, that's, that's what I really love about being here in the space because there's, there's the potential impact is huge.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. Yeah, definitely. One of
the things that you mentioned earlier that one of those threads I wanna go back to, to, to tug on is the, you [00:22:00] talked about your students pitching ideas
and I'm just wondering like, okay, so, so many graduates come outta architecture programs and they just adopt the defacto business model of architecture.
And what you're
doing is you're asking them to design a business plan
and they're design students. And I'm just
wondering if you can speak to, because it's come up on this podcast, it's come up on the ACA speak podcast. Uh, when we had Evelyn Lee on is this idea of architects actually are not very good at designing their business.
Because they just adopt the, the way that we've always done it, for the most part. Right. Totally generalizing here, but I think we see that time and time again. And the audience for this show is definitely interested in innovation and technology, but there's also
innovation in the way we do business. And I've been on kind of a, a thread of the business of architecture and some things that are changing in the business of architecture here
on this podcast. So it's a little bit outside of the, the lane of just [00:23:00] technology and the evolution of it along with architecture. Uh, this is, this is more nuts and bolts foundation of business moving forward.
Detached audio: Mm-hmm.
Evan Troxel: How do your students take on to that? Do, do you present it to them as a design challenge and, do they see the opportunity that exists in this part of, business of architecture, of actually designing a, a different kind of business model?
Detached audio: Yeah, the, um, the, the good and the bad is that even though this is the final pro practice class in their series, in, in graduate school, the good and the bad of it is they don't know much about the business of architecture, like the actual
Evan Troxel: yeah.
Detached audio: It's not that much different than when we were in school, right?
We didn't learn,
Evan Troxel: Um hmm.
Detached audio: Um very much about the business of architecture.
So we don't have to tear down too much.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: Um, many of them, well probably all the grad students have some experience in an office and you know, so what I tell [00:24:00] 'em, the first, first classes, you know, when they walk in, I say, this is not the class that you were expecting it to be, period.
This is not, you've, you've had, you know, different grad school, they've probably had, this is probably their fourth per practice class, but this is not what you expected. Um, and you can love this class or you can hate this class and it doesn't matter to me. You just have to pass the class, right? It's a requisite to graduate.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: um, and I also understand that not everybody wants to be innovative. Not everybody wants to be a business owner or a partner, you know, whatever role, you know, in leadership. and, and there's, and there's not necessarily anything wrong with that, right? If you don't want to start your own firm or something like that. But at the end of the day, what we're gonna learn by going through this process will at the very least, make you a better employee.
Right, because you'll understand why that project manager is asking [00:25:00] for this and, you know, those types of things. So,
so that's sort of my immersive way of approaching teaching the business of architecture. But we, we, we start out very basic and ask them to look around and look for problems that they see that need to be solved.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: We don't even talk about architecture. We don't even talk about business. What's a problem that you need to be, that needs to be solved? Because that's, at the end of the day, if we're not solving a problem, we've got a problem. Uh,
it's hard to sell something that's not solving a problem.
Um, you know, even, even luxury items are solving a problem. Um, maybe leaning more towards ego, but, but, um, but.
Yeah. They, they don't, yeah. Personal problems, but they, they don't typically go there, right? They look around their environment and they say, oh, you know, it's, it's hard to keep up with, with paying my rent.
Or, Hey, [00:26:00] you know, litter is a problem, or, you know, all, all these, all these different types of things that they come up with. And the design problem for them really becomes, okay, here's, here's a problem I can solve it. Does anybody care? Will anybody pay for it? And then how do we, in, in a real way, you know, if we were to say this, you know, in the shadow world, we say, how do, what's our go-to market plan, essentially? And I, and I think that's the crux of the problem that we have in the profession of architecture, right? The way that we've always done it. If we were to make some tweaks to The structure of the traditional architecture firm model. Would we, on the back end, would we still be doing project management and invoicing and all of those, [00:27:00] those, uh, uh, very tactical, um, you know, tasks that happen every day and every month.
Would we still be doing those things the same? Uh, probably fairly in a fairly similar way? The bigger question to me is, what are we going to market with? And I'm, I'm really fond of saying, you know, even if you keep a fairly traditional view of what the practice of architecture is, you know, and just say, okay, it's about designing and building. If we say it that way, what a lot of firms traditionally have looked at is, okay, well a client, a potential client comes in and they're gonna hire us to go through this programming phase and, and. Schematic and DD and, and CD and, and ca go all the way through designed to, uh, permitting to maybe substantial completion. Fine. But what about [00:28:00] everything that happens before that programming phase? You know, I
always say there's, there's a spectrum, right? There's this timeline. It goes from left to right as we would normally think about it. What about everything that's to the left of when that potential client showed up,
all those decisions that are being made, all of that money that's being invested, the resources that are being invested, that by the time, if you jump in at that point of programming or wherever, schematic or something, if you, if you jump into the game at that point, so much is being dictated to you,
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Detached audio: right? And you have less and less ability to actually affect the outcome. Versus getting as far left as you possibly can to the problem
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: You can make more money, you can have more, uh, uh, impact You have less dictated to you because you're coming up with the problems and the solutions
everything. [00:29:00] And, And, so that's, in a way, this is an exercise in that it's start with identifying the problem and how do we, how do we build a business around that? And it's amazing what students will come up with. You know, some of them e every semester, some probably one or two teams will come up with a fairly traditional design firm or design build or you know, something like that. A couple of them. But the rest of 'em, well, here's SaaS software, here's an AI solution, here's our insurance model. Here's a solution for housing and security. Here's, you know, all these, all these different non-traditional models. And, uh, and, and I, in the past, this is probably gonna change, but in the past, I haven't restricted them to strictly architecture built environment problems. So every semester we'll have one or two that are sort of outside of that realm. [00:30:00] But if we, if we take those, uh, take those projects and we look at what these students are doing and what they're attacking and the what you and I would call non-traditional ways, and we, and if we said, why can't we build an architecture firm that way,
Evan Troxel: mm-hmm.
Detached audio: right? Why can't we think about the services that we provide in a different way? Who says, That we have to start with schematic design and design development who caress, right?
What if we have a solution that is this tiny little sliver of what we would normally think of as, as the role or the services provided by an architect? And we just focus on that because we see that that's what our ideal client really needs and values and they're willing to
for. .
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
And the kinds of problems that
we're good at solving, I mean, there's,
the one thing that [00:31:00] we talk about at Tech a lot is that architects are licensed or registered however you want to, depending on your
Detached audio: Yeah. Depending on your
Evan Troxel: solvers,
Detached audio: Right,
Evan Troxel: not just building designers.
And to your point here, like let's look at it from a business perspective.
Let's look it at a problem or a challenge and a solution perspective for . Making decisions that get to the point of saying the answer is a building, which it always, it is not always. The answer
is not always a building. And many architects find that out and are super bummed out by that. And they lose a contract because they helped their client decide that the, a new building wasn't the answer.
But how much was that decision worth to that
client? Because right before that they were thinking, we're gonna have to spend millions of dollars on a building. And now we don't, by doing something different
and by the value that an architect can bring to that decision making process could save a client, [00:32:00] millions and millions of dollars is worth something.
And I, I just think there is a lot of opportunity there to rethink how you charge for the value that you deliver. It doesn't have to be . In, and we talked a little bit about this before we hit record, and this is something I know that, that KP speaks to and that you're speaking to at Shadow Summit, which is the threat of AI and the commoditization of,
uh, specific tasks for architects.
I think you said 37% of architects tasks could go away, um, just by using ai, and, and people could be afraid of that, but architect's work is already commoditized to an
extremely high number. And, and we choose to compete in that commoditization. We choose to compete in the, the creation of a set of drawings.
A k a drafting, right?
Is drafting the value of an architect or is that the value of a drafts person or ai? [00:33:00] Right?
Uh, I don't think that our value lies there. Now, your, your value might lie in coming up with details to make something buildable and interesting and useful and functional. But in the actual, uh, conveying of that information into a P D F set, is that where your value lies?
And, and these are the questions that we have, we should be asking, every firm should be asking these because can we out draft, um, a contractor who's rebuilding our BIM models, looking for errors like we choose to com compete with that? You know, there, there's so many things in which, so many ways in which this applies.
Uh, I think it, it's, it's really interesting as these disruptive technologies come out and potentially cause us to question, but I don't think we question them. We don't take, take it up on for, we, we, we don't put that into practice. We don't question it ourselves and apply it to our
own businesses. And, uh, this gets [00:34:00] back to that whole idea of designing our businesses and continually
designing our businesses to react to, but also be proactive, uh, of what's happening in the world around us.
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. I, I do a talk called Commodity as this commodity does, and my opening line for that talk is we're all being commoditized and it's our own fault, um, because we choose to be.
And you know, there are a lot of people that are gonna listen to this and they're gonna say, no, no, no. It's, it's the ai it's the, it's the disruptive technologies that you're talking about.
And it's not right tho those are tools.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Detached audio: Those are tools. And if you look at, at a test fit or a swap, or, you know, pick some generative AI tool and you say, well, that's, that's gonna commoditize architects, it's because you're thinking about it wrong. Sorry. Um,
Evan Troxel: Sorry. Not sorry.
Detached audio: sorry, not sorry. [00:35:00] There's a book, um, called, um, called Unreasonable Hospitality
by Will Gadara, the, the
restaurant, um, very famous restaurant, owner and and operator out of New York. And I had the opportunity to have Will Gadara on contact Sinclair live a while back. You know, a lot of people are like, oh, why would you, you know, why would you talk to a restaurant guy about customer service?
Evan Troxel: ah,
Detached audio: Yeah, exactly. So that,
that hand to hand to the forehead emoji thing,
Evan Troxel: right.
Detached audio: If, if you think about the value of an architect or, or what your client's value in an architect, it is not the P d F set.
It is not the drafting, it's none of that.
Evan Troxel: That's another
word for that is waste
process. Waste.
Detached audio: There you [00:36:00] go. Exactly.
there there are a million ways that they can get that P d F set and they don't value any of those ways because when there's this million ways, what's the cheapest way and the
fastest way
Evan Troxel: Exactly.
Detached audio: I
can get it.
And so yes, the tools, if we focus on the tools being the means to that faster, cheaper end, of course we're gonna be commoditized.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: So if we flip that around and say, how can we use these tools to change the customer experience or the client experience is what a architect would call it, obviously, you know, and if you read Unreasonable Hospitality by Wil Gadar, it's fascinating. It's fascinating. you know, some of the things. He came up with and others on his team came up with. And the ways that they changed the experience for customers in their restaurants, in ways that they remember, they talk about they value, they pay more for, [00:37:00] et cetera. And so
if we
flip that around,
Evan Troxel: there that you could, if I put you on the spot, that you could pull outta your memory banks?
Detached audio: so there was, there's an example where, uh, I forget where the, it, it was a group of friends I think that had gathered in New York and they were, seems like they were maybe from Europe and they had gone all around. They'd gone to all the best restaurants and in New York. And, and they, uh, I think it was actually as he told the story, I think it was actually Will, that was, uh, serving them, you know, was at their table
and they said, oh, we've been, we've had all the best experiences, all the best dining experiences in New York.
But, you know, the one thing that we haven't had is a New York hot dog. Right. And you know, they're in this really, really, uh, uh, well regarded expensive restaurant in New
York. And they say, and they're talking about the dude on the corner with a hot dog cart. Right. That's what they're talking about. They
haven't experienced in New [00:38:00] York, hot dog. And so
Evan Troxel: New York experience, right?
Like by, yeah,
Detached audio: Exactly. And he's, he's serving them and he's listening to them, and he's hearing them, and he makes a note of this hotdog thing, and he says, that is what I can do to make their experience complete and do something that they're not expecting. Do something that they will remember forever and they'll talk about forever. That cost, I don't know, I don't know what a New York, well today, maybe a New York hot dog's $10. But, but so what he did was, He finished up whatever's going on at the table, and he had someone run out and get a hotdog from a hotdog card, brought it back into the kitchen, convinced the chef to, to serve it. And, um, they
it. You
Evan Troxel: conversation right there.
Detached audio: it, it was, it was, he tells that story. It was a very tough conversation, but, you know, they presented it in their, [00:39:00] you know, in their way, in their style. And the, the people that were there for dinner were just blown away. And so you think about, okay, well how do I translate that into architecture? Well, I think there's a few ways. Number one, listen,
Evan Troxel: I.
Detached audio: what your clients are actually feeling and experience, and what they want to experience and what they value in the experience. And number two, you know, when we get to Uh, thinking about tools, there are already simple tools out there, like CRMs and things like that.
You go, oh, you know, so and so, uh, mentioned this in a meeting. We can put that in the notes and we can pay attention to that. Now, an AI with some sort of predictive modeling could, could start to, to serve up reminders and could start to iterate on, on different ideas of what we can do and timing and, and things like that. But, But, if we think about it in terms of [00:40:00] creating this experience that our clients value, I mean, you know, going back to my marketing and business development routes, every, every, firm leader that's listening to this will say that somewhere between 60 and 90% of their work comes from, from repeat clients and or referrals.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: If we simply use the tools to make that experience better.
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Detached audio: what's that number gonna be? Right.
How are we gonna leverage that number? Because it just, it brings more power
Evan Troxel: It won't be
Detached audio: that relationship and that
Evan Troxel: Yeah. It won't be lower. And I, one of the root things that you're, you're talking about here, and I've heard this in in many different conversations, is that for something to be memorable, for something to be
valuable, there should be something surprising
in there. And, and that is what sparks that change in the [00:41:00] perception of the experience that you just had.
It's so interesting to me, right? It's like that's why the twist in the movie makes it such
a good movie. You didn't see it coming. It was surprising. you found this . Off the wall, roadside stop on your monotonous drive from here to there. And now that that monotonous trip was no longer, it was one of the best trips.
It's, it's things like that, that you can inject into, uh, your, your process with a client to create the best experience that they, what the likely scenario is, it's one of the scariest experiences they're ever gonna have. They're spending their
life savings on their house, whatever it is, they're spending millions and millions of dollars on a building.
Is it gonna be okay? Am I gonna, am I gonna still have a job at the end of this process? Things like that are, are always on people's minds when we're talking about architecture. And for you to make it as [00:42:00] enjoyable, surprising, valuable as possible, that is where the value of an architect really shines. And then guess what?
They're going to talk about it. And it's way better if they're talking about it to somebody else. Then if you're talking
about it, because it's self-serving if you're talking about it,
but if they're sharing it on your behalf, the great experience word gets like that number is only gonna go up of,
of, you know, repeat business and referral based business
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. If you think about it in terms of, um, or, or use the example, I guess if, if, you were meeting their expectations, we're gonna meet their expectations.
Evan Troxel: It's like meeting the code.
That's what it is.
Detached audio: exactly. The, uh, the building that's designed and built to code is the worst building allowable by law.
Evan Troxel: Yes,
Detached audio: the, so if, if we're meeting their expectations, you think about that meeting their expectations. [00:43:00] What do we do in our heads, right? We create these narratives as we're looking out into the future, and we're imagining these worst case scenarios. So if we're meeting their expectations, that's just, that's just baseline.
It's the worst allowable by contract, I guess, in, in this case. And so we meet that. And then of course, right or wrong, they're gonna be surprised by the invoice.
Evan Troxel: Hmm.
Detached audio: Right. Oh wow.
Evan Troxel: That
Detached audio: I didn't realize, you know. Exactly. And so those, those two don't align at all. Right.
That creates, that automatically creates a bad scenario, you know,
to put it in some sort of colloquial, but, um, but we have to, and, and, and if we're going to meet their expectations and they're out there learning about chat G P T and they're out there saying, oh, I, I saw [00:44:00] on H G T V, or I saw that now this, this AI can create images. Or, I heard about, you know, this other thing that can design an apartment building. You know, they hear all of these things and it, it just builds up and builds up and builds up. It's like, well, I can go do that, right? I can
go use that AI and I can,
Evan Troxel: Yeah. C, continue your thought, but I do have a, a, a thing that I want to throw in here that I just hit me this morning, but please continue.
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. Well, so if, you know, if you're afraid that AI is going to take away the role of an architect, especially, uh, design, um, you know, any sort of the expertise that you bring to the table, think about the fact that the, the people that would say, Hey, I can do that. I'm gonna grab this AI and I'm gonna use it. They don't know what to tell the ai, right? They
don't have the experience, they don't have the expertise,
and so they're gonna ask it to design something that[00:45:00]
doesn't work, that doesn't make sense, right? Because they don't, they don't, you know, in the world of prompt engineers today, um, they don't know the prompts. And, and that can seem It's fairly basic, but it's, it's the case, right? How
do we actually take, how many, how many times have you said that clients don't really know what they want?
Evan Troxel: that's my point. Exactly right here.
Well, well, this is another point, which is this meme that's been going around, at least 10 people have sent this to me. It's like, we don't have to worry about our jobs because if a client can't even tell us what they want,
they're, they're not gonna be able to tell the AI what they want.
Detached audio: Right?
Evan Troxel: right?
Detached audio: yeah.
Evan Troxel: I, I think that's true. Yeah. Go ahead.
Detached audio: you could turn around and there's, there's this prompt that you can use with the, the chat bots and you basically tell the chat bot to ask you
questions until it knows enough to,
to, you know, you could turn around and try that, but it's still not gonna, you're still gonna end up in the meme.[00:46:00]
Evan Troxel: Write me a prompt that will Yeah.
Detached audio: Yeah.
Evan Troxel: reverse engineer the system. The thing that that struck me this morning was the connection that you just said. Uh, and so now I believe this is, I I'm onto something and, and you are too. Which is, uh, I think that with all of the hype around ai, that it is kind of the new version of what H G T V did around the expectation of design and architecture, which is kind of a drive-through mentality, right?
It's like I order up what I want, 'cause I saw it on a show, they turned it around in a day or a week, and that's my expectation of how the process goes. And, uh, and, and then architects are just like pulling their hair out because that is not the architectural process. That might
be the design on Netflix or H G T V show process because they cut out all the crap because they wanna make it an entertaining show that you
Come back to next week,
Or, or binge watch the next episode. [00:47:00] That we know that there's a lot of pitfalls in the process. We know there's a lot of hoops to jump through and red tape, and there's a lot of workarounds and there's a lot of, um, preexisting conditions that we don't, aren't made aware of until they are made, we are made aware of them.
And that's all part of this process. And, and so when somebody says, you know, I'm thinking about hiring an architect, and an architect says, well, here are my, here's my fee schedule to do that. They're shocked. It
wasn't like that on tv. I kind of see the same thing happening with ai. Right. Which is Well, and you said it yourself.
I can just do that myself. Right. And to your point, um, the building still has to get designed. The project still has to actually get designed so that it can get built, but because it's a drive-through, I, I ordered this image up front. , how long does it take to turn that around into a design? Why does it take so long?
Why does it cost so much? Why are there so many permits involved? Why is there all of [00:48:00] this stuff? Uh, I, I really feel like it's, it's gonna do, its do its job on our, it's gonna do another job on our profession, which is like setting these unrealistic expectations on the client side.
I don't know if it's gonna set unrealistic. It probably will set unrealistic expectations inside of firms as well with leadership saying, why can't you just use the tools to spit this thing out in five minutes? I, other people are right. Um, so I think it's gonna bite us there too. But, but I, it is interesting to me to kind of draw parallel between the, what a lot of people have talked about, the H G T V ification of
design and uh, you know, the built environment.
I think AI's doing something similar in people's minds out there.
Detached audio: Yeah, I, I, think, I think, you're right about that. And, um, so a AI machine learning, generative ai, those, those are all sort of darlings of the conversation, the broader conversation right now. [00:49:00] Um, and it's also important to remember that You know, depending on what tool you're using, there's so many more processes and so many more systems and so many more tools out there, right?
It's not just designing it, right? It's, it's documenting, it's it's filing, it's getting approvals, it's, you know, it's all of that. And so, um, you know, in the bigger picture, you know, what, if we're thinking about, um, if we're thinking about the, the pitfalls of what clients Potential clients may think about, about ai? You know, I don't, I don't necessarily know what the answer to that is. It's, it's gonna take, um, it's gonna take some bruising, right? It's gonna take,
uh, people getting to
the point where they realize, oh, that, that didn't really work the way that I thought it was gonna work. Or, um, and, and I also don't think that's anything
Jeff Echols: new, right?
HG TV [00:50:00] and what
Detached audio: was it
Jeff Echols: before? HG TV, right?
Detached audio: All these unrealistic expectations. But if we, we start to look at it in the other direction, what are the other surprises? You know, what are the other things that, um, um, that. Make clients less than thrilled with the process that
scare them, that
make the experience bad for them.
You know, cost, uh, timeline, all of these things that, that, you know, we know we deal with this on every project. And you know, there, there is an aspect that, uh, where if a client is surprised, that's not gonna be a good thing. I always
say, when we get down to proposals, right? If we're, if we're putting together a proposal for a client, if they are surprised you don't get that project right?
If the price is, they're surprised at how high the price is,
you don't get that project. If they're surprised at how low that price is, [00:51:00] you don't get that project because
now they're suspicious.
Evan Troxel: Hmm.
Detached audio: Um, so it, it's, how do we take the surprise there? There's that element that you mentioned before, the surprise in terms of experience and, you know, sort
of a positive thing.
Evan Troxel: Surprise And,
Detached audio: and
I don't know how to separate that
out necessarily.
Evan Troxel: right?
Detached audio: Yeah, yeah, yeah. It's, it's, it is different, right? It, it's that, that, thing that stands out as, as a, a thrill for them.
But there are plenty of tools out there, uh, and, and more and more every day. And we have some in our portfolio that are collecting data from project to project to project that make it better. You know, architects are rightfully terrified by material cost increase, construction cost increase. We have no control over it. Uh, and it's happening and it's, I think it's slowed down a little bit, but, you know, during covid when everything was just exploding
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: there, [00:52:00] there are generative models out there that can help in that process, right? That can help us predict more accurately. Okay, well, you know, you said your budget's $2 million. This is what you can, you know, and, uh, today is July 25th as we recorded this on July 25th. This is what you can expect to get for that $2 million.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: You know, and, and so there are other tools out there, you know, other innovations out there that can help us manage these processes and, and, uh, make that experience not only bring a different level of professionalism and, um, uh, but but also remove some of those bad surprises and help us
those experiences that are vitally important to the de commoditization of the profession. I.
Evan Troxel: Yeah. I think one of the things that comes to mind is, [00:53:00] uh, a a family member is recently looking at getting like a, a small, tiny house kind of a thing. Uh, they're moving across the country. They wanna buy a piece of land, put on a tiny house. So there's different companies out there who make like a d u size things and tiny houses and stuff like that.
And some of those, it's like . Here's the architecture as a product. Uh, you deal
with it as a client. Now you, you get the thing, but then you have to figure out all the other stuff that goes along with that, the
permits, the infrastructure, the utilities, uh, the timing of all of that, the fees. Then there's another company that says, uh, we do all of that because we know how hard it is for, and we know how overwhelming that is, I should say, to someone who's never done that before, because we do it all the time.
And the difference between those two potential outcomes is enormous. It's absolutely enormous. And, and it's the difference between Does [00:54:00] it cost more for the, for the full service one? Absolutely it does. Is it gonna be a lot less stress and are you willing to pay to have less stress? A lot of people are, right, and
so they're selecting the kinds of clients who a like
Acknowledge that they need that , right. And, and b, like they, they're probably getting more contracts because all of that stuff is not in a, nor a, a run of the mill consumers bailiwick. Like they just don't have the skills to do that. Or they don't know who to call. They don't know anything about it. And, and to, to your point of just like addressing the pain points of customers that lots and lots of customers have, can really set you apart against the commoditization of the sa.
If, if we just said, here's, here's a le here are our services, those are the same services as everybody else offers. I mean, that's, that's why I said architecture has been commoditized. Everybody offers the exact same services for [00:55:00] the most part. And I think that it's really interesting to be able to set yourself apart in such an, such a simple way.
I. To address the actual problems that come up that we've seen over and over again that we choose either to address or not to address in our businesses.
Detached audio: Yeah, I'd like to, uh, you know, there's that, that old adage about the, the drill bit,
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: you know, and if when I'm working on a project around the house, um, you know, maybe, maybe I need to drill a hole for some reason. Right. And so I can go to my toolbox and I can look at where the quarter inch drill bit should have been and it's not there.
Evan Troxel: are right. I know this story. Yeah.
Detached audio: Yeah. And. So then, then the question becomes, do I hop in my car and drive to Lowe's or Home Depot or something [00:56:00] and, and buy a drill bit? Not if I can help it. Right? I don't want the drill bit. That's not the point.
Evan Troxel: you want
Detached audio: I want the quarter inch hole. Yeah.
And you know, I, I have, uh, taught this formula. That's not really a formula, but I've taught this formula for years now.
Jeff Echols: uh, P plus S equals R
Evan Troxel: Hmm.
Detached audio: and it's really the definition of what clients' value. And so the, the p is a problem, and every single one of your clients has a problem. They may not call it that, they may call it their house, they may call it, you know, their office building or whatever. But, but there's a problem to be solved.
They're looking to you for s the solution, but what they really value is r. Is the result, you know, what happens after that restaurant is opened or what happens after, [00:57:00] um, you know, you have the beach house where all of the grandkids can gather for the entire summer every year. That's what clients value
Jeff Echols: is.
The, R, they value the hole, not
Detached audio: the drill bit. And you know, again, when we're talking about innovation in, in the space innovation for the built environment, at the end of the day when, when things shake out, no one is gonna care whether or not you use an AI or,
you know, this tool versus that tool.
What they're gonna care about and actually value is the result that's created. At the end. And that's, that can be a hard thing for people to get their architects, to get their heads wrapped around because, oh, look at this thing that I've designed. No one cares. It's not literally true. I mean, they, they do care, but what they care about is what that thing allows them to do.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: there are definitely people that value [00:58:00] design and there are definitely people that, that, you know, value certain aspects of that, but that's feeding some sort of result that they're after, right? Like if, if they, if they wanna hire a, um, a architect for a home or a museum or whatever it is, you could say, oh, well that's what they value.
They value that design. They actually value being able to say, Hey, I hired. Whoever, Whoever, this architect was to hire this, right? They're feeding something else. The result is they get to go and brag about this. Do they love the design? Maybe, uh, maybe not. But they love being able to say so and so designed that. And so we, you know, going back to what we were talking about earlier, we have to listen, we have to understand, stand what, um, you know, what, what our clients want and what they value. And then bring, bring and apply the tool set in a way that improves the, the experience and the result for them.[00:59:00]
Evan Troxel: Yeah. The, the whole thing behind AI and artificial intelligence, it's been talked about a lot, is kind of augmenting the designer, Right?
And in the same way that we're talking about an architect augmenting a client's needs, right? They're coming to you with a problem as, and you get to act as a tool to help them accomplish those goals and more, I hope.
Right? And, and you use the word results, but the word that's come up here on the podcast many times is outcomes, right? Like,
what are the ways in which that thing, that tool, the building now in this case, not the architect
Detached audio: Mm-hmm.
Evan Troxel: augments, . Their lives, their work lives, their home lives in ways that, that are more than just containing space, right?
there's so many additional ways in which architecture sets itself apart from buildings, and that is where we can find, um, novel [01:00:00] or interesting or surprising solutions to help them. And the technology is a means to the end, but it is not the means. It's not why we do what we do right it, but it, it definitely can augment us to help create those kinds of scenarios for our clients.
And then that, that's where the value really shines.
Detached audio: Yeah, when I started the Shadow Shorts series, um, a couple of months ago now, I think, and I thought, okay, well every day I'm gonna have these short conversations with startup founders and CEOs and, you know, all, all these people in this innovation for the built environment space. I thought, man, I'm gonna, I'm gonna learn a lot about technology and I'm gonna have a lot of conversations about different, uh, different softwares and robotics and things that are out there.
But one really interesting trend that has come out of these [01:01:00] conversations is the people. Even though we're talking about whatever it is,
whatever the,
technology, the, the quote unquote innovation is, many, many of these conversations come back to the people. Now, a, you know, a lot of, a lot of the, uh, a lot of it comes back to the employees of the, the organization that, you know, the per person is representing, I guess.
But, but the idea that technology and innovation is one thing, but it's, you know, what's the effect on the people that are using it? What's the effect on the people that are building it? What's the effect on the people that are inhabiting it? Um, that, that has to, I'd have to go back and, and sort of document this, but probably four out of five conversations, there's some touch on people,
you know, is this tool, [01:02:00] there was one the other day. With the, uh, it director of operations and he said, you know, one of the things I've gotta consider is, is this tool actually making the lives and jobs of our people better? Or is it simply a tool that someone's pushing because of a, uh, supposed r o i
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: And if it's not right, if it's not making the, the jobs and lives better, it's not worth using that tool.
You know, another, another
conversation. It's, you know, uh, it's been about how do we create a culture of innovation? That's, that's a big theme as well, um, is many of our, many of the people that we work with and, and we partner with, uh, are, you know, they have chief, chief innovation officers and people like that in, in their, uh, uh, in their firms or in their organizations. And so, you know, you get into this conversation, [01:03:00] how do we How do we create a culture that allows people to be the best, be their best selves, and
allows them to think in ways that they can, you know, then make their job and their life better, and their colleagues, their peers, jobs and lives better. And there's so many examples that come back
to, Hey, it's great, right?
The technology is great, the, you know, the ai, the whatever it is, that's great, but we have to be thinking about, um, at, at least in parallel, um, with the people that are going to somehow be touched by it,
Evan Troxel: Yeah, that, I think that that threads right into that idea of, of outcomes. Like it can
be outcomes throughout the process as well for the people doing the work.
And if you're making their lives better, do you think they're gonna do better work? I
think they're gonna do better work
and, and that should be one of the big reasons, one of the large considerations of why you [01:04:00] would look at any tool, if it's digital or otherwise, to help your employees.
Enjoy what they're doing and do meaningful work. I mean that, and take away the stuff that isn't, that drags people down, that lowers their morale, that makes them wish they didn't have to go to work that day. All of those things should be looked at constantly by leadership, whether it's technology, leadership in a firm or practice leadership in a firm where, wherever those leaders may sit, you kind of have to hit it from all different angles to create the best environment possible for creativity to happen.
I think that's really what architecture should be about and, and whether that's creativity on a project or creativity on the business itself, like we talked about earlier, working on the business, those are all things that leadership has to take the reins of and not just say, this is the way we've always done it, so we're gonna continue to do it the way we've always done it.
I mean, there's, there's a lot of firms in this, in this industry that, that act [01:05:00] like that. And I think, you know, they, people are burnt out by . Leaders who act like that and they want to go somewhere else where something interesting or surprising is happening to so that they can enjoy what they're doing.
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. That, that's one of the things that I ask my students very early in the, in the, uh, semester is to, to look around them, right? And this, this is the pot stirring, one of the pot stirring points. But, you know, look around you and, you know, I don't know, they're in grad school, they're probably somewhere between 25 and, you know, whatever, if they're, if they took a non-traditional route, but, you know, look around you and make a list of things that have not changed over the course of your lifetime. right? It's a non-existent list. Right. Everything has changed. Everything evolves. Um, and then we get into this conversation exactly what you were just talking about. This is the way we've always done it. [01:06:00] If everything is changing Everything in your experience over your lifetime has changed. Then why
Evan Troxel: Hmm.
Detached audio: we have these conversations and hang on to this is the way we've always done it.
Why do we
have a model that has changed Very little. Some of the tools have changed, but the model has changed very little in, in a hundred or more years. Does that make any sense?
Evan Troxel: Right.
That, and that stagnation is, it's paralyzing. It's depressing for people. And I think if people find themselves bored or depressed or feeling stagnant, it is because there is a lack of growth happening. There is, and, and growth meaning like solving problems, figuring things out for better.
And, and so I think, uh, they're not wrong to look elsewhere to find that growth if it, if it's not happening because of intentional stagnation by just shutting everything down by saying, this is how we do it.
This is how we've done it forever. [01:07:00] So,
Detached audio: Yeah. Yeah. I posed a question a while back to a group of people. I said, you know, look at where you are today. Take, take inventory of where you are today and then, you know, look out five years from today and say, you know, where do I want to be five years from today? What is my best self? Or, you know, best, best situation look like five years from today? And, you know, I'll leave open the possibility that you may say, Hey, where I am today is great. I love this. I want this to continue. And that's when I, that's where I want to be in five years. Many people I think, look at that differently and say, Hey, I want to be doing this. I wanna move there. I want to, you know, whatever it is that there's something, some more radical change than that, that they're interested in. But if we go to those people that say, Hey, I. in five years, I want, I still wanna be doing this, right? So basically we're gonna, we're gonna keep the status [01:08:00] quo for five years.
Evan Troxel: Mm-hmm. . Mm-hmm.
Detached audio: You may look at that and say, well, that's great. I just have to keep doing what I'm doing right? I just have to keep, keep this up. I just have to, to maintain the status quo. But the reality of the situation is that maintaining the status quo takes work, right? Because everything is changing, right? There's, there's things that are passing us by, they're speeding up, they're doing this. I mean, this is not meant to be a political statement, but if you don't think that holding onto the status quo takes work, look at what, at what's going on in our society.
Look at what's going on in politics right now. The, effort. That goes into, and you may be on one side or the other and agree or disagree with any of it that's going on, but the effort that's going into maintaining the status quo is enormous.
Evan Troxel: Hmm. That's a really
Detached audio: And so we could, we could decide to devote [01:09:00] our time and our energy and our resources to maintaining the status quo
Evan Troxel: Yeah.
Detached audio: or something else. And you know,
so I
don't want
anybody to be confused.
Evan Troxel: I, I think of it in terms of friction. Like
friction takes energy, right? It
actually sucks energy
out of the situation. Right? Uh, it, and that, that is a really interesting perspective and I think a valuable one to, to really consider is how much energy are we spending
not doing anything.
It's, it's like design, uh, deciding not to do something is a design decision. Just like deciding to do something is also a
design decision. But often we look at the not making a decision as not . any energy or taking any set of skills or anything. Right. It, it's a, it. I think all of those themes kind of, kind of play together in this pot that you stir up so often, Jeff , [01:10:00] it's all out there in the pot.
Detached audio: it
Evan Troxel: this has been a, a fun conversation. I, I would love it if you would let the audience know where they can find out more about the work that you're doing.
Detached audio: Sure. Yeah. Thank you. I've, I've really enjoyed it. I always enjoy our conversations. Uh, an easy way to connect with me is just reach out to me on LinkedIn. Um, I spend a lot of time over there, so just, uh, send me a connection request, say, Hey, I heard you on Evan's podcast, and, uh, I'm happy to connect there. If you want know more about, uh, Shadow Summit, which is coming up, we talked about that. It's our conference. Go
Jeff Echols: to shadowsummit.com
Detached audio: and, um, shadow Partners website
Jeff Echols: is shadowpartners.co.
Detached audio: Not com, but Co. And, um, well, and if you want to, uh, Learn more about the venture side of it. You can, uh, go to Shadow Ventures, which is, uh, I
Jeff Echols: think it's shadow.vc is our,
Detached audio: uh, U R L over there.
And you can, you can [01:11:00] see the portfolio companies and learn about the fund. And, um, like I said, it's, it is a financial vehicle, so it's, it is, uh,
Jeff Echols: regulated by the SCC and, uh,
Detached audio: I don't get to play over there that much, but, uh, uh, coming over and, and reach out to me and, uh, if you, if you know of someone that, uh, ought to be a 10 to 15 minute conversation on, uh, Shatter Shorts, I would love the recommendation because we have a lot of fun, like you said earlier, connecting, connecting dots.
Uh, I love having those conversations and, and broadening the audience there.
Evan Troxel: A few of your portfolio companies have been on this show, so we'll connect a few, a few more dots in the show notes for people
here so that they can get, get more of the story, uh, for places like ICON and, uh, what Was Spaces is now has a,
has a new name rebranded under a new name. I can't.
Yeah. And, uh,
Detached audio: I believe. Yep.
Evan Troxel: Yep. So, uh, anyway, fantastic [01:12:00] people in the industry and, uh, as always, Jeff, this has been a great conversation, so I, I
I know it'll happen again, so I will say until next time.
Detached audio: Alright, I appreciate that. Yeah, I've, like I said, I always enjoy our conversations and I'm happy to be here. Thanks for the invite
Evan Troxel: All right, see you soon.