Milwaukeeans are notoriously cheap. Even before the Great Recession, local architecture firms had to be price-conscious to remain competitive, said Greg Uhen, president of Milwaukee-based Eppstein Uhen Architects.
“Price is always an issue in this town,” he said. “That’s not a new concept these days. Even in good times, it’s a price-sensitive market.”
Milwaukee architectural firms have gotten used to delivering a high level of service at a low price, Uhen said. However, in the post-recession economy, customers are even more frugal, he said.
Price is becoming a bigger issue because the recession resulted in a dramatic slowdown in construction and development. As a result, more architectural firms are competing for fewer projects, Uhen said.
Eppstein Uhen has a strong reputation and has done the design work for several prominent buildings in Milwaukee, including the Manpower Inc. corporate headquarters, Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Co.’s Franklin campus, GE Healthcare’s Wauwatosa building, the 875 E. Wisconsin Ave. office building, the Milwaukee Intermodal Station, The Point on the River and others.
While remaining price-conscious to remain competitive, Eppstein Uhen is not willing to cut its prices so much that they will diminish the services the firm provides and harm its reputation, Uhen said.
“You do reach a point (with price) where you do have to walk away,” he said. “We’ve had to do that. If you don’t walk away, it’s something that is going to hurt you more down the road. The more you commoditize your business, the more you have to give in to price pressure.”
Instead, the firm has found ways to add value to the services that it provides, Uhen said. Prior to the Great Recession, the firm invested heavily in training for its employees in the latest building design technology. The company also provides this training for contractors that it works with and the building managers of its clients.
“We lead the marketplace in this technology,” Uhen said.
The tools improve the efficiency of building projects by reducing mistakes and delays. This is especially important because the construction industry is notorious for delays, mistakes and change-orders, which result in increased costs.
“There is a lot of waste and inefficiency in our industry,” Uhen said. And more than ever, clients cannot afford that waste, he said.