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One+ years later: Strategic acquisition serves SLAM as model of strength, growth during Covid-19

Acquisition of five CBRE | Heery architectural design practices taps diverse expertise and resources, flexing for success

Glastonbury, Conn., August 10, 2021 – On March 10, 2020, SLAM (The S/L/A/M Collaborative), a national architectural firm, announced the strategic acquisition of five CBRE I Heery architectural design practices, expanding on healthcare, and the addition of sports facilities and justice markets, naming them Heery Design, a SLAM Studio. 

A week later, nearly all professional services businesses shuttered their doors due to the Covid-19 pandemic and moved its business and employees to a work-from-home model. As pandemic restrictions continue to evolve, SLAM offices are currently following a hybrid return-to-work model and adjusting to CDC guidelines, accordingly.

Strength, flexibility found in numbers

For SLAM and its newly augmented team of 270 employees, strength during Covid-19 was found in the numbers.

“As healthcare work in the Northeast slowed, we were able to shift the workload for the majority of our Glastonbury, CT-based healthcare studio into our other offices,” says Steve Doherty, SLAM COO. “By tapping the resources of our nine offices, several with clients seeing this as an opportunity to expedite projects, our growth became an asset.”

During the first four months of the pandemic, the Architectural Billings Index (ABI), prepared by the American Institute of Architects, revealed a sharp decline in overall firm inquiries, billings, and design contracts.  More than 400 firms reported a drop in billings, while institutional billings, which includes the healthcare sector, was at 4o percent (an index average of 50 percent or greater indicates stronger growth). In March 2021, firms were reporting a return to positive billings.

The resilience of SLAM’s strategic acquisition and growth plan during the pandemic was marked by its rise from the 81st to 47th largest firm in the U.S., according to the Architectural Record’s 2021 Top 300 Architectural Firms.  This ranking, based on revenue, represents a 40 percent increase in billings in 2020.

Pandemic simultaneous to firm rebranding

The Covid-19 pandemic spurred a once in a century change globally, socially, and professionally. Its impact on how SLAM does business and defines company culture came at the same time the firm was creating its own transformative change.

SLAM President Robert F. Pulito, AIA, says, “We were already thinking differently about ourselves through our rebranding, then came the pandemic, which forced the entire industry to re-think everything.”

Pulito, says the acquisition of five new offices put the firm ahead of the curve of businesses today that are needing to go through a transformation because of the pandemic’s impact. The integration of five new offices accelerated the firm’s implementation of new technologies that helped enhance knowledge sharing and collaboration across offices and market sectors, enabling talent and experience to be leveraged throughout the company.  The firm devised a more flexible and entrepreneurial management structure that supports and empowers SLAM to explore, experiment, and execute new initiatives that have the potential to drive change and improve outcomes throughout our national footprint.

The firm’s healthcare practice saw immediate benefits from the acquisition, nearly doubling its client base.

“One-Firm” deploys diverse expertise

“We, nor anyone could have ever predicted our acquisition would commence at the top of Covid-19,” says Richard Connell, FAIA, SLAM Board Chair. “The last year was a success and far better than we would have ever imagined. We expanded our national reach with more credibility to deliver services effectively across the country.”

Flexibility and ease of deploying staff to other offices is a key component of the firm’s strategic growth plan. In 2020, SLAM’s Landscape Architecture and Planning studio relocated team members to Denver. Other expansions have occurred in Orlando, with the addition of a Principal at SLAM focused on interior design and workplace expertise, augmenting the current justice practice.

Other objectives for the Denver office are to focus on the corporate, science & technology, and higher education sectors, the latter will complement current academic health center clients with the firm’s long-standing reputation as a national leader in planning, programming and design of top-tier medical education and health sciences facilities.

“We’ve {Heery Design] been in circumstances where the ownership/leadership have been construction management or real-estate-related, but to see the culture at SLAM value design, was a refreshing change.” says Douglas Kleppin, principal, SLAM Orlando.

The acquisition included the SLAM sports design group, which has an aggressive goal to be a top five A/E firm in the country for collegiate, team facilities, athletic training tables and athletic academic centers. Other potential market expansion will include wellness centers.

In 2020, SLAM began a search for office space in Providence, RI.  In June 2021, the firm announced its 10th location, taking another step in its growth mission.

As the nation comes out of the pandemic, this continuation of growth demonstrates SLAM’s commitment to being a national design firm. “Ironically, the timing was perfect to instill impactful change in our firm,” says Pulito.

About SLAM
The S/L/A/M Collaborative (SLAM) is a national, multi-disciplinary design firm offering architecture, planning, interior design, landscape architecture, site planning, structural and civil engineering, and pre-construction, with S/L/A/M Construction Services offered throughout the New England region.  Our market focus is on higher education, K-12 public/private education, healthcare, corporate, justice, sports and recreation sectors. In 2020, SLAM launched a new brand that underscores our infinite drive to unlock and solve complex design problems, rendering creativity in design to enrich lives. SLAM has offices in Atlanta, GA, Boston, MA, Denver, CO, Glastonbury, CT, Iowa City, IA, Los Angeles, CA, New York, NY, Orlando FL, Philadelphia, PA., Providence, RI.  For more information on SLAM please visit www.slamcoll.com

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