Bring your toughest design problems!

will be showcasing many projects and explaining our services at the BL Business Expo on Friday June 2nd. Please Join us.

The BL Business Expo Event, in its 13 year, showcases the products and services of over 100 Northern Virginia exhibitors and sponsors. Please contact Gaddis Architect, at [email protected], 9730701-8800, for a complimentary entry voucher. Please stop by our booth to see our projects showcased and learn about how we can help solve many tough design problems and create high performing spaces. We look forward to meeting you there.


8:00 am : Doors open for Guests.

(The Exhibit Hall is open NON-STOP until the end – Seminars will take place in a separate Room)
8:15 am – 9:15 am:
Making LinkedIn work for Your BusinessSeminar
Jennifer Dalton, LinkedIn Specialist
9:30 am – 10:00 am:
Opening Ceremony
National Anthem, welcome address,Sponsors recognition, with Emcee:
-Angel Livas, Media Specialist
10:15 am – 11:45 am:
Protecting Your Business, An IT perspective Seminar
-Fred Haggerty, IT Specialist
12: 00 pm – 12:30 pm:
Everything that You Ever Needed To Open A Business,
But Were Afraid To Ask
Gerald Geddes, CPA
12:45pm – 1:30 pm:
Break the Rules & Make more SalesSeminar
Nema Semnani, Sandler Training
1:45 pm – 2:00 pm:
Door Prizes & Farewell Remarks
(We have some serious door prize for you. You would want to be there to take them home.)
Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.


HVAC: Accounting for stuff only the birds can see!

Old Hvac Unit
Old roof top HVAC unit scheduled to be replaced.

Necessary – What has this got to do with me? I am building a chic new retail store. I need to focus on the design, merchandise displays and retail image. Who sees this? I know – I know, the space must have functioning heat and air conditioning but, really, why do I need a structural engineer? I want to put my budget were it is visible to my customers.

Most commercial HVAC units will last 15 to 20 years. They probably cost over $10M each without any distribution and, in all but special circumstances, you cannot hope to have a functional commercial space without them. They are as basic as the walls, roof, plumbing, lights, etc. So when the HVAC company, landlord, or MEP engineer says it is time to replace you can be pretty sure they are correct.

Fundamental – Few would argue that it is completely fundamental for a tenant to understand who is responsible for the original installation, subsequent maintenance, repair and eventual replacement of the heating and air conditioning in a space. Neglecting to do this would be like moving into a space that might or might not have walls, yet I am often surprised by retailers who are unclear about, even disinterested in, these issues. Until something goes wrong that is.

Bar Joist
Bar joist hold up the roof and are common in retail environments.

Required – But I digress. My intention is not to outline heating and air conditioning systems common to small commercial projects, which is nicely done here. It is, rather, to explain why structural engineering is required for the installation of an HVAC unit. Consider this; all commercial HVAC systems have parts, many of which are large, heavy and sit on something, i.e., the roof. The unit in the photo, for example, weighs upward of 1,200 pounds. Now take a critical look at the structural framing system in the other photo, and ask yourself if it looks like it will be sufficient to hold up the concentrated load created by the installation of half a ton of equipment. In this case the structure is actually holding up the unit shown, so the answer happens to be yes – barely. I point this out because in many cases, especially in existing buildings without available structural drawings, common sense might lead one to ask if a new mechanical unit weighs the same as the one being replaced. Be aware that where common sense fails, the building code does not.

Structural load calculations and drawings which have been certified by an authorized professional are required before building departments will issue a permit allowing heavy equipment to be installed in, or on, a new or existing building. This, of course, includes mechanical, as well as other types of equipment. I mention the later as an aside for all you restaurant owners out there. Restaurant equipment is heavy and installing it in old buildings like those found in historic areas can create problems for unaware owners. Also, in the case of replacement equipment, it is less involved but still necessary to evaluate a new unit even if it weighs less than the old one. In the case under consideration, the replacement HVAC unit proved to be heavier than the existing, meaning it became necessary to provide structural reinforcement before the new unit could be installed.

Roof top image shows location of existing HVAC equipment.
Roof top image shows location of existing HVAC equipment.

How – So what steps were required? How did we arrive at this conclusion? First we had a contractor go up onto the roof and take photos of the exiting equipment, including a close up view of the label. This allowed the mechanical engineer to research the existing unit with the manufacturer who was able to provide a weight. A new unit was then specified according to the new design for the space. Efforts were made to avoid additional expense by matching the new unit with the old and installing it in the same location. Eventually it was determine that, although the location could be maintained, the replacement unit was going to be heavier than the old one. Had it weighed the same or less, the mechanical engineer would have so noted it on the drawings and been done.

Since this was not the case, it became necessary for the structural engineer to completed the process. He went to he site, analyzed the structural type, crawled up on a ladder, measured the bar joist, and checked the location of the existing equipment. Upon returning to his office, he went through a series of calculations to see if the structure was sufficient to accommodate the new unit. Since it was not he had to design and specify additional reinforcement adequate for the new equipment. This information was delivered in the form of signed and sealed drawings and calculations, along with certified architectural and MEP documents, to the building department with the permit application.

Why – The point of this discussion is to show those contemplating a commercial building project what a single line in a lease assigning responsibility for the heating and air conditioning equipment can indicate. In my experience all reputable landlords give full disclosure about the age and condition of the mechanical systems in their properties. Many provide substantial construction allowances for unit replacement and other improvements. Few, though, take into consideration the amount of engineering required in order to make the actual improvement. Professional services, Architectural, Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing and Structural, are expensive and should be accounted for in the budget for a building project. I would suggest that forewarned is forearmed.

Bridget Gaddis, is a Licensed Architect and LEED-accredited Professional practicing nationally, and locally in the Washington DC area. She holds professional degrees in both Architecture and Interior Design, and with a comprehensive background in commercial retail design, planning and construction has completed projects for such for such well known brands as Chloe, Zegna, and Bvlgari. Her career began in tenant coordination and site planning for two well-known Cleveland developers, followed by six years in store planning for a national retailer. After a move to New York City in 1997, she spent the next years working for architecture firms specializing in retail projects. In 2011 she started her own practice in Alexandria, VA. Ms. Gaddis is the author of two blogs dealing with architectural subjects.


Small Business and Teaming Agreements, Part II

Disclaimer – I am not licensed to practice law or give legal advice.  The information written in this blog is based on my experience negotiating hundreds of teaming agreements for large and small businesses over my 20+ years in Government Contracting.

In Part I of the blog, I discussed why Government contractors team and how teaming agreements typically work. In Part II I will discuss terms and conditions that I have personally negotiated most often and why they are important to small business owners. This list is not all inclusive and may be different from one organization to the next in terms of importance.

Workshare – Most RFPs will describe work and tasks that are to be performed during the potential contract. Workshare is the portion of work that you will receive if everything goes as planned in the RFP.  Some primes will not guarantee any work prior to winning the contract, if you can negotiate a percentage of workshare in writing that will only assist you with future planning of resources. I mention percentage of workshare versus specific full time employed/equivalent positions (FTEs) because the Government can change or delete tasks during the amendment phase of an RFP and if you have a specific percentage instead of a FTEs, you have a better chance of receiving the same percentage vs losing specific positions.

Exclusivity – The prime contractor will normally require that once you become a team member, that you will not work with any other companies on that particular pursuit.  It is important to ensure that there is no statement that prevents you from teaming with other partners for that same client on different pursuits or providing your normal services to that same client for work outside of this pursuit.

Advertising – Many agreements will require that you get permission from the Prime before you are allowed to advertise the contract win. A win for the Prime is a win for you, and of course you would like to share that information with the world. Requesting that the prime not unreasonably withhold their permission is important in this area.

Indemnity – An indemnity is an obligation by a person (indemnitor) to provide compensation for a particular loss suffered by another person (indemnitee).  As the sub, when you see this clause, you should at the very least ask for the same protection that the prime requires of you in case of an incident.

Proposal Participation – If you can participate with the prime in proposal preparation, it is important that the prime’s expectations are spelled out and you have the resources to contribute whatever you agree to.

Governing Law – Specifies that the laws of a mutually agreed upon jurisdiction will govern the interpretation and enforcement of the terms of the contract. In this case, you would obviously want to have any legal action addressed where your company does business, or in a state that you and the prime can agree upon.

Intellectual Property – A work or invention that is the result of creativity, such as a manuscript or a design, to which one has rights and for which one may apply for a patent, copyright, trademark, etc.  As a sub, you want to retain the rights to any intellectual property that you designed or developed.

Term – This includes the length of the teaming agreement as well as the conditions that would terminate the agreement.  It is important to pay close attention as these items will vary from one teaming agreement to the next.

Teaming Agreements are a very important piece of the puzzle as they can determine what happens down the road with relationships and future business.  It is imperative that you have someone that is familiar with negotiating the key terms and conditions and who can represent your organizations best interest.


Small Business and Teaming Agreements

Disclaimer – I am not licensed to practice law or give legal advice.  The information written in this blog is based on my experience negotiating hundreds of teaming agreements for large and small businesses over my 20+ years in Government Contracting.

In a perfect world, two parties (prime and sub Government contractors) determine that they have capabilities that complement one another for a particular effort and decide to become a team. A teaming agreement is successfully negotiated, the prime wins the contract, a subcontract agreement is signed between the prime and the sub, and the team goes on to deliver either a great service or product(s) to the Government and they create a long term relationship. There are however instances when a teaming agreement is negotiated and nothing ever happens for various reasons, such as the Request for Proposal (RFP) was cancelled, amended or put on hold, or the prime decides not to pursue the effort.

A teaming agreement is a contract between a (potential) prime and a potential sub in pursuit of a Government contract.  In most cases, the terms and conditions negotiated in the teaming agreement are later incorporated into the subcontract agreement, once the subcontract has been fully executed the teaming agreement then becomes void. Based on this, it is very important that you as a small business sub attempt to negotiate an agreement that is mutually favorable as possible for your business.  I use the word attempt, because in some cases there will be items that the prime will not be open to negotiating regardless of the push back that is received from you.

Teaming agreements can be issued before or after the prime has won a contract.  In most cases, the prime will issue a teaming agreement prior to the release of a RFP but there are times, when the work has already started and because the contract with the Government requires the prime get permission from the Government before bringing a subcontractor onto a project, a teaming agreement will be signed while waiting to receive the OK from the Government.

The terms and conditions that a business considers favorable will vary from one business to another. As a small business owner, you will have to determine what terms and conditions are important to your business. Lastly, as mentioned previously the terms and conditions agreed to in the teaming agreement will more than likely be incorporated into the subcontract agreement, it is helpful if most of the terms and conditions have already been agreed to prior to the subcontract phase. A teaming agreement is legal and binding as is any other contract, it is best to educate yourself or hire someone that can review your teaming agreements prior to signature and acceptance.

In part II of the blog, I will compile a list of some of the terms and conditions that I have seen negotiated most often between the prime and the sub in teaming agreements.

Owning It

Owning a small business is like starting a family but often I feel like a single parent with quintuplets.

When I first began my business in 2012 I filed out all of the correct paperwork. As it would seem, I did so in the most backwards order I could imagine. This was not by my poor planning as much as it was my overall lack of knowledge about the entire process, which between you and I is not incredibly obvious even after having gone through it. I do have to give credit where it is due and I owe a lot to the Small Business Development Center as I may not be where I am today without their guidance.

As a small business owner I have had to wear many hats and to keep my costs low I have had to wear all of those hats on my own.Meghan

The Photographer As a lead photographer I have enjoyed the ability to be as structured or organic as I like and have been able to be creative with on the spot changes due to weather, venue and wardrobe mishaps. I feel that this is my strongest role and one that I am constantly improving and honing. A big thanks to friend and fellow photographer Sam Dingley for my stunning headshots. That comes off like I am bragging about me, but I promise I am bragging about his photography skills.

The Website Designer In all fairness the bare bones of my website was originally created by a friend Kendall Totten Design who is an incredible developer but is now ran almost entirely by me. I try to check in with her once or twice a year to do an overall update to my site when I need assistance with code or say, I accidently delete a section of content. Oops. But other then that, all content, now comes from me in all of my glorious grammatical errors.

The Ad Executive I do my best to funnel all social media traffic back to my website but at this time do not use any paid advertisements to gain clients. My social media presence is crucial to my image so I do my best to keep my brand consistent. My logo was again created by a dear friend Mindy McPeak Illustration and my business cards and header by another Graphic Designer friend Danielle Webb who I think I traded the designs of for wine and cheese. Overall my business is driven by word of mouth. My clients return year after year and tell their friends about their experience with me and in turn become new clients.

The Attorney I cannot afford one at this time and so I am my own legal counsel. I have done my best to be upstanding and have tried to protect myself by using contracts and holding a Limited Liability Corporation (LLC). I even keep my business bank account separate from my personal account. I figure there is no excuse for being careless so I might as well be prepared.

The Salesman I like to pride myself on my ability to sell. I used to sell for J.Crew and could sell corduroys and chino’s like it was my job. And at Cheesetique I used to sell cheese and wine like it was my job, because at one time it was my job. But now, I am in the business of selling myself. Gasp. And this is not easy for me. I believe I am an incredible artist and yet it takes everything in me, to sell me. It is not like I bathe in confidence but I do have to overcome myself sometimes and sell my experience, skill and artistry.

The Accountant I file my own taxes. I create my own budget. I try to keep my advertising costs and business expenses low. I pay sales tax in three states and currently for an LLC in one. I file everything on my own that I need to keep my business running and upstanding with the law.

The Balance I am a full time wife and mother and so it is essential that I maintain a balance with my work. I tend to work nights (editing) and weekends (photographing) when my partner can be with our little one. The lifestyle of a Wedding and Portrait Photographer lends itself well to my available schedule.

Starting Your Own Business? Ask for Help The Small Business Development Center of Alexandria was an excellent resource for me when I began my business and they helped to point me in the right direction and showed me where to file my LLC, Business License, Trade Name and Sales Tax. I also had to set up an Employer Identification Number (EIN) with the IRS and I would not have known this had it not been for their assistance. I also took advantage of their social media counseling which has proven to be priceless.

You can reach me at:


(202) 681-9848

[email protected]


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Making Sure Twitter Helps Your Business

Twitter has more than 271 million monthly active users, and 94 percent of users who follow businesses are on the lookout for discounts and special deals. Hashtags routinely appear on Super Bowl commercials.

But, it’s a medium that needs daily attention and quick responsiveness, particularly if your customers decide to use it as a customer service platform. (Twitter offers good tips and information at

But once your business is on Twitter, how do you know if your tweets are helping boost your business?

Making sure Twitter works for your business starts with your goals:

  • Do you want to be seen as an expert in your field? Drive sales? Push website traffic? Your goal will define what you post, and when you post it. After a few weeks of consistent tweeting (at least once a day – preferably more – every day), analyze your tweets against your initial goal.
  • Are you gaining followers, and are they the type of followers you want?  (Are they your local customers, or an international audience?)
  • Are your customers or other people retweeting you, or mentioning you in Tweets?

Check Out Your Data

Figuring out if Twitter is working for your business starts with looking at your data.

In July, Twitter released a new analytics service – a significant upgrade over what was previously available to Twitter users. The information is free for verified accounts (mostly celebrities and accounts with 100,000 followers or more), websites that have implemented Twitter cards (ask your web developer about enabling those) and/or those who have advertised with Twitter.

To see if you have access to the new data, sign into Twitter and go to

The data includes number of impressions your tweets have gotten (that’s the number of times people have seen your tweet), and the engagement rate of every tweet (that’s the number of times people have clicked somewhere on your tweet). You can also get data on your followers – where they live, their interests, and who else they follow, among other data.

If you do have Twitter cards enabled on your website, you can also track clicks to your website, and even add rich media (videos and more) to your tweets. Twitter cards can also make your retweets even more powerful. (Learn more about Twitter cards here.)

Don’t Have Analytics? Here are Your (Free) Options

If you don’t fall into the verified, carded or advertiser categories, you still have options if you want to go beyond manually counting your retweets and favorites.

If you schedule tweets through Hootsuite, that program comes with analytics built-in. Although the information isn’t as useful as Twitter’s own analytics (unless you pay for a report), you can still get good information on which tweets have been most interacted with, retweeted most and more.

You can also check out Twitonomy or Simply Measured, both of which offer free data on your own account – or your competitors’ accounts.  (See more free options in this blog post.)

For more tips on Twitter (plus Instagram, Pinterest, Facebook, content marketing and more), follow @CanoeMedia on Twitter.

Beth Lawton is founder and CMO of Canoe Media Services, an Alexandria-based business that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses shine online with smart social media marketing, blog content and more. More information is available at

Is Instagram Right for My Business?

Instagram for Small BusinessWith more than 70 million users in the United States and a user base that skews young and affluent, many businesses are taking another look at Instagram.

Instagram is a mobile app-based photo sharing network, where an individual or business can post photos of events, items or anything else with captions and clickable, searchable hashtags. The platform also has tools built in so you can make your Instagram photos appear old, faded or artistic.

Overall, the social network does best for businesses that are visual in nature – retail, art, real estate, home improvement, jewelry, tourism and restaurants. It can also be useful for event-based businesses. There are always exceptions, but those in the finance and IT sectors be better served focusing on other social networks, such as LinkedIn.

In-the-Moment Marketing

Unlike most other social networks, Instagram is really capitalizes on in-the-moment photos of events in addition to products.

Since it’s mobile app-based, you can’t take an amazing photo with your $500 camera, Photoshop it and upload it to Instagram from your laptop. You’re stuck with your iPhone or Samsung or other web-enabled camera. That’s a mixed blessing. (Technically, there are ways around this, but it goes against the spirit of the platform.)

However, nice thing about Instagram is that it interfaces easily with Facebook and Twitter, so if you take a photo with your Instagram app and caption it, then share it on Facebook and Twitter instantly, which can gain your business more followers on all three networks.

Examples and Best Practices

It always helps to look at what other businesses are doing with a platform. Here are some examples of good, effective usage of Instagram:

In the tourism and publishing industry, Outdoor Life magazine has had success with Instagram contests. The magazine asked readers to take a photo with Instagram and upload it to the network with a specific hashtag and username mentioned. (Here’s a recent contest launch post from Outdoor Life for an example of how to set up an Instagram contest.)

To drive traffic back to the publication’s website, Outdoor Life’s website did a post embedding several Instagram photos from users.

You can also buy Instagram ads – Ben & Jerry’s ice cream had some success there – and there are ways through responding to user comments to encouraging and give guidance on purchasing, even though direct links to your website in photo captions won’t work. (A&E clothing is a master at encouraging people to go online to purchase items.)

Here in Alexandria, we love @VisitAlexVA on Instagram. What are your favorite local outlets on Instagram?

Beth Lawton is founder and CMO of Canoe Media Services, an Alexandria-based business that helps entrepreneurs and small businesses shine online with smart social media marketing, blog content and more. More information is available at

Just Listen

Listening in Small BusinessI work with business people of all stripes who want to communicate more clearly and effectively. I help them streamline their writing and deliver presentations that stick. Sometimes clients want “shortcuts” or need solutions NOW. For these people I do my best, but I can’t work miracles! Good communications skills cannot be acquired with a wave of my wand or a snap of your fingers.

However, you can easily absorb some lessons as you go about your daily routine. Every day you have the opportunity to learn about speaking by listening. Earlier this spring the TED Radio Hour on NPR featured an interview with Julian Treasure, a sound expert who says we are “losing our listening.” As someone who preaches that you can’t be a good speaker unless you are a better listener, I was intrigued enough by his interview with host Guy Raz to watch Treasure’s original TED Talk. In it, he describes the ways we have trained our ears for listening: how we recognize our names amid the din of a noisy party, for example, or tune out continuous “background” sound. But, he adds, our listening is also affected by many filters we subconsciously impose on what we hear: culture, language, values, beliefs, attitudes, expectations, intentions.

All in all, listening is a tricky business. And we need to practice doing it more mindfully. Fortunately, Treasure shares some clever exercises for improving our listening–indeed, the title of his TED talk is “5 Ways to Listen Better.” He ends by making a plea for teaching listening to children. Because unless we collectively break this habit of shutting out sound, we are headed toward a totally dysfunctional, disconnected future where we block out the incessant, exhausting noise of everyday life by isolating ourselves under headphones. We need to learn how to listen, because listening is essential to human connection. “Conscious listening always creates understanding,” Treasure observes.

Likewise, if we want to be understood when we speak, we must become better listeners first. We need to reconnect with each other in conversation–and stop performing dueling monologues. I often advise my clients that one way to improve as public speakers (i.e., when they engage in any speech not specifically “private”) is to become better public listeners. This means being less impatient as listeners, exercising critical thinking skills, and not responding reflexively to contextual filters (see above). Then they can achieve a far better connection with the speaker and her/his message. And learn how to recreate that same connection when they are speaking. Only in that mental space is the act of true communication possible.

“Every human being needs to listen consciously in order to live fully. Connected in space and in time to the physical world around us. Connected to each other.” Treasure is right. And why would we want to live any other way?

As a Communications Artist Ann Timmons ( uses her background as an actor, director, and playwright to share unique perspectives on all facets of speaking professionally. Whether you’re the face and voice of your company, or someone who needs to communicate complex ideas, together we’ll discover your presence. And then you’ll be able to connect with your listeners–clearly, dynamically–every time.
Image Source: Wikipedia