THREE Questions: Chad Moffett

02/13/2020 3:49 PM | ACRAsphere Blog Team

THREE Questions is a new blog series highlighting ACRA member firms and their experiences in the CRM industry.

About Our Member: Chad Moffett is Market Leader for Mead & Hunt’s Cultural Resources business unit, a team of 20 historians and architectural historians working on projects involving historic properties throughout the United States. As a project manager of cultural resource projects Chad leads the research, inventory, and evaluation of a wide range of properties with a specialization in historic roads and bridges, historic districts, and cultural landscapes. Chad received a master’s degree in Cultural Resources Preservation from the University of Wisconsin – Madison in the Department of Landscape Architecture. He specializes in the development and application of National Register Criteria for Evaluation to develop survey and evaluation methodologies for complex and large projects. Chad has been active in ACRA since 2000 and served as a past board member.

When engaging a general audience, what stands out as the one thing people are most surprised to learn about your company or the CRM industry?

CM: People are often surprised that I make a decent living as an architectural historian/historian. I do not think many people have an appreciation of the business side of CRM consulting and the many “hats” we wear and the many different skills that are required to be successful. Not enough people appreciate that we are professionals and that our profession requires advanced schooling and years of experience. I also do not think people know that architectural historians/historians, and CRM practitioners in general, have standards and guidelines in which we operate and that what we do is not subjective or arbitrary. One thing that surprises people is how we have to translate site-specific history obtained through local research or interviews into information that is relevant in terms of National Register Criteria for Evaluation. To make a clear and concise case whether a property is or is not eligible based on facts and the guidelines requires specific terminology – so the correct language is very important. Once done, however, I sometimes find that people don’t understand the terminology and how it is used within our profession. Due to this, sometimes I am asked where the personal memories, family history, or stories that are unrelated or don’t translate into National Register significance fit into the compliance process. Ultimately, to the public, I feel there is a broader confusion between historic preservation advocacy and the work of local historical societies compared to the CRM industry.

Do you have a favorite piece of personal experience that is your “go-to” for engaging clients and/or the public as to why CRM work is important?

CM: For clients, I focus on the importance of the process and the importance of doing the process correctly. I highlight that if CRM work is done poorly or if late it has the potential to delay the project due to NEPA or Section 106 (and/or other regulations). I also discuss the importance of quality work. I talk to clients about the benefits on not doing re-work or addressing lengthy agency comments, which saves project budget and helps to maintain schedule. For the public, I like to highlight the outcomes of CRM work, which can be a re-design of a project to avoid or reduce effects to historic properties or the many great outcomes from mitigation. Mitigation results in documentation of properties and /or publicly-oriented historic interpretation that would not exist without Section 106. Losing historic properties is regrettable but doing quality and relevant mitigation for this loss is a public benefit.

We all know that most CRM staff believe in what we do, but how do you engage those under you in the business aspects of your firm? Do you find that an increased awareness of the challenges of running a business is related to professional satisfaction, employee retention, and/or project success?

CM: The business side of our work is made very transparent at our company and within our Cultural Resources group. We have project management and technical expertise tracks in which training programs are provided and we hold biennial in-person conferences to share information and stay up-to-date on topics, trends and technology. This allows people to grow and advance in areas that interest them most. I think transparency and a focus on training comes from being an employee-owned company. I also feel that constantly talking about the business aspects in a positive manner leads to an appreciation on how business decisions are made and why managing scopes and budgets on projects is so important. Hearing this and understanding the basics through training gives our staff more autonomy and provides satisfaction, increases retention, and helps to identify the leaders of tomorrow.

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