Robert-P-Madison-Team-PhotoRobert Klann learned that he was not awarded an important contract because of his presentation. “We were told in the debrief that we lost the opportunity because the presentation didn’t ‘wow’ them.”

This was not just any contract, but one in a new market that was key to his company’s growth strategy – higher education institutions. “We’ve been learning that the old way of going in and presenting isn’t necessarily what the next generation is after. We’re presenting to a younger audience. We would get short listed and reach the interview round because of our qualifications and what we’ve done, but we weren’t taking advantage of these interview opportunities in the right way.”

Robert led his team at Robert P. Madison International, Ohio’s first African American-owned architectural firm (and 10th in the nation,) to focus on business presentations. He invested some capital in sample presentations that are customizable, current, and visually appealing. Armed with new visual tools, he reshaped his approach to the business presentation as a whole. He carefully customizes each presentation to each client; he is now the main presenter, engaging his team for introductions and Q&A, rather than a popcorn-style presentation; and they prepare, prepare, prepare. (Check out our webinar on Tips to Becoming an Effective Speaker in iConnect for more insights on business presentations.) He has noticed an incredible shift in the reception of their presentations –clients are now wow-ed by their work and their presentations.


Focusing on this operational element of his business has enabled Robert to more effectively work towards his company’s vision: architecture that improves lives. A solid presentation landed them a project to renovate and restore Karamu House, the oldest operating African American theater in the United States. “This project hit home for us because it has an educational component. The theater is located in a community that’s underserved, outside of downtown, and we were so fortunate to get involved.”

In fact, this project is a contestant in the 2018 American Institute of Architects (AIA) Film Festival, which invited architects and filmmakers to collaborate in telling stories of architects, civic leaders, and their communities working together toward positive community impact. “Karamu deserves to be recognized on a National Level; too often we take things in our own backyard for granted. This is an opportunity to put Karamu, Cleveland, and a local architecture firm in a national spotlight.” Watch the video and vote here!

Robert has been with Robert P. Madison as an architect for 25 years. When he became a co-owner with his business partner, Sandra Madison, in March 2016, they realized that being trained architects was not the same as being experts in business management! They worked hard to realign their new growth strategy with their vision, and brought their team of 12 into the process. Through a program with Greater Cleveland Partnership, Robert and his team spent 4 months building their mission and vision. The program culminated in a presentation to a board of CEOs, including representatives from Cleveland Clinic and Metro Hospital, who now serve as mentors.

Robert P. Madison International is being recognized this year as a Weatherhead 100 fastest growing firm and was also the SBA’s District Minority-Owned Firm of the Year for 2018. They are looking to partner with two national firms on GSA projects and are offering some pro-bono work to another nonprofit in Florida. They are serving on boards and pursuing new business opportunities that both grow their company and serve their vision: architecture that improves lives.