Top 10 Business Tips for Architects
You probably didn’t learn much about practice in architecture school, so here is some good advice on running a firm.
1. If You’re Small, Do One Thing Really Great
You can do several things well, but having a special expertise gives potential clients a reason to go with the little guy.
2. Form Strategic Alliances
“Architects are always asking, How do I get into new markets?” says Kenneth Caldwell, a Bay Area communications and practice consultant. “One way is through strategic alliances.”
3. Always Put Money in Reserve (when you have it to put there)
Architecture is a wildly cyclical, clients are late with payment, contracts take too long to get finalized, jobs get put “on hold,” etc...
4. The Phone Doesn’t Just Ring!
“The email doesn’t just land in your mailbox either,” Caldwell says. “It came through a series of specific communications and referrals. Figure them out, and use that information to either augment what works or fix what doesn’t, but understand the pattern.”
5. Stay in Touch With Former Clients
They can vouch for your brilliance; be a source of repeat business; and open new markets to you through their contacts.
6. Make the First Person You Hire a Marketing Person
“We started with three partners and no employees, and the first person we brought on was a marketing person,” says Stephen Kieran, principal in the Philadelphia-based firm Kieran Timberlake. “They organized our search for work, did research, made appointments, tracked leads, developed promotional materials. It was definitely organized as a campaign.”
7. Stay Away from “Open” Competitions
The right pro-bono work is a much better use of your time. Open competitions “suck up huge amounts of time and money, and oftentimes don’t even get built,” Kieran says.
8. Never Quote an Hourly Price
“Never, ever, ever quote an hourly price,” says Frank Stasiowski, president of PSMJ, a management consulting firm based in Newton, Massachusetts. “Even when the client asks for it, you say: 'We don’t work that way. Here’s our fee.’”
9. There Are Worthy Projects With Low or No Fees, But Choose Them Wisely
10. Create a Strategic Plan (and revise it every 3 to 5 years)
“We came up with a strategic plan from the outset,” Kieran says. “It had several components to it. It had aspirations in terms of design quality. It identified marketplaces that we wanted to focus on.”