“The Best”

Josh points us to a great quote by Frank Lloyd Wright:

“A vital difference between the professional man and a man of business is that money making to the professional man should, by virtue of his assumption, be incidental; to the business man it is primary. Money has its limitations; while it may buy quantity, there is something beyond it and that is quality.”

…and Frank died penniless.

Josh posts about the architect’s perennial dilemma between making money and being good. He argues that an intangible plan to be “the best” is more important than a traditional written business plan. I see that argument, in itself, as one of the biggest problems we face in the profession.

Every architect strives to be the best. We all want to be original. We all want to be the next Frank Gehry (not necessarily by design, but by success). While being “the best” is a great goal, there can only be one best.

What’s more important than being the best is that people THINK you’re the best. Is Frank Gehry “the best”? Many will argue that he is not. He IS the best, I will argue, at convincing people to THINK that he is the best. In the business world, they call that marketing. Each of Gehry’s buildings are, as Seth Godin calls it, a Purple Cow. The “crumpled paper” remark-able design, that is signature Gehry, generates excitement, which gets people talking and attracts a lot of attention. That all translates into a buzz that Gehry is the “best” architect on the planet.

Not all of us want or need to be a Frank Gehry. The thing we should all learn from Gehry though, is that we each NEED marketing. We each need a marketing plan, and before we can develop a marketing plan, we need a business plan. If your business (and “business” is a term architect’s should use more often) has no plan, how will you ever get to where you want to go. If being “the best” is most important to you, then a strong business plan will give you the best chance of reaching that goal.


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