Archive for the 'Books and Magazines' Category

The Rise of the Entrepreneur Architect


In October 2011, a request went out to architects and designers all across the country to submit no more than 60 words on the future of residential architecture in America.  When you click on the link, you will see submissions by 65 people from dozens of states.  The submitters include architects, writers, unlicensed designers, members of the AIA and those who are not.  This book was “launched” at the Congress of Residential Architecture’s 8th annual gathering at Reinvention, Friday December 9th, in Phoenix.

I was honored to be one of the original 65 people selected for the book. Here are my 60 Words:

The future of residential architecture will thrive with the rise of Entrepreneur Architects pushing the boundaries of traditional practice; taking it to new heights. Recovering their status as “leader”, architects will offer society realistic solutions to global problems. Entrepreneur Architects will use their unique skills to alter the future of civilization AND be proudly profitable while doing it.

The future of residential architecture… what are YOUR 60 words?


Do You Over-Deliver?

Under-promise. Over-deliver.

We’ve all heard this old adage, but how many of us follow its simple lesson?

We recently recommended one of our consultants to a client. We’ve been very happy with this consultant’s performance and were confident they would perform well. As expected, they jumped right on the project and completed the first task lickety-split. Our client was happy and we were looking good.

To wrap things up, the consultant said they would prepare a report to document their findings. The client needed the report to move to the next phase and the consultant lead the client (and us) to believe that they would deliver the report promptly.

Almost three weeks later… still no report. Our client was NOT happy. I called to follow up. The consultant was on vacation the week prior and they promised to have the report delivered by day’s end. Great! I called the client and assured him that the report would be waiting in his inbox shortly. Crisis averted, I thought.

The next morning… still no report. The client called the consultant (now angry) to demand that the report be delivered as promised. He had funds tied up and required the consultant’s document to have them released. Again, the consultant promised to deliver the goods by the end of business day.

Day three; no report and again, a promise… and a fuming client.

The report was finally delivered via email on the morning on the fourth day. The client claimed his funds and everything was back on track, but unfortunately the client will look elsewhere for that consultant’s services in the future.

With all good intention (I know they were sincere with every promise), the consultant over-promised and under-delivered.

What if the consultant promised that the report would be delivered by week’s end? It’s difficult to say no when a client wants something right away. We always want to say yes. In the end, the most important thing is to, at least, do what you say you are going to do. The client would have been disappointed, but knowing that the consultant was on vacation the week before, he would have understood the situation.  From the client’s perspective, the report would have been delivered soon enough. Then… when the clinet received the report a day SOONER than EXPECTED, he would have been thrilled.

The same report, delivered the same day. One approach results in an disgruntled client. The other… total satisfaction.

Managing the client’s expectation; there are few more important tasks we perform as service providers. It’s the difference between a good referral and an unhappy client.

Fast Company Magazine recently published an article about the business philosophy of over-delivering; taking it to the next level. Companies are using the concept and causing their customers to experience memorable moments that affect their habits for a lifetime.

What do you think? Do you under-promise and over-deliver? You should be.

Let’s talk…

Speak to Them in a Language That They Will Better Understand

Residential Architect magazine sent me an email today introducing a new video series, Value of Residential Architecture. Each video will feature an architect discussing his/her thoughts on why residential architecture is important and where residential architecture is headed in the future. If you subscribe to Residential Architect, you may have received the link in your inbox as well.

The description included with the email is as follows:

Residential Architect magazine introduces a new video series that explores the importance of residential design and the value architects bring to the housing industry. Throughout the year, we’ll talk with residential architects who are passionate about their profession, so please join us for the entire series and find out how the spaces we occupy in our everyday lives shape us as human beings and as a society.

I was excited. I thought this would be a great tool. I could send it to clients to help them better understand residential architects and the importance of working with an architect. I thought with the title, Value of Residential Architecture, it would be geared toward everyday people, showing them that architects are not only for the elite few, but for all. That EVERY house should be “architecture”. That when architects are involved, families are strengthened, lives improve, people are healthier and, in fact, happier.

The first video features acclaimed architect, Will Bruder, AIA.

Although I am in agreement with much, if not all, of what Mr. Bruder says, I will not be sharing this video with any of my clients. I do not fault Mr. Bruder or the publisher, but once again we are faced with an architect proclaiming the virtue of architecture and the beauty of proportioned space.  It is a video produced for consumption by architects and Mr. Bruder speaks in a language that only architects will understand. We love to speak about architecture in such poetic terms, but unfortunately it reinforces the notion that architecture is for the elite and that architects are only for people who seek art and poetry.

I understand the passion Mr. Bruder has for architecture. I feel it too. I understand the language in which he speaks… but most of my clients will not.

A recent discussion at the Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group has been about how the American Institute of Architects may better assist small firms. We are discussing the importance of communicating with the general public and educating them about the role of the architect. I understand that this video is not intended for the general public, or to educate them about the role of residential architects. It is what it is; a celebration of architecture for the viewing pleasure of other architects. It is though, a perfect example of what we are up against when attempting to shift the paradigm of the people.

Mr. Bruder designs beautiful houses; most certainly worthy of the term “poetic”, but if we are to ever position the residential architect as “important” and “necessary” in the eyes of the general public, we better speak to them in a language that they will better understand.


How can we educate the general public about the importance of the residential architect? Do we celebrate the “art” and “poetry” of architecture too much? Do publications reinforce the false image that architects are only for the elite? What are your thoughts? I’d like to know.

How does one get it all done?

As an Entrepreneur Architect I wear many hats. I’m a designer, a draftsman, a project manager, a construction manager, a book keeper, a marketing director, a salesman, a customer service representative, an IT manager, a boss, a partner, a CEO, a COO, a CFO… the list goes on and on. It can be very stressful. At times, it’s overwhelming. I have the same number of hours each day as everyone else.

How does one get it all done?

David Allen, author of Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity (GTD), says, “our productivity is directly proportional to our ability to relax. Only when our minds are clear and our thoughts are organized can we achieve effective productivity and unleash our creative potential.”

For each of my responsibilities I have specific things that need to be accomplished. To make it all more manageable, I plan “projects” with a list of tasks required to complete. Breaking down the larger tasks into the smaller bits of an action plan makes it easier to see my progress and keeps stress to a minimum.

Due to the current economy, our business situation changes often, which does not lend itself to keeping “my mind clear and my thoughts organized”. In order to stay focused, I reassess my goals often to confirm they are still relevant. I remind myself what is truly important and review my action plans for each “project”.

In order to be most productive with my email, Allen suggests applying the “do it, delegate it, defer it, drop it” rule to empty your in-box. Schedule specific times each day to organize your email. Address every message. If it will take less than two minutes to complete, do it. If it can be delegated to someone else, send it down the line. If addressing the item will take more than 2 minutes, defer it and schedule a time to address items requiring more attention. If the item is not important, drop it and move on to the next.

The single most important tip to productivity is to know what NOT to do. Be comfortable with saying no and limit tasks to the “projects” that will make a difference in your business.

Whether you follow the GTD method or another system of personal productivity, you need a system. You can’t just show up each day and hope it all works out. Success is planned and will not happen without focusing on the things that matter most.

How do you get it all done?

Let’s talk…

BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice

For a long time in my office, BIM was something out there that wasn’t acted upon. We sat on nineteen seats of Revit for nearly two years, stored away in a closet unused – shelfware. Waiting for the right opportunity. Becoming obsolete. Doing no one any good. Taking up valuable storage space. Not earning its keep. And with each month unused, the software weighed on us: waiting for the right time, the right project, the right client, the right phase, the right people to put on the project, the right people to train…

Sound familiar?

Moving away from CAD to BIM (Building Information Modeling) software takes courage. It takes great leaps of faith that BIM will actually help your firm be more efficient. More accurate. More profitable.

If you are one of the many architects ready to take the leap to BIM adoption, but are not quite sure how or when to do it, Randy Deutsch, AIA, LEED AP has written a book for you.

Despite its technical sounding title, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice is much more about people and your firm’s culture than it is about the software. He leaves the business implications, technical requirements, tips and tricks to other authors and discusses, in great depth, how BIM will directly affect your firm… in both good and, possibly, bad ways.

The book is loaded case studies and conversations with leaders in the profession. As an Entrepreneur Architect constantly experimenting with the idea of taking back control and responsibility of the complete design and construction process, the sections dedicated to how BIM and Integrated Design may usher in the return of the Master Builder were especially interesting to me.

Whether you are fully BIM-friendly or waiting for your expensive shelfware to load itself, BIM and Integrated Design: Strategies for Architectural Practice should be added to your reading list.

Edit and Amplify

This month’s Fast Company magazine cover story… A very interesting article about Nike CEO (and former star designer) Mark Parker. Certainly worth reading.

It Pays to be Nice

Tonight I met with a couple to discuss plans for their home’s renovation.

Following a warm welcome and a quick introduction, I was told that I was called to this meeting because of my mother. If you are a regular reader of my Living Well in Westchester blog, you know that my Mom and Dad live way up north in a house on the St. Lawrence River. So, how could it be that my Mom had any influence on my meeting with these people?

Well, it all comes down to the power of nice.

A couple of years ago, I wrote a few words to honor my Mom. After 25 years of working for Paramus Public Schools, she was retiring and her closest friends arranged a small party for her. The theme of my speech was the power of being nice.

I shared my speech on Living Well and on that day in 2008, a Google Alert for “being nice” was automatically sent to a contributor of a book titled The Power of Nice. She read what I had posted and decided to file my name for future reference, knowing that she would soon want to renovate her home.

It pays to be nice… and there’s some more proof for you.


I been following the BUILD blog for about a year. BUILD LLC is a small design/build firm located in Seattle, specializing in modern residential and small commercial projects. They maintain a very nice website and post to their blog on a regular basis.

Their most recent post, Thank You Sir May I Have Another, is a nice reminder of the things we should all be focusing on as we wallow through this mess of an economy. The subtitle of the post reads, A ten-point plan for keeping a smile on your face as the economy kicks the crap out of you.

I was also pleased and excited for the BUILD crew to read a nice little article about BUILD LLC in the current issue of Custom Home magazine (congrats guys).

What’s Your Brand?

When a potential client hears your firm’s name, what do they feel? When they see your logo, what do they think? Your designs? Your studio? Your vehicle? Even the clothes you wear? What do they represent in the marketplace of architectural design?

All these things, together, are your brand.

In his book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Malcolm Gladwell describes in detail how decisions are made within the first few seconds of an impression. How important is your brand? It can be argued that it is the most important factor to your ultimate success. Your brand tells a potential client, as well as your current clients, who you are and what you represent.

What is Frank Gehry’s brand? How about Richard Meier? Frank Lloyd Wright?

Whether you design and develop one, or not, you have a brand. It may be wonderfully inspirational. It may be uncomfortable or repulsive.

What’s YOUR brand? Take control and develop a brand that represents all that you want to be.

Non-Traditional Architecture Firms

A member of our Linkedin group, Entrepreneur Architect, posted a response to my discussion, “Learning From Other Industries: Could an architecture firm be successfully structured to run like a high-end salon?”.

Amy Burke, NCARB is a member of a design group named Hyperform Design Co-op located just outside Denver, Colorado. Hyperform is an informal collaborative with approximately 50 members and shared studio space.

Members of the co-op (architects, designers, landscape architects, artists, etc.) come together as necessary and build teams to meet the requirements of each specific RFP. Between projects, they share resources, network and continue their education with planned events… and clearly they work together for PR and marketing.

Amy shared a link to an article in the current issue of Architect magazine that discusses several start-up firms with unique business structures, including her own group, Hyperform Design Co-op.

(Thanks Amy.)

What are your thoughts? Do you think a co-op like Hyperform can be a successful firm structure? Do you have other examples of non-traditional firm structures?

Let’s talk…

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