Archive for the 'Business' Category

10 Ways Architects Can Make More Money

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To successfully complete a project, an architect is responsible for making thousands of critical decisions. To complete the development of a standard residential additions and alterations project, it takes several months of focus and dedication. Many of us work long hours, long into the night, through weekends and holidays.

The innovative ideas and concepts we create can often only be born after hours (sometimes days) of intense thought and several dozen layers of sketch paper. The personal emotion, attachment and dedication that each project receives is unequaled in any other profession.The time and effort required to properly develop a design and complete a thorough set of construction documents is difficult for most anyone outside the profession to understand.

As a requirement for licensure, registered architects are responsible for the health, safety and welfare of every occupant in every project we design. Like any small business, architects must pay the typical operating expenses required to remain buoyant, such as utilities, professional service fees, consultants’ fees, insurances and several other overhead expenditures. But wait… for architects, there’s more. To protect us from the liabilities inherent in our responsibilities as licensed professionals, most architects also purchase an additional Professional Liability insurance policy costing several thousand dollars each year.

Then, there’s that little thing called profit.  Every business, including architecture firms (yes, its true!), must earn a profit. It’s one of the rules to “the game”. In order to continue pursuing our success as architects, we must not only cover our expenses and take home a salary, we must make enough to reinvest into the business.

Most sole proprietors and small firms I know, struggle to meet the minimum requirements of operation. Forget about profit.

Simply stated… Architects just don’t make enough money.

We deserve to earn more. So, in the spirit of pursuing our passion and attaining the success we dream of, I have compiled the following ten ways architects can make more money.

Additional Services. Every architectural services agreement should include a section on Additional Services. These are services available to your client, but are NOT included in your basic architectural services.

Are you giving away services that you should be compensated additionally for? Many architects are doing just that.

In our Agreement for Architectural Services at Fivecat Studio we clearly identify several Additional Services. Services such as Existing Conditions Surveys, Interior Design, Kitchen Design, 3-D Modeling, Illustration, Rendering and Estimating are all offered to our clients as additional services.

Construction Services. Since we launched our firm in 1999, most every prospective client I meet asks if Fivecat Studio offers construction services. Many people have the perception that architects build buildings and many others wished they would. So, in 2007 we stopped saying no and launched our Construction Management Services. In doing so, we more than doubled the revenue we collect from each project for which we perform these services.

Through the years we have learned that not every project and not every client is a good fit for these services though.

If we feel that the project and the client are compatible, we offer Construction Management Services as an Advisor, not as Constructor. It is important to differentiate the difference between the two services. I will publish a more thorough post on this topic in the future,  but the basic difference is in the agreements between the owner and the multiple contractors. As an Advisor, the contracts are direct between the owner and contractor. The architect is responsible for managing costs, sequencing, scheduling and payments. The full liability for the construction falls upon the contractors. The architect is simply an agent to the client with no liability for the construction.

As a Constructor, the owner contracts directly with the architect for construction services. The architect is then responsible for constructing the building, hires the contractors directly and inherits the associated liability. More liability means more liability insurance, which increases your firm’s expenses and your firm’s exposure to legal action. Until the volume and revenue from our CM Services allow for more investment in growth, we will stick with offering Construction Management Services as an Advisor.

Selection of Fixtures and Finishes. During the Design Development Phase of each project, we provide our clients with a “shopping list” and contact information to suppliers and sales people we know, like and trust. While our clients shop, we develop the design. We are always available to support them, answer any questions and guide them in selecting items appropriate for our proposed design.

In the case where a client would rather not be responsible for this task, we offer the selection of fixtures and finishes as an Additional Service and take on the full responsibility for the choosing these items.

Each client is different and their desired involvement in the process varies. Offering multiple ways for this process to occur keeps each client happy and allows for the firm to be properly compensated for the additional work required to perform the task.

Purchasing and Delivery. Once all the fixtures and finishes are identified, we then document the selections and include their specifications in our Construction Documents. During construction, the purchasing of these items is the responsibility of the contractor, or the owner purchases the items themselves prior and furnishes them at the appropriate time.

As a courtesy to our clients, we offer a Purchasing and Delivery Service which makes the acquisition of these items our responsibility. The additional attention assures our clients that the items ordered will be correct and delivered on time.

This process takes lots of time and effort. It is not typically the responsibility of the architect to perform this service and if you take on the additional work, you should get paid for it. Although, that does not necessarily mean that it should cost the client much more.

Fivecat Studio is compensated for this service as a percentage of the cost of the items we are handling. We then forward all our trade discounts to the client, which will often equal the amount that we are being compensated for the service. The client has less responsibility, the order is properly handled, we make more money and the client pays little or no more than they would have without our involvement. It’s the classic “win-win” scenario.

Sell Products. There is an alternative approach to the Purchase and Delivery Service described above. You can purchase the products at the your discounted trade price, mark up the price to cover your time and effort to handle the transaction, include an amount for profit and offer the products selected by your clients at their full retail price.

Most every project includes lighting, plumbing fixtures, furnishings, accessories and finishes such as tile and stone. Who better to sell those products to your client than you?

Reimbursable Expenses. Most architectural service agreements identify out-of-pocket expenses that will be reimbursed to the architect, separate from and in addition to compensation. Many architects though do not keep a record of these expenses and therefore, do not properly collect the amounts owed to them for the project-related expenditure.

Quantify your reimbursable expenses and collect.

Reduce Waste. This one may be the easiest way to make more money. It does not require performing any additional work and there’s no waiting for clients to pay you.

Prepare a thorough evaluation of all the money your firm spends. Categorize the list into “required”, “not required” and “waste”. Spend only what you need to grow, eliminate waste and end up with more money each month.

Monetize Your Website. Most architects have websites to market our firms. If you don’t… you should. We built Fivecat Studio from the ground up, with no money and no clients, using our first website. There is no way that we would be where we are today without fivecat.com.

Most firm websites includes basic contact information, a bio describing the firm and a portfolio of select projects. With any amount of traffic, you can add features to your site and start making some additional money to supplement the services your provide as an architect. As an expert, you can offer e-books for sale. Prepare a Resources page with affiliate links to items or services for sale that people visiting your site will find useful. You can also sign up for Google AdSense and make money through advertising on your site. If designed well and presented properly, your site can become a source of additional income for your firm.

The more traffic visiting your website, the more money you can make. Continuously updating your site with new work and additional information can help attract visitors. Adding a blog and consistently writing on a topic interesting to a niche market (say maybe “custom residential additions and alterations”) can help to create a following and build trust. Trust will help you sell more through your site and maybe even convert a prospect into a paying architectural services client.

Increase Volume. Recently, due to the slow down in the economy, many architects have reduced their fees in order to be more competitive. This may work to win the project, but if your fee is not high enough to cover expenses, overhead and profit, you will not be in business for very long.

If you choose to reduce your fees, you must also increase volume and complete your projects quickly. The smaller fees made on each project must add up to provide enough revenue to cover expenses and make a profit each month.

Raise Your Fees. The alternative to increasing volume is to raise your fees. Provide value by spending more time on design, more thoroughly developing your documents and serving your clients well throughout the entire process. This business model allows you to take on less work and spend more time on each project.

As mentioned above, most of us are already devoting the time and extra effort to our projects. We are passionate about what we do and we want our designs to reflect our true talents as architects.

The problem most of us have though, is that our fees do not reflect the dedication and investment we bring to each project.

Calculate your expenses, quantify your time and effort, add an appropriate profit margin and get paid what you are truly worth. You are a licensed professional and your services are worth a higher fee. Raise your fees. You are an architect… and you deserve to earn more.

Do YOU make enough money? There are other ways architects can make more. What are some ways you have found? Please share your thoughts in the comments. I’d love to hear from you.

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photo credit: Mukumbura via photopin cc

5 Secrets to Success from an Entrepreneur Architect

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My wife and I launched our architecture firm, Fivecat Studio, in 1999. We were 29 years old. Young, ambitious and a little crazy, we started with no money and no clients. One good lead and some help from a few local architect friends gave us the courage to take a leap of faith, and we went for it.

In the 13 plus years we’ve been in business, I’ve learned a bunch. Today, I thought I would share a few secrets to our success.

Dreams really do come true. If you haven’t figured it out by now, I am a big dreamer. Since I was a young boy, I’ve been planning my future and plotting my success. You can even ask my mom. The life I am living today is awfully close to the stories I told as a child.

The difficult part of being a dreamer though, is when your life veers away from your set trajectory. Life happens and you need to respond, but if you keep dreaming and have faith (and work your ass off), you’ll find that your dreams really do come true.

It’s much harder than you think. I am a father of three young kids and my life revolves around their care, their guidance and their happiness. I was born to be a dad and I have always loved kids. I thought fatherhood was going to be a piece of cake. Well, any dad will tell you that being a father is the second most difficult job on the planet. It is way more difficult that I ever thought it would be.

Running a successful architecture firm is very much like raising kids. You start wide-eyed with big plans of success. Soon after you start, you realize that your job as a leader is much more involved than you ever expected. You have responsibilities that you never planned for and not everything ends up like you dreamed. Your “hat rack” grows larger and larger every day as your roles in the business and in your life multiply. As prepared as you think you might be, running an architecture firm is much harder than you ever imagined.

It’s much easier than you think. Yes. It’s difficult to run an architecture firm, but if you properly educate yourself in the basics of business (You’ll need to educate yourself on this topic, because our architecture schools have decided that its not important enough to include in their programs.); prepare budgets, manage your expenses, create sales systems, properly market your services, hire the right team, develop habits of personal productivity, encourage a culture of personal responsibility and lead with passion, you might find that success is actually much easier than you think.

You must jump off the cliff before you can fly. This is a mantra that I’ve adopted since commencing on my 12/12/12 Project last year. Imagine what it would be like to fly… to just stretch out your arms, catch the currents of the wind and glide high into the sky. The sense of pride and freedom you would feel would be incredible. Your movements would be effortless. Your destination… limitless.

Now, imagine jumping off a cliff. Fear. Total and complete fear. Well, if you are ever going to fly, you are going to need to first jump off the cliff.

Before you can finish, you must first begin. Sounds simple right. Well, the big secret in business is that taking the first step is not as simple as it sounds. Starting is actually the single hardest part of launching a firm.

Last night, I was putting the final touches on my 12/12/12 Project and preparing for its big launch on Wednesday. I’ve learned much in the many years since launching my own firm, but the single most important lesson I have learned is that you must push through the fear, turn away from the list of reasons “not to”, embrace the possibilities… and start. Only then, will you succeed.

I hope you too have taken this opportunity to start. December 12, 2012 is only a couple days away.

Until then…

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photo credit: gaspi *yg via photopin cc

5 Podcasts Every Entrepreneur Architect Should Be Following

Podcasts (an episodic digital series of audio or video files subscribed to and downloaded through web syndication or streamed online to a computer or mobile device) are a great way to learn the lessons about business that many of us lacked during architecture school.

Below are my 5 current favorites:

EntreLeadershipDave Ramsey w/ Host Chris LoCurto

One of the most successful podcasts on the planet, EntreLeadership focuses on personal success, business and leadership. For about 45 minutes every two weeks, host Chris LoCurto guides us through a fundamental business topic such as Sales, Marketing, Delegation or Personal Productivity.

During each episode, LoCurto shares a lesson presented by Dave Ramsey recorded at one of his many live events. The second half of each show features LoCurto interviewing one of the nation’s top leaders or business people, such as Tony Dungy, Steven M. R. Covey, John Maxwell and Tony Hseih. Each interview dives deeply into the topic of the week and listeners learn many secrets to success.

For a little podcast bonus time, be sure to pop over to Chris’ own website for an extended interview with each guest.

The Rise to the Top | David Siteman Garland

A fun, inspirational and sometimes “off the wall” podcast about helping rising mediapreneurs (online media creators, authors, thought leaders, personal brands, coaches and internet marketers) grow their businesses and dominate online.

David’s in-depth interviews attack each subject with focus and dedication to finding the root of each entrepreneur’s success. As David states at the end of each recording, “if you’re looking for fluff, go pet a bunny”.

This is Your Life | Michael Hyatt

The former Chairman and CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers, Michael Hyatt is now a consultant, speaker and author of the bestselling book, Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World.

Michael’s blog and accompanying podcast focuses on what he calls, “intentional leadership”. His mission is to help his listeners live with more passion, work with greater focus and lead with extraordinary influence. Sounds like a few things every Entrepreneur Architect is seeking, doesn’t it?

Startup School | Seth Godin

Marketing expert, top blogger, bestselling author, entrepreneur. Now he’s a podcaster too? Seth Godin shares recordings from his recent Startup School live seminar using the podcast format. He takes us from defining your approach to business (freelancer or entrepreneur?) all the way through startup launch in this weekly podcast.

Currently offering his 8th episode, when Godin reaches the end of the recorded event, will this become a permanent offering from Godin? Only time will tell.

This one is well worth the time while its still available.

MixergyAndrew Warner

A successful entrepreneur himself, Andrew Warner spends an hour each week interviewing founders and CEOs of the world’s leading technology companies.

Focusing on the “ambitious upstart”, his questions probe deeply into the hows and whys of each entrepreneur’s story, teaching listeners what do to, as well as what not to do when launching and running a company.

So, what are some of your favorite podcasts? Please share a link in the comments so everyone may check them out.

photo credit: Colleen AF Venable via photopin cc

The Passion Profit Cycle of Success

Prior to starting our own firms, we business-owner architects experienced an “entrepreneurial seizure”, as Michael Gerber so accurately described in his book, The E-Myth Revisited: Why Most Small Businesses Don’t Work and What to Do About It. It’s the precise moment when a passionate employee commits to starting her own firm. Frustrated by the process (or lack of process) established by her employer, she decides that she can do better.

Do you remember that moment?

The passion required to overcome the fear and uncertainty of launching a start-up business is a very powerful emotion. It’s what takes us from “business-owner architect” to Entrepreneur Architect. It’s what gets us out of bed every morning and keeps us going years later.

Passion for what we do though, will only take us so far. To become a great firm, a truly great business success, we must also have a passion for profit. I know… Profit. To some, profit is a dirty word, but the reality is that without profit, your passion for being an architect will very quickly evaporate. It is the passion for profit that allows us to grow our firms and continue to build successful practices.

Much like winning a game, earning profit feels great. Not just emotionally, but physically. Neuroscientist and clinical psychologist Ian Robertson writes about the the neuroscience of success in his book, The Winner Effect. Earning a profit (winning in business) physically alters our brain chemistry and increases the production of dopamine. It sharpens our focus and desire for continued success. Earning profit literally causes us to become passionate about earning more profit.

The lack of profit alters our brain chemistry as well (unless your business is set up to run as “non-profit” of course). Running a firm without profit is frustrating and frightening. We become depressed, disinterested and our passion for the profession fades. During times of economic slow down, the dangers threatening our firms not only come from outside pressures but literally from inside our heads.

So what can we do? Here are five approaches to earning more profit.

Cut your expenses.

Look at your books. (You do keep a record of your earnings and expenses, right?) Review your expenses and eliminate any unnecessary or wasteful spending. You may be surprised by how much of your earnings are used for supplies and services you don’t really need. Remember, the goal during this economic crisis is survival. Wait for the “good times” to return before spending your hard earned revenue on coffee service or extra phone lines you don’t use.

Eliminate debt.

When times are tough it is so easy to get snared in the trap of business debt. Credit cards and lines of credit shift from “safety net” to reliable source of “income”. Before you know it, you’re maxed out, paying massive amounts on interest and working with no net at all. Make a plan to reduce or eliminate your debt and start working with retained earnings to pay for expenses. Check out this Entreleadership podcast about the importance of running a debt-free firm.

Increase payroll.

Huh!? Increase payroll to earn more profit? Yes. Healthy businesses must grow. You can’t do it all yourself. With the right team in place, you can take on bigger and better projects. Expenses will be distributed among more income sources and you will earn more profit. Be careful though, hiring the wrong people may cost you much more than you’ll be paying them.

Raise your fees.

Competition has increased among architects and some prospective clients are selecting firms based on cost.  Many architects have cut their fees to the point where profit is impossible. Remember, without profit our firms will fail. Higher fees will not only keep your firm running strong, but will indicate the true value you bring to a client.

Expand your services.

Architects must think beyond the traditional design studio business model. In 2007, with the current economic storm heading our way, my firm expanded services to include Interior Design and Construction Management Services. This change in offerings allowed us to increase potential revenue with every project. Fees, once paid to outside designers and contractors, are now earned by our firm. Not only has potential profit resulting from each project increased significantly, but we have more control over the final quality of our projects resulting in happier clients.

Without passion there will be no profit and without profit you will soon lose your passion. To be a successful Entrepreneur Architect we must have both. It is the Passion Profit Cycle that builds great firms and allows us to continue to do what we love most; practice architecture.

Stay tuned to Entrepreneur Architect. (Click here to have my posts delivered directly to your inbox.) I will share more ideas in future posts on becoming more profitable and building great architecture firms.

Are you passionate? …about profit?

You should be.

In this crazy tough economic environment, what are some ways you have found to become more profitable?

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To learn more about the neuroscience of winning, check out this recent interview with Ian Robertson and Leo Lopate on WNYC Radio.

My Micro-Economy is Broken

My residential architecture firm designs, builds and renovates homes for high-earning individuals living in Westchester County, NY, one of the nation’s wealthiest regions. The success of our firm depends on these people having the income and confidence to invest in their properties.

With much effort and perseverance, our boards have been filled with work throughout the recession, mostly with smaller scale projects offering lower overall fees. Since 2008, revenues have decreased each year, with the year 2012 being the most depressed in the decade-long history of our firm.

Yet, we consider ourselves extremely successful. Firms throughout our region have shuttered and the unemployment rate for architects has continued to increase.

During the years before the recession, our project lists were loaded with large-scale residential projects. The historic Hudson Valley is full of old houses in need of renovation or reconstruction and our workload required a full roster of architects, support staff and a well equipped open studio in which to practice. Licensed architects and rent in Westchester County (located about 40 minutes north of mid-town Manhattan) doesn’t come cheap. We worked hard to build a reputation for the highest level of quality and innovative design, and our fees are commensurate with the expectations of our clients.

Many of our clients work locally for large corporations (Pepsico, IBM, etc.) or commute to New York City; bankers, venture capitalists, lawyers, doctors.

Residential architecture is a tough profession. It relies on homeowners having access to large sums of money. Some save a lifetime. Others earn it quickly with high paying salaries and annual bonuses. In order to commit to an architecture project our clients must have enough money left over after paying living expenses, taxes and savings. They must have enough confidence in their own economic situation to proceed with a project costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.  If that funding and confidence isn’t present and available, our project list shrinks and our earnings shrink with it.

Here is how my micro-economy works:

  1. Large corporations employ people at all levels. Some of those people provide services and/or knowledge to the company worthy of a high salary; an amount determined by the marketplace.
  2. As incentive to stay with the company and not seek employment elsewhere, the company offers benefits and annual bonus payments based on the company’s success and specific performance standards set for each employee.
  3. Each year, that valuable employee works hard, contributes to the success of the company and earns her salary. If the employee meets specific goals, further benefiting the company, she earns an additional bonus payment as per her agreement with the company.
  4. After taxes, expenses and required savings, if the employee has enough remaining, she puts it aside and saves for an architecture project; additions and alterations that will improve the function of her home and make it a place better to raise her family.
  5. With enough saved, she evaluates the current economic conditions and confirms the stability of her employment.
  6. With enough confidence in her financial situation, she seeks an architect and becomes our client.

So at this point, two conditions must be present for a residential architect to be hired. She must have enough money for the project cost and enough confidence in the economic conditions around her to pull the trigger and proceed with the project.

Money and confidence; without both pieces in place there is no project.

And here is where it gets worse.

If there is no project, there is no revenue for the firm to pay our employees, who then cannot proceed with their own “projects”. We don’t hire consultants (who also have employees). No contractors hired, no subcontractors, no equipment rented, no building materials, no products purchased, no suppliers, no laborers…

Each project benefits dozens (maybe ultimately hundreds) of people. When one project is delayed, the others that do proceed absorb the difference. When dozens are delayed, we have micro-economic meltdown.

My micro-economy is broken.

One or several of the links in the process of hiring an architect is missing. Have salaries been reduced? Bonuses eliminated? Have corporate layoffs caused a lack in confidence? Have new laws, rules and regulations caused corporations to take a defensive strategy of reduced expenses and minimized investment? With a pivotal national election pending, are corporations and employees alike, frozen by an uncertain future?

I don’t know the answer. I am an architect, not an economist.

I do know that our situation will not improve until our clients have the funding needed for their projects and the confidence to proceed.

How is YOUR micro-economy?

Dream Big: Develop Your Business Plan Using a Narrative

ArchDaily.com picked up my friend and Entrepreneur Architect Linkedin Group member Bob Borson’s blog post today. If you haven’t read Bob’s writings, I recommend that you visit him at LifeofanArchitect.com. Leave him a comment and tell him we said “hi”.

Bob describes how he uses a narrative during the programming phase to learn what his clients want, both functionally as well as emotionally. At Fivecat Studio, we use a similar process using a questionnaire and other fun programming exercises to help guide our clients through the mine field of ideas in their heads. As Bob states in his post, this is “the most important step”.

Bob’s post also reminded me of how I finally developed and finished my business plan for Fivecat Studio. For years I had started and stopped and started and stopped as I attempted to craft a business plan worthy of the organization I had assembled in my head. In fact, I had no less than six separate incomplete documents in the “Business Plan” folder on my PC (I’ve switched over to Macs since then).

So, how did I break the pattern?

I wrote a narrative. I described, in detail, what my business would look like 10 years into the future. I basically described the vision I held in my head for so many years. I had a blast! For one, it’s lots of fun to dream big… with no limits. It was inspiring and helped me focus on what I really wanted to do and where I really wanted to go. It also helped with the development of the rest of my plan. Knowing where I ultimately wanted to end up, helped me develop my plan to get there.

Give it a try. Grab your laptop or a blank piece of paper and start… now! Imagine yourself 10 years from now. What are you doing? Where are you doing it? For whom? Let yourself go. Let your pencil flow. Set no limits and dream big. Your finished business plan is waiting.

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…

Great Architecture Will Not Build a Great Business

1) Design great architecture. 2) Get noticed. 3) Thrive!

Isn’t that how it is supposed to work. Well… it doesn’t.

The trick is step 2. Getting noticed. How do you get noticed?

The answer in a word, is Marketing.

Even uber-successful “starchitects” have a marketing team working to get their “great architecture” noticed.

Whether you want to be published in national magazines or looking to get noticed by the homeowners around the corner, you can’t reach your audience without marketing. Great architecture alone will not build a great business.

Marketing is the action of promoting and selling products or services. So, how does it work?

First you need to know your target market. What type of architecture do you design? What range of budgets do your clients have? Who are your clients? What do they do for a living? You need to know as much as possible about your target market.

Have no fear; defining your target market does not restrict you from taking on other non-target work. It just allows you to focus your marketing budget and effort appropriately.

Once you have a target, prepare a marketing strategy (and add it to your business plan). How do you best hit your target? Should you advertise in local newspapers, magazines or online? Should you focus your efforts on getting published in national magazines? Should you attend local networking events? Should you focus your attention on Twitter, Facebook and other social media? Whatever it takes to get YOUR “great architecture” noticed by the people in your target market responsible for hiring an architect is your marketing strategy.

Now you have a target market and a marketing strategy. Next you need to execute.

Take your strategy, set some goals and create a marketing action plan. What are you going to do and when will it be done by?

Marketing. It is not a dirty word. Try it and watch your business grow.

Things I Didn’t Learn at Architecture School (But Need to Know): How do I start and keep a business alive?

No one told me that I needed to know how to run a business. I’m an architect. I just need to tack up my shingle, design great buildings and clients will come knocking. Right?

Maybe… but whether clients come knocking or not, its not so simple to keep them knocking.

The solution? Write a business plan.

I know, I know; “I don’t need a business plan,” you say. “It takes too much time and effort.”

Wait! Before you discount my suggestion, think about it from a different perspective. A simple, stripped down perspective. Your first business plan doesn’t need to be a 100 page document, with financial projections and fully developed marketing strategies. In fact, I recommend that it not be. Start with just one page.

Jim Horan, author of The One Page Business Plan series of books says, “The greatest value in creating a business plan is not the final document. It’s the communication, prioritization, focus, clarity and learning that make the process worthwhile.”

Get started by taking a single sheet of paper and writing a single paragraph describing your vision. What will your business someday look like? Then scribe your mission. Why are you starting this business? List a few simple strategies. How do you get there? Then a few specific goals; benchmarks that will lead you to executing your strategies. With goals set, commit to paper an action plan. What specific tasks will you accomplish to reach your goals? When will you accomplish them? Who will accomplish them?

That’s it… a business plan. Done. It really is that simple.

I revisit and revise my business plan at least twice a year. As our firm grows and evolves, priorities change, markets shift, economies collapse. My business plan needs to evolve too. It’s also a great source of inspiration and motivation. A periodic reminder of my big ideas and reasons-for-being, keeps me focused and wanting to push Fivecat Studio to the next level.

So, go do it. Now… Don’t wait. Reach over and grab a sheet of paper.

What’s your vision?

Are You “Locally Famous”?

What are you doing to become “locally famous”?

Do you have a facebook account with which you post regularly and interact with your fans? Do you follow Twitter feeds for people who have influence in your local communities… and respond to their tweets?

Do you blog… consistently, and have a website which reflects the expectations of the market in which you wish to become “famous”?

What happens when you Google your name? Your firm? The term “architect” followed by your location? Are you there… on the first page? (Google Entrepreneur Architect and see what happens.)

Do you network with local business organizations?  Do you share your passion for what you do with others… with large groups or organizations… as a speaker?

Does your business card include your website URL and email… as well as your facebook and Twitter accounts?

To become “locally famous”, you must first truly “know your stuff” and be viewed as THE expert people turn to. Second; you must be everywhere they are and everywhere they look. Third; you must interact with the people from which you are seeking “fame”… and fourth, smile (a lot) and be nice. When you are sincerely nice to people, good things happen.


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