Is Your Architectural Firm a Practice or Business?
In my experience, most firm owners don’t appreciate the significance of being at the helm of a business. At the risk of sounding cliché, they run a “practice” and they operate it as if they’re just… well… practicing. This problem is evident in each firm’s mission statement. Of the many I’ve read, only a handful acknowledge the firm’s ultimate goal is to sustain itself and be a profitable, successful business. This is a primary reason why architects are notoriously under-compensated.
Mostly, firms use the mission statement as an opportunity to echo what every architecture school pounded into our brains: something touching upon the noble pursuit of our profession, improving the built environment, serving our clients and helping the planet. Neither our employees nor our clients can differentiate one firm from another. Imagine showing up at a conference and everyone is handed a name tag that reads “Joe.” Not much sense in that. Why bother when your mission statements are painfully useless and provide no guidance for the financial well-being your firm?
While we’ve arrived at this profession out of a potpourri of passions; art, design, construction, urban planning, environmental stewardship, etc., I can guarantee that you will never find anyone who entered our profession with the intention of making money. How crass! Indeed, many architects pride themselves in their meager compensation compared to the hard work they do and the value they provide their clients and the society-at-large. It’s a badge of honor, like a war wound. I’m a hero for building a better world, now pity me for being poor. I’ve sacrificed.
I get it. Architects are not motivated by money. Indeed, most architects are too timid to even discuss finances with their clients. Instead, they prefer to drive conversations to areas where they have passion, and can lead the discussion: design and construction. But this is precisely why you can’t leave the business of architecture to the owners of the firm. Their head and heart are just not up to the task of building a sustainable business. This puts their employees and their clients at risk. Yes, their clients.
After all their investment in a firm, a client ought to be reassured that a firm has sound finances and a system such as ArchiOffice in place that prepares timely, professional invoices and respects the firm that expects and demands their accounts receivables are paid on time. Furthermore, clients should be assured that a firm has trained project managers who properly staff and budget their projects and have tools to monitor the performance. When firm owners are put in the position of either ensuring the success of their architectural design or protecting the finances of their company, architecture wins-out every time.
Whether you are formally charged with managing a firm or this has become your de-facto responsibility, don’t expect the firm owners to have the financial care of the firm on their radar. If you don’t properly manage your projects and staff, you won’t have positive cash flow. If you don’t have a positive cash-flow, you don’t have a sustainable business. If your business isn’t sustainable, eventually you won’t have a job.
About the Author:
Steven Burns, FAIA, spent 14 years managing his firm Burns + Beyerl Architects. After creating ArchiOffice®, the smart office and project management solution for architectural firms, he brought his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is perfecting the business strategy and product development as Chief Creative Officer.
About BQE ArchiOffice:
BQE ArchiOffice is an award-winning time tracking, billing and project management software created by architects, for architects. With simple usability, smart functionality and a streamlined user-interface, ArchiOffice is brilliantly designed to organize and analyze all of your business information.
World Architecture Festival 2016 Finalists:Hotel And Leisure – Completed Buildings – Sponsored by Grohe
1+1>2 Architects, Earth Village, Ha Giang, Vietnam
Aim Architecture, Fushengyu Hotspring Resort, Mianyang, China
Bates Smart, Canberra Airport Hotel, Canberra, Australia
Duangrit Bunnag Architect, The Naka Phuket, Phuket
Jacques Ferrier Architecture, Nakâra 4* Residential Hotel, Cap d’Agde, France
MIA Design Studio, Naman Retreat Pure Spa, Danang, Vietnam
nA Nakayama Architects, Zaborin, Hokkaido, Japan
Neri&Hu Design and Research Office, Le Meridien Zhengzhou, Zhengzhou, China
Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos, Grand Hyatt Playa del Carmen Hotel, Playa del Carmen
Studio Lotus, Baradari, City Palace Jaipur, Jaipur, India
Studio PCH and Montalba Architects, Nobu Ryokan, Malibu, USA
URBNarc, Alila Seminyak, Bali, Indonesia
World Architecture Festival 2016 Finalists:Culture – Completed Buildings
Furuichi and Associates, Miyahata Jomon Museum, Fukushima, Japan
GreenhilLi architecture + design, New Wings at the Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore
Menis Arquitectos, CKK “Jordanki”, Torun, Poland
Nikken Sekkei, Akagane Museum, Niihama City, Japan
OLI Architecture, Mu Xin Art Museum, Wuzhen, China
Patterson Associates, Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth Taranaki, New Zealand
Pere Puig Arquitecte, Montagora Cultural Centre, Barcelona, Spain
Reiulf Ramstad Architects, Romsdal Folk Museum, Molde, Norway
Riegler Riewe Architekten, Silesian Museum, Katowice, Poland
Robert Konieczny- KWK Promes, National Museum in Szczecin – Dialogue Centre Przełomy, Szczecin, Poland
Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects, Dokk1, Aarhus, Denmark
Studio Gang, Writers Theatre, Glencoe, USA
Tsinghua University + Studio Link-Arc, China Pavilion for Expo Milano 2015, Milan, Italy
waa (we architech anonymous), MOCA Yinchuan, Yinchuan, China
Zaha Hadid Architects, Messner Mountain Museum Corones, Plan de Corones, Italy
World Architecture Festival 2016 Finalists:Civic and Community – Completed Buildings
Dokk1, Aarhus – Denmark, by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects
Multi-aged community centre, Poggio Picenze – Italy, by Burnazzi Feltrin Architects
Qianhai International Convention Center, Shenzhen – China, by Shenzhen Huahui Design
Salburua Civic Centre, Vitoria-Gasteiz – Spain, by IDOM
Studio Farris Architects, City Library Bruges, Bruges, Belgium
Te Oro, Glen Innes – New Zealand, by Archimedia
The Library at Willesden Green, London – United Kingdom, by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
The Waterfront Pavilion, Sydney – Australia, by Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp
This week’s picks for NYC architecture and design events
As always, New York City is abuzz with creative folks expanding the possibilities of how architectural design and practice can be reinterpreted, bringing attention to what in the urban environment is constantly overlooked. For anyone curious about what local happenings to fit into your weekly schedules, Archinect and Bustler have compiled a snappy list of events in New York City that are worth checking out.
Check back regularly so you don’t miss out. Have a look at our latest selection of NYC events.
TIMBER IN THE CITY: What’s Holding Timber Back? A Round Table Discussion | November 17, recommended by Alexander Walter
With so many wooden skyscrapers on the boards and under construction around the world right now, the future of timber architecture in urban contexts has never looked brighter — but doubts and misinformation among the public remain. The round table discussion What’s Holding Timber Back? hosted by Parsons School of Constructed Environments aims to “advance the goal of complete acceptance of mass timber buildings in North America.” Catch the live stream online if you can’t make it to the symposium.
New York at its Core | Opening on November 18, recommended by Amelia Taylor-Hochberg
Explore New York’s history from a Dutch settlement to present-day megalopolis, with a special focus on the big characters that charted its course—both human and animal. The exhibition also takes a look at the big challenges facing New York’s (and the world’s) future: housing, climate change and social equity.
Peter Hutton Tribute with Urban Omnibus | November 20, recommended by Justine Testado
Image via uniondocs.org.
Urban Omnibus and the UnionDocs Center for Documentary Art will host a screening of two short films, “New York Portrait, Chapter II” and “Time and Tide”, in celebration of the late Peter Hutton. A merchant seaman-turned-filmmaker, Hutton was widely regarded for the way his films poetically captured NYC’s built and natural environments. Urban planner and Hutton neighbor Daniel D’Oca will introduce the films. General admission is $9.
Also keep track of our weekly event picks for Los Angeles and London.
Find more events in New York City here.