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What do you wish you knew when you first started your practice?
by Katy Purviance on 12/24/10 @ 12:46:50 pm
Categories: Architects | 1352 words | 1934 views

I’m following a discussion on LinkedIn about starting a practice.

Florian asks:

I am in the very early process of starting a new practice and I was hoping I could ask the Architect group for advice. What do you wish you knew when you first started your practice?

Horace Spoon • I wish I had started with more clients! Seriously…

Francesca Zito • Understood tax liabilities better, might be different in Australia. Taking a small business class would be a helpful thing to do since you are both the designer and the business manager.

Steve Madison • Get the job first then worry about the rest:

1) Balance the target revenue sources of your practice: 60% government, 30% mainline private sector, 10% speculative.

2) Get published in the periodicals that your target patrons read - architectural trade press isn’t nearly as valuable.

3) Architecture is feast or famine: keep your overhead low, save for times like we are seeing now so that you can stay alive for the next wave.

4) It takes time to get good at anything. Set Godin says 10,0000 hours minimum. So be prepared to spent about 5 years befre you begin to see a retn on your investment.

5) Read “How to be a Happy Architect” and learn the lessons. Architects can’t save the world and if that’s what you want to do then you should invest your 10,000 hours in becomming a politician or a faith healer.

Wm. “Mark” Parry aia.sah.csi. • Thank you for the opportunity to down load. It’s an honor. When I started I had entirely different understandings of my role and purpose this is what I have learned so far..

* Much of the work of Architecture in the current market is a service and if so should not be seen as a platform for personal expression. You will express yourself any way it’s the only way it can get done. But to push that point it makes the work forced and actually false. Mind your clients intentions if you wish to have happy clients and keep them for years to come. Do not be a one trick pony…

* If it’s a hobby you invest more of yur time and resources then you will receive in return. A business makes the owners profits.

* Architecture is both a service and art form as well as and a mode of personal expression. If we are to serve our clients and not ourselves we need to understand the intentions and purposes for our work with them. We must not confuse our own intentions and be sure they align with our clients. If we do not that creates conflicts of interest dysfunctional relationships and a quick path to the court room or the back door.

We must be sure our interests align with all the values, goals and intentions of those we are working with. So be clear the motivations of your projects are in alignment. We can do 3 kinds of projects as I see it. Those involved should all be on the same page at the get go and clear about the intentions and purposes of the work.

They are:
a. projects that make money b. projects that win awards or notoriety. c. projects that satisfy our creative expressions or desire for a contribution to our world.

* It’s not how much you make but how much you keep. Don’t build a business for your vanity’s sake that’s just a hobby and very expensive…

This is a huge endeavor and will take a lifetime to perfect. Your carrier will have phases. I spent the first 5 years of my personal practice learning to put plans together, the second 5 years learning to put buildings together, the 3rd 5 years learning not to re-visit my dysfunctional family relationships with my clients. The 4th 5 years learning to make my business excellent. Now I am having fun….

* You define your profits by the work you do not do. A bad client will suck all the life, and vitality out of 10 good projects.

* Regrettably most people sitting across the table from an architect have presuppositions based on the behavior of other lesser architects. They tend to think that

1. Architects are expensive. 2. Architects do not listen 3. Architects just do what they want.

You must be careful to be sure your clients understand you are not that architect. You must not be that guy or prove to them that you are not him/her

Finally I believe strongly that architecture is your work not your life or your being, get a life don’t just have a business and your work will have life. Magazine architecture is as dead as the pages that generated the inspiration. Get into life for your work to participate fully with it and contribute life to our world…

Gary Madaras •
1. Receivables
2. Receivables
3. Receivables

Check the credit worthiness and payment history of clients thoroughly before signing contracts with them. Always have a clause in the contract to stop work for lack of payment (or at least a clause to terminate the contract). Avoid fly-by-night LLC’s set up by developers that can disappear via bankruptcy as soon as one monthly bank draw is denied. Watch your A/R report like a hawk. Call on every invoice status every 30 days (maximum). Keep your A/R report clean (have a defined write-off policy). Get a credit line at a bank as soon as possible even if you don’t need it. Build relationships with bank loan officers and understand the current economic factors influencing their lending and renewal practices. It’s tough to not have any work ~ it’s far worse to pay the labor and overhead to complete work that you never get paid for. Good luck.

Then Panagiotidou Nikoleta turns the discussion

I would like to ask all the architect group….if you could choose a foreign country- city (than your own) to work and live nowadays , which one would it be?

Steve Madison • I had the rare opportunity to spend three days working on a team with Christopher Alexander (Pattern Language) in 2002 and one of the things we discussed was why he would have chosen the opportunity in Dallas when the literally had the whole world to choose from. The answer was surprising in that he said that in order to actually DO something (significant) without the burden of so much government regulation, with access to adequate capital and (even) without fear of being killed or kidnapped during the project, the choices narrowed for him globally to the US and within the US, because of hostile labor unions and corrupt political structures in other states, to Texas.

When I was young I worked for part of a year in New York City and couldn’t wait to get back to Dallas. I guess there’s really no place like home.

Wm. “Mark” Parry aia.sah.csi. • California is now embroiled in the agenda wars. The industry spends it’s time at trainings and code seminars as we wade through the latest releases from the warriors who have ensconced themselves in the bureaucracy. Design is no longer practiced out here it is legislated. We fight for our perspective rather than unify build or release others to create. I would suggest north, south or mid-west but not far west…

Thomas Barbeau • Stay away from government clients, unless you enjoy deciphering committee-think as they assiduously work to avoid personal responsibility for decisions. also, @"Mark” Parry: I can’t think of a better reason to be a Tea Party supporter than the design nightmare that CA has become over the past 20 years, thanks to the pompous, arrogant, and nearly opaque command and control economy that’s being engineered by nanny-state politicians and their bureaucratic supporters. But hey, maybe that’s what it takes to achieve true “sustainability".

Gary Whitfield • Learn how to negotiate a contract with your clients. Most clients are business professionals and have more business skills then most new Architects. Most of my business education has been through mistakes I made on the business end of my practice.

I have been practicing in California since 1975 and I have seen an increase in regulations and litigation. As states and countries become more developed, regulation and attorneys will follow.

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