Speaking about skill, there isn’t a big difference between a small Pakistani architectural firm and a large corporation. If you’re passionate about making an architecture firm, it is ensured that you have the skill to make unparalleled designs. However, out-skilling your competition alone cannot guarantee whether you will be a successful firm. It may seem counterintuitive but being a great architect and being a great booming business is not the same thing. That is why along with being an architect; one has to be an entrepreneur and a business leader before they can expect any growth in their company. For this end, management of a firm, that is, how you run your small business is the key to becoming not only a skillful architect, but also a successful one.
Start with end-goals
When setting up a small firm, you should know what your end goals are. How would you want the business to grow? What type of work would you be doing? Will you target a niche market or are you going to hunt for any contract available? Ideally you will have answered these questions before you start the work. It’s best to know what your end goals are and work to achieve those end goals instead of making a business and hoping for the best.
Similarly, making a profit plan should be something you should do at the start so you know what kind of revenue you generate versus what you plan to generate. This sets a goal profit which you should be achieving as it includes how many employees you have and their salaries, along with other company expenses like office space, money used on materials, etc. This will help you prepare for the expenses in advance and will set a precedent for your work. It will also help you manage your finances in a more organized manner and prepare you for unforeseen expenditures.
Yes, for a small firm you won’t have a lot of employees and different specialized departments. But aside from the core architects team, a marketing executive is one person you most definitely need to hire. This may seem like an unnecessary expense, but marketing is a time consuming and dedicated task. Especially if you have no previous marketing experience, dedicated marketing personnel will help you with the image building of your firm to make it a recognized brand. It will help you reach your targeted audience and form ties with other potential clients, making the firm to grow and expand its business.
In modern times, the definition of marketing has grown much more than what it originally was. A person with marketing experience or knowledge can make and handle your social media pages and optimize your customer relations. They can identify competitions and exhibitions where your firm can show off the designs which are an important aspect of your firm. And most importantly they will do all this without making you stressed about it and you can focus on other more daunting tasks. Companies without proper marketing strategies cannot compete with those who are more established and thus, have a better network.
Be more business oriented
For most small firms, customer care would be of the utmost importance. What you need to know however, is the difference between customer service and being run over. Here, your two roles need to be incorporated together. The architect in you and the businessman in you, both need to be equally assertive. The architect will be able to sell the designs and skills, but the businessman should be there, with his knowledge of financial management, should be able to charge for your services accordingly. Here your budget management and profit plan will help you charge according to exactly what you offer, and more importantly, would be able to justify what you are charging.
The key here would be to draft the contract according to the services you are providing and what is off-limits. If the customer wants extra work done, he should be paying extra. Yes doing free ‘add-ons’ can be considered a marketing strategy, but only if the cost to the company is compensated in the expected profits. Instead of making a judgment call, discuss this with your marketing personnel or go over your budgets and financial books before you end up losing more money than intended.
Importance of management
Being business oriented can make you think that your architecture firm isn’t doing what you wanted it to, but without focusing on the business side of your firm, you would be a firm without direction. It would be like working on a great project without knowing where your project is supposed to go. Of course you can still reach the end, but the results would only be subpar compared to what you could actually achieve.
Nabeel Abbas is an experienced author, having more than 9 years of experience under his belt, is currently contributing as a senior author for Amir Adnan Associates (http://www.ameradnan.com).