you don’t care, you’re too busy

 busy bee

I don’t think I (naturally) have a business mind; I have an architect’s mind. However, if I want to do what I love, I must do what I must to stay alive.

I was having lunch today with a contractor with whom I’m building a good professional relationship. In the course of our discussion I shared stories about a couple of recent projects that I was unsuccessful in getting but felt more than qualified to do. I had built a relationship with each client and yet they chose someone else.

Don’t judge me, but it bothers me.

Perhaps I just like to win. My contractor friend understood my feelings, but stated “you wouldn’t care if you were busy.” To be honest, there is truth to this and I nodded and smiled. Later as I drove away to my next meeting I continued to think about this but I realized that this wasn’t completely true for me. Yes the clients from these lost projects may not have fit well with me and my firm. Yes I have found that lost projects often never materialize. Sometimes when lost projects came into being without me, I was glad that I was not associated with them. In a few cases the client wanted something other than what I wanted and wanted to pay considerably less than I offered. It happens.

I know these are all true. But I hate to lose.

See architects (ok, most of us) are emotionally connected to our work. We lie to ourselves and tell us you hire us because you want what we can make or what we create. In other words, you want us. Call us corny, but at times we feel a bit like Sally Field at the 1985 Oscars “you like me, right now, you like me.”

Look, my point here is simply being transparent and telling you how we think. I know we all could learn to be better at business and it would serve us well to think like a business person. There’s some truth to the statement that when we are busy, we are less concerned about the one that got away. However, when potential clients turn us down, we still don’t like it

Don’t try to figure it out or make sense of it. We’re ok with not making sense.

 busy bee 02

photos are from dModer101’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)

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you don’t care, you’re too busy

10 thoughts on “you don’t care, you’re too busy

  1. William J. Mello Jr. says:

    To understand the client better: 1. Buy a Site. 2. Design your home for your lifetime. 3. Finance it. 4. Build it. 5. Live in it.

    1. William, this is sage advice. I took it 5-1/2 years ago. I bought a site, I designed a home for my lifetime, I financed it, built it, and I’ve lived in it these 5-1/2 years. It didn’t teach me anything new, but it gave me an experiential awareness of the thoughts and feelings of my clients.

      1. William J. Mello Jr. says:

        lecalisti, I did it twice. The first wasn’t long term enough. I learned that much. The second was long term enough but not enough after twenty five years and “empty nesting”. The client may also face an “empty nesting”. If they were confronted with this event what would you do for them?
        I am surprised that you did not learn anything new in your five and a half year journey.
        Architecture as a professional practice has changed since my registration 5/24/63 but the client profession has not. Clients profess strongly don’t they? They haven’t changed since they built their first shelter.
        Than you for your response

      2. William, thanks for more feedback. I suppose I spoke too soon when I said “I didn’t learn anything.” What I did learn wasn’t about academic or technical things, it was experiential. I can empathize now with clients who write the check. I know what it feels like to say “no” or to say “wait.” We had to make many decisions and in fact we gave up a complete design because it had too much architectural frills with not enough value in return. I get it. 5-1/2 years later our house is no longer “new” and we do have some minor maintenance to address which is par for the course. I also should have said I have no regrets and would not have made any major changes to what we decided years ago. Now we are planning a few additional projects that didn’t get built for budget reasons. Yes, I admit what we choose to do now may be slightly different than what we would have chose had we had the money 5 years ago. However, these decisions now better reinforce the overall concept of the house. Maybe we have had more time to let it “simmer.” Great conversation here.

        With respect to my post here, how does this relate to my “feelings” about getting or not getting the project?

      3. William J. Mello Jr. says:

        Lee,
        You noted: “William, thanks for more feedback. I suppose I spoke too soon when I said “I didn’t learn anything.” What I did learn wasn’t about academic or technical things, it was experiential. Maybe we have had more time to let it “simmer.” ”
        Could you apply this wisdom and experiences without embarrassing the client?

        “With respect to my post here, how does this relate to my “feelings” about getting or not getting the project?”

        Why do you feel that you gave a “winning” presentation to the client? In your preparation did you find the “switch” to “turn their head”? How much did you “know” about the client?
        Did they invite you for an interview? Did you know who the selection decision would come from? What “Intelligence”” did you gather? Maybe it was “Bagged”! Looking back there were two projects where we were able to win even considering a very uneven “playing field” by using “Intelligence” to find the “switch”. The ones we lost were due to improper application of “Intelligence”. Despite all efforts there will be lost projects the reasons for which will be unfathomable. Why do you feel “hurt” by loosing a project?

        Then you wrote: “William, as a follow up to a question you asked about short term vs. long term. First, the clients/projects I referenced were actually larger commercial projects. However, your point is still relevant. I have tended to “worry” more about the long term than most of my clients. I ask them these important questions. Many of them don’t even know how to answer. Furthermore, a majority of my clients have been empty nesters…….. I don’t think I made foolish decisions that were merely idiosyncratic, but I also didn’t try to fit into the neighborhood with how the average person would have defined it.
        Lee, you appear to be talking about the loss of “large commercial projects”. Were the “large commercial projects” the “empty nesters”? Were the “large commercial projects” in “neighborhoods”? Do you think that the personal fixed shelter is the most difficult building type that exists?

      4. William, we are getting side tracked here. First, the projects referenced in the post were commercial to be used for the client’s business or financial interest. Whether they are empty-nesters has no bearing on these projects. When I started to answer your question about “building it and living in it,” I jumped over to talking about residential projects to broaden the conversation and to explain to you that I have that type of experiential knowledge.

        Yes, I can use my experiential knowledge of building my own house with my clients in many positive ways.

        As for the commercial projects, I gave my best presentation and proposal. The client of the first project didn’t give me a clear reason why they “went in a different direction.” The brief reason given had to do with fee and in that case, he or his partners wanted someone or something cheaper. The second project had to do with perception of experience. The client chose a larger firm with whom he felt had more experience. In both cases, I had built a relationship of trust, so yes I was hurt when they selected someone else. In any case where I “lose” the project, I can’t be unaffected emotionally. Later once time goes by and I see what happens or doesn’t happen with the ones that got away, I am generally happy I didn’t get the project. That’s all.

        My blog is rarely looking for “answers.” The tag line explains that I am “exploring and sharing how architects think.” At times I allow myself to be vulnerable to allow others to join the conversation. I have consistently found that how we think as architects is very different than how others think. I’m not trying to change anyone’s mode of thinking, but merely share points of view. In the conversation we can learn much about each other without having to feel persuasive. Over the past 2-1/2 years the dialogue has been very interesting.

      5. William, as a follow up to a question you asked about short term vs. long term. First, the clients/projects I referenced were actually larger commercial projects. However, your point is still relevant. I have tended to “worry” more about the long term than most of my clients. I ask them these important questions. Many of them don’t even know how to answer. Furthermore, a majority of my clients have been empty nesters. I suppose they want something different in their house, but if they had children, they still want the opportunity of having space for them to stay and entertain them. I wish more clients would think long term. By staying in my house over 5 years, I’m beating the duration of the average American who only stays 5 to 7 years in a house and then moves on. I made decisions in my house for me and my family and didn’t concern myself with the future owners. I don’t think I made foolish decisions that were merely idiosyncratic, but I also didn’t try to fit into the neighborhood with how the average person would have defined it.

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