I made it to fifteen years – that is fifteen years in business for myself. <air high five> In 2013, I wrote about my ten-year anniversary and I was probably more verbose and more thoughtful than I am today – I’m less verbose today, but a mix of more jaded and wiser though. Five years changes things, but I can’t say I have any new insights, so this might not be reposted often on LinkedIn, yet I’ll comment on some of the points I made at year 10 (see 10 after 10).
- Marketing – The five years that passed (and turning 50 last year) made me alter some opinions on this one. I do agree with my 10-year self that it’s prudent not to turn down certain work for hopeful work. However, at this point in my career, I’ve been fortunate to be finicky about the projects I accept. With specific targets and goals beyond just having work and an income, I’ve found truth in the quote attributed to Glenn Murcutt, “the compromise you make today, will inform the quality of client you get tomorrow”. Be careful.
- Planning – I wish I could say I’ve gotten better at this – I’m more artist than businessman. What I do each week is create a plan for the week and stick to it. I’ve also gone back to long range project planning that helps in the marketing efforts. I can better predict my availability with an at-a-glance calendar of active projects. I wish I could be more precise, but with just me at the helm, it’s quite difficult.
- Weekly updates to clients – this hasn’t changed. Do it, it’s important. Put yourself in their shoes.
- Referral network – This is why I’m still here. Develop a strategic network of people who will market for you. This was more of a result for me than a goal. I speak passionately, but competently about architecture everywhere I go. Sooner or later, the right people who have a larger audience, choose to refer me. Go figure.
- Design Integrity – This has become a more critical with each passing year. People have sought me out due to my work, not just my location. The hardest part I’m having in the past few years is reconciling superior design with reasonable budgets. Design can happen at almost any price point, but some things worth doing just cost money. I’m still working on finding the right balance for this one. It’s a daily struggle and I’m in the midst of a few stressful scenarios.
- Image – I’ve preached to my son his whole life – if your name is on the top of the paper, that work must be your absolute best you can do at the time and under the circumstances. There are no exceptions – if one puts their name on something (literally or figuratively), accept nothing but one’s best.
- Passion – This is the fuel that gets me up every day and keeps me moving when it’s difficult. If I wasn’t good at this…or if I didn’t think I could be good at this someday, I’d pursue something else. It’s simply not worth doing if I’m mediocre at best. Money cannot be the number one target.
If you were looking for slick business tips or the best apps for architects, there are far better architects out there (who blog or create podcasts). I am a solo-practitioner with 27 years’ experience who is still figuring this out.
Check back with me at year 20 or 25, and I’ll tell you what I think. Your thoughts are always welcome though.