Faced with difficulties too many to enumerate, it’s easy in times like these to give up, to disregard the wisdom proffered by our “Big A” Architect higher selves and fall back on old attitudes and mindsets of our “little a” selves. And yet architects are gifted with attributes, abilities, insights and competencies that help them turn the dourest site or least inspiring program into a mercurial work of art. Abilities such as seeing the big picture and granular detail at the same time; comfort with ambiguity, flexibility and creative problem solving come to mind. So why is it then that we cannot apply these traits to the seemingly insurmountable problems at hand? For certainly there is no impediment, hurdle, roadblock, trend or threat that the architect can’t handle. To name only a few:
CLIENTS EXPECT DISCOUNTS OR FREE WORK
Little a architect, out of fear, complies.
Big A Architect proposes a win-win should the project move forward.
CLIENT HAS NO PARTICULAR URGENCY (“Banks aren’t loaning anytime soon…”)
Little a architect responds to assignment status quo.
Big A Architect offers client services, seeks out and connects client with credible, freely flowing lines of credit, treating every assignment as though it would be built tomorrow.
OLD CLIENTS ARE NEW AGAIN
Big A Architect treats past clients with same respect and attention as new (if you can remember what those were like.) They are after all the ones we nurtured and worked so hard to retain and repeat. It’s only natural that they’d think of us in times like these, when so little loyalty can be found.
Little a architects pull out the accounts receivable and stew.
COMPETITORS ARE DISCOUNTING THEIR SERVICES
Big A Architect treats this as an opportunity to evaluate her work processes and acquired inefficiencies – to be honest with herself and her staff – to keep and reinforce what’s working and rid of what’s not.
Little a architect cries foul.
COMPETITORS EATING DOWN THE FOOD CHAIN
Little a architect says: Look who’s shown up for lunch!
Big A Architect accepts this as all part of the process, welcomes their peers and looks for opportunities to collaborate. And admits that they are doing the same – taking-on projects outside their area of interest and expertise. “Out of our strike zone.” Heck, the partners are doing the very same thing within their own offices! Working down the food chain, taking-on assignments that they used to delegate to others, working their way down the org chart. Big A stands for Abundance – and the Big A Architect knows that there’s enough to go around for everyone.
CONSTRUCTION COSTS ARE DOWN
Big A Architects call clients whose projects have stalled due to costs and inquires as to whether they would like to reevaluate given the circumstances – material costs are down 10-15% in some areas, even if labor remains out of touch. Maybe your project is financeable, more palatable to the developer, the owner – and the bank.
Little a architects wonder why their clients aren’t calling them.
NEW MARKETS WILL BE FUELED BY NEW PLAYERS
Little a architects see this is a euphemism for unemployed architects.
While Big A Architects mimic their tendency to be agile, flexible and open to possibilities – scrappy even – open to everything that comes their way. We used to offer steak and potatoes – today it’s tapas. It’s all a la carte – “additional services” are now our bread and butter.) If no one needs what we have to offer (tapas) we recalibrate, fine tune, retrain and offer what is needed. We approach any client willing to listen (listening is free) what it is that they didn’t realize they needed because they didn’t know it existed or that anybody did that – especially you, whom they thought they knew like the back of their hand. If it’s no longer a product that you offer – or even a service – then it’s something altogether new and different and remarkably beneficial for all involved: we offer “process.” We’re experts at process – because we know how.
Little a architect, uncertain of recovery, wonders where’s the bottom?
Little a architect sees the huge surplus in housing, retail, commercial, hotel and says: We’re toast. Obsolete, redundant, inconsequential.
Big A Architect looks out the window and sees a world of possibility. Buildings crying out for reuse; clients in need of their creativity, insights, point of view, experience, tenacity that they heroically exhibit every day they come into the office. Here’s to the roll-up-your-sleeve, scrappy tenacity of you, the Big A Architect.
Architects 2Zebras is repository for All Things Architect - thinking, innovation, design, ideas, and education. This blog is written for architects of every stripe addressing shared topics of interest and fascination.
ABOUT THE BLOGGER Randy Deutsch AIA, LEED-AP is a building design architect immersed in the worlds of technology, creativity, design thinking and the way all types of architects utilize these tools and processes. His forthcoming book is BIM and Integrated Design (Wiley, 2011.) Randy is an accomplished design firm leader responsible for operations, marketing and staff mentoring with proven track record for leadership, business development and client retention. He has demonstrated success managing and designing large, complex projects and is a high-energy results-oriented marketer with an extensive professional and client-based network. Randy accelerated firm-wide adoption and implementation of collaborative design technology and sustainable design practices resulting in multiple LEED-APs. He is a professional thought and practice leader, instructor, mentor and writer; public speaker, contributor to magazines, newspapers and blogs, featured in Architectural Record and WTTW. An Associate Professor with six years teaching graduate-level building science/ technology, design studio, professional practice courses, AIA Chicago Executive Board member and recipient of the AIA Young Architect Award.
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