The Architect Whisperer June 13, 2010Posted by randydeutsch in architecture industry, management, marginalization, problem solving.
Tags: Architect's Guide to Small Firm Management, mentoring, Michael S Bernard, Michael Strogoff, practice management, Rena M. Klein FAIA, RM Klein Consulting, small design firms, small firms, staff development, Strogoff Consulting, Virtual Practice
I need to let you know
You don’t have to go it alone
U2, Sometimes You Can’t Make it On Your Own
The other week I was in Hollywood pitching a reality show treatment to a network development executive and a producer friend at a TV studio scouting projects for next season.
After an hour wait, I pitched the concept of the TV program, sat back and awaited their response.
It turns out that the pitch was a lot like presenting a building design to a client. You need to go in with a couple fall-back ideas in case the first one bombs or they already have a similar idea in development.
Just like design alternatives that you keep in your back pocket just-in-case.
And just like design, the trick is to make it seem like it is their idea without actually letting it become their idea – unless, of course, their idea is a better one. It’s admittedly a delicate balance…
So, I started my pitch.
“It’s called The Architect Whisperer. And…”
I was immediately interrupted.
Wait. Wait. What’s an architect whisperer?
I tell them it’s a person with the capacity to understand and interpret architect communication.
So it has to be another architect –
Because no one else understands what they’re saying!
Go on. Don’t mind us. Continue.
“Similar to a dog or horse whisperer, an Architect Whisperer is a person who understands and relates extremely well with architects. An Architect Whisperer has an unusual amount of success with architects.”
I pause and continue.
“In the show, people – especially spouses of architects, but as often colleagues and even homeowners who have retained architects – bring architects to the Whisperer’s home or studio. The architect eventually adopts the Whisperer.”
I continue by giving them a brief sketch of the first several episodes.
“In the first episode, an architect is brought in to the Whisperer’s home and studio by a firm principal. My architect is misunderstood, he tells the Whisperer. His design is underappreciated. His design is seen as a commodity – not given the reverence it deserves…”
The development exec asks me:
Randy, you know why there could never be an architect whisperer?
I shake my head no.
Because architects don’t listen!
Architects may need whispering to, but the ones I know would never listen.
How about the architect screamer?! suggests my former producer friend.
I’m liking it…
Screamer. Screamer…Crier? Yeller? No crier.
You think maybe then they’d listen?
A show about architects who don’t listen? That’ll be a hoot!
Who wouldn’t relate?
At the end of each episode, they lose their license!
Out on the street with you.
Or sue ‘em!
Randy, you’ve got to boil down all of the elements of your TV show and communicate what the viewers will be watching and the purpose of the show.
I nod in agreement.
“You’re So Sued!” I love it. Now that I’d watch.
I sat there with a forced smile on my face – taking it all in stride.
We’re just joshing you, Randy. How’s this instead: “Revenge of the Owner!”
“Architect: The Client’s Revenge!”
They were like clients who suddenly feel the surge of power, wonder why they weren’t architects themselves and hijack the building design.
It needs a hook – says the development exec.
To separate your show from others within the same genre – they explain to me.
Kind of like a combination between…Extreme Makeover…
In next week’s episode the architect does a makeover in order to remain viable in the marketplace.
In next week’s episode the architect’s makeover –
Randy, what’s something you can do to improve yourself as an architect in these times –
I think for a moment and suggest
“Not watch TV?”
They stare uncomprehendingly.
A couple weeks have passed since the pitch. I’m back in my studio tweaking my Emmy acceptance speech, waiting a call back telling me that my project has been greenlighted.
See your local listings for The Architect Shouter, Tuesdays on HBN, the Home Building Network
Or passed on.
In TV – as in construction right now – it’s all a waiting game.
As noted in the Boston Globe, More than a decade after “The Horse Whisperer” appeared on movie screens, and four years after the debuts of “The Dog Whisperer” and “The Ghost Whisperer” on TV, “whispering” is still gaining steam among a huge range of consultants and instructors who promise subtle yet authoritative transformation in pretty much every aspect of life.
Here are a couple of real-life Architect Whisperers that you ought to become familiar with. If you get the chance contact one or more for a practice- and perhaps life-changing experience. Think of them as resources when in need of relevant, trustworthy professional advice, feedback or mentoring.
Michael S Bernard Virtual Practice http://www.v-practiceconsulting.com/
Virtual Practice focuses on management mentoring, firm organization and staff development, specifically tailored to the small design practice. They work with small firms (usually 5 to 10 employees) on two tracks. In their view, the principal of a small but growing firm must focus on two important areas: finding more work and establishing continuity with respect to the firm’s design vision. Given the limited time available to a busy principal, they serve as the bridge or liaison between principal and staff. They function as the firm’s operations director in “time share” fashion.
Michael Strogoff Strogoff Consulting http://www.strogoffconsulting.com/
Strogoff Consulting provides practice management, ownership transition, mergers & acquisitions, and negotiation services to architects, engineers, interior designers and other design professionals. The core of their services is bringing people and interests together in creative and collaborative ways. Michael Strogoff has several highly-skilled specialty consultants to help firms operate and compete in an increasingly complex and competitive environment. Each specialty consultant brings practice management expertise working with numerous architectural, engineering and interior design firms.
Rena M. Klein, FAIA RM Klein Consulting http://rmklein.com
RM Klein Consulting offers business planning services, meeting facilitation and management education to leaders of small design firms. Building on her graduate degree in management and her twenty years of experience as the owner of a small architectural firm, Rena regularly presents seminars on small firm practice. Her innovative work in this area has appeared in print and Web publications, including AIA’s online Architect’s Knowledge Resource.
Also, Rena M. Klein, FAIA has a new book, The Architect’s Guide to Small Firm Management: Making Chaos Work for Your Small Firm (Wiley, 2010) which you can find discounted here or here with free sample chapters.
Are there Architect Whisperers not mentioned here that we should be aware of? If so, please let us know by leaving a comment below or via email (see About section.)
[Note: A big thank you Jonathan L. Fischel FAIA for your links and suggestions.]