The MyCorbu project is coming along - slowly - but there has been a bit of progress since my last update two months ago.
There are 21,000 architectural firms in the US.
17,500 of them have fewer than 10 people in total.
Why is the typical architectural firm small?
Every time you double the size of your firm, you also double the complexity that has to be addressed. 1 person; 2 people; 4 people; 8 people - three doublings is about the limit most firms learn to handle.
In military terms architects work in squads, never mastering the platoon, much less the company or battalion.
I think these 10 issues are the key to growing beyond that limit.
You don't want your client's last experience with you to be tainted by frustration and abandonment.
You don't want your last experience with your client's project to be frustration and a black hole of time and effort.
What has put both parties in this situation?
Is there a sure-fire way to avoid this situation?
- Ok, here are some tips.
I only worked in three other firms besides my own. The closest thing to a reading list that I encountered had just two items: Graphic Standards and Sweets Catalogues.
I'm wired a little different than that limited version of self-improvement, so we had actual books in our library in addition to the 50 lineal feet of catalogues.
Whether you have arrived at a fee by a wild guess or a fee schedule you want some kind of corroboration.
One option, if you keep good records, is to compare this project to a similar project. Was the fee adequate on that other one? Usually the two projects are dissimilar in some way.
Another way of checking the 'rightness' of an architectural fee is to evaluate its 'rightness' when viewed as a design budget.
This option involves doing an evaluation. It is fairly easy to 'spread out' the fee over the design phases to see how adequate the fee actually is.
I've written about what I think every architect should be doing about marketing. This flowchart may make those suggestions a bit easier to follow. At least it is visual.
The Journey to Todoist
I have always used To-Do lists.
Before computers they were paper, of course. I went through all manner of notebooks in my search for something ever better. I even used a folded piece of paper that would fit in my shirt pocket; moving from quadrant to quadrant until I had to start a new sheet by copying the uncompleted tasks forward. Lightweight and convenient.
These ad hoc systems gave way to serious 'organizers' like the Franklin Planner, then the Covey Planner, then the Franklin-Covey Planner. We are up to the late eighties now and I found a dead simple system to use. It only had one desirable feature. You didn't have to copy tasks over to a new piece of paper because it was digital. You carried a piece of paper, a printout, for portability; but you only had to write each To-Do once. Magic!
This is one of the chapters in my e-book, Trello-PM. Here's a glimpse at how you might develop a Project Master Template. I think it is a great Competitive Advantage using a tool like Trello™.
See what you think...
I have written a fair bit about Architectural Fees in the past. I guess I remember what a mystery it was to me at one time. I have covered the basics of Fee Tables here and the complexity of the typical Hybrid Project here. The remaining factor in determining the appropriate fee is Scope of Services.
What are you required to do to complete the project?
If the answer is standard Basic Services, then the issue of Scope of Services is settled. Basic Services is the answer for a lot of smaller public projects.
Something different than Basic Services is more likely the case in private work. Private clients don't fit the cookie cutter of public projects. They need more here and less there. That makes determining the appropriate fee more complicated.
Here's the solution.
18 months ago I walked away from the Corbu project that I was part of. Corbu was going to be a bookkeeping app for architects - timekeeping, expense tracking and invoicing.
If you are interested, you can catch up on that journey below.
Just about every six months since then, I have experienced a real need to do something with everything that I learned while working on Corbu.
Six months out I projected all the things that would be needed. Three weeks later the work and cost seemed overwhelming.
When the urge came again after another six months, I talked to a friend who is a programmer. I got a better handle on the tasks and investment required. The idea was less daunting - but still daunting.
What's new this time?
It is time to pause and celebrate and reflect. Another year has gone by with continued growth in readership and interaction. The table below shows just how much things have changed in four years.
This is one of the chapters in my e-book, Trello-PM. I want to give you a glimpse at how you might develop a Project Master Template. It is a great Competitive Advantage using a tool like Trello™. See what you think...
My experience is probably a lot like yours - things are never as simple as they seem.
Projects, for instance. It probably took me 15 years to realize that a project wasn't a project most of the time. It was actually two or three projects masquerading as one project. A Hybrid. The difference isn't great, but it is enough that it should be recognized and dealt with.
The Hybrid Project usually complicates code compliance when you are dealing with two Building Groups - or Use Groups in code-speak. Fire separations and mixed use requirements suddenly appear. Another type of Hybrid Project is one that is an addition. That is because you have a part that is 'new' and a part that is remodeling. Specifications and detailing usually get a bit more complicated to address the different parts of a Hybrid Project.
Two or three Building Groups is the typical way that we encountered a Hybrid Project. Some examples:
In my experience Hybrid Projects were much more numerous than straight-up new buildings. But it was ages before we recognized the impact on our architectural fees.
One of the major differences I found between designing projects in school and designing projects in a firm was the need to meet others' expectations. To me school design was like solving a puzzle. Having a solution was what mattered. Not how you got there.
When I was designing 'for real', I was never entirely on my own like in school. Getting all the drawing done in time for final printing was just one objective. The client needed to be kept in the loop. The consulting engineers needed drawing updates in time to complete their work. And they needed them far enough in advance for me to make sure their work was coordinated with everything else. Codes. Budgets. Specs. Having all these other expectations encouraged me to find a process.
That's where Lessons Learned comes in.
Back in the day when I was designing buildings instead of managing projects, I really enjoyed the task of getting light into the building. Most of the time this was just a form of decoration. But when i could make it more integral to the design, that was especially gratifying.
I found a number of ways to make windows more than just a 'punched' opening - although there was plenty of that, too. Here are some examples to show what I mean.
A Survey As A Marketing Tactic
I am a fan of a marketing tactic that you probably could use. Surveys. I have mentioned this before. Here is the link.
There are things that you can learn from a survey that just aren't available as quickly or cheaply. Things that are valuable. Here are some things that you can accomplish with a survey.
I have always been interested in the 'process' of architecture. Early on, any path I took felt like I was getting somewhere, but sometimes I was and sometimes I wan't. Once I was convinced that the solution to a small school admin office was designing the building from the front door inwards. Two days later with nothing to show for my effort except my boss's observation:
"What in the hell are you doing?"
I guess this wasn't a path that produced useful results.
I continued to be on the lookout for "the Way".
Nearly twenty years later I stumbled upon a magazine article describing when types of design decisions should be made in the design process to minimize re-work.
Finally, a clue!
When I published Feecalqs a while back, I failed to place the emphasis on the fact that Feecalqs is four linked electronic spreadsheets. This is important because the effort that it takes to arrive at a realistic fee for any project takes just a few minutes with a digital method of calculating fees. You already know the information that you need to enter, so it takes no time at all.
One of the four spreadsheet that you don't even have to look at is the Fee Tables. There are five tables representing the five Building Groups. These Building Groups arrange the different types of buildings into groups based on the difficulty of designing them. This Building Groups post shows the listing that I assembled from various sources.
Here's what the fee tables look like and how they work...
Construction Administration - DOs and DON'Ts
Hey, I'm Rick Wolnitzek and Architekwiki is my blog for sharing what I've learned practicing architecture for ... a long time. Enjoy!