Years ago I stumbled upon a series of inexpensive management booklets published by Dorling Kindersley Limited. The one that was most helpful to me was Project Management. In particular the section on Planning A Project. The booklet describes eight steps that I have used every time I tackle a new project. As designers we have learned to do this, but not in a formal way that always leads to a good plan. Too often we just jump on the first ideas and start designing. Or for non-design projects - just start doing stuff without a clear picture of the whole process.
The Assembly Concept is a system of categorizing work based on the major components of a building project. This is a useful way of thinking about your project for many purposes - storing typical details, organizing design work, estimating costs, structuring bid packages, planning construction.
The old 16 division (now many more) CSI system with its many sections represents the final work breakdown by individual components. This is helpful when you are looking for completeness or trying to describe, price or specify those components, but in many ways and for many tasks this fine detail is an impediment. For example, a window section in a masonry wall involves Divs 4, 5, 7, 8, 9 for masonry, lintel, flashing, window, and finishes respectively. It is very difficult to think about the window detail in terms of those five divisions, but the detail fits very nicely into one of the Assembly Divisions in this system - Exterior Closure.
This Schematic Design Process has been developed over many projects. But the nature of design is that there are many ways to get to the end result. The benefits of this Seven Step Process is that each step builds upon the last to avoid re-work, which is the killer of efficiency. Use the process to explain to your client why you need information from them now rather than later (to avoid additional design costs for them). Whether you use this process or one of your own making, I highly recommend that you standardize on a methodology that your team can use to anticipate what to do. Even with a standard like this, no two projects will follow it exactly. I think Eisenhower is supposed to have said something along the lines of "The plan is rarely very helpful, but the planning is indispensable." Also, remember to review each step with your client to make sure your interpretations and understandings are on target with their needs. Yes, pesky, but necessary.
Before I retired we had a prospects list of over 400 names, most with email, and we never used it. Since I have been retired, I have learned how we should have used it. Using your email list is the number one marketing tool because it is the only tool that gives you measurable results as an architect.
We DID use marketing in my firm. We used lots of methods and they all gave us zero results. Maybe we were doing it wrong. But the time and expense was significant. The best tool we used, based on positive feedback (but not new work), was project signs. We asked the contractor to put up our 2' x 8' sign with our firm name on it. People said they noticed it. Usually the people were friends or relatives.
Why do I think email is different?
In mid 2014 I got involved in a project to build a bookkeeping system for architects. To find out if there was a need, I emailed thousands of architects. I asked them to take a short survey. 1,300+ took the survey. This was almost a 4% response rate. A 2% response is good. So I am convinced that email done right, gets noticed.
Your job is much easier. Your clients and prospective clients already know you. All you have to do is make it worthwhile to open your email and spend a minute looking at your message. Easy!
I think using email is key, but it has to be sustainable. It has to be easy for you and worthwhile for your audience.
You need to do just three things.