Make no mistake, architects are fighting a 'silent' war.
This is a war fought not with bombs, but in the hearts and minds those who commission buildings.
Unfortunately, this war hits small firms hardest (who make up over 50% of all firms internationally).
- Why do many clients view architects as a commodity?
- Why are clients demanding more service for less fees?
- Why are clients happy to cut design up-front, but pay much more to fix problems and mistakes later?
This silent war is real, and it hit me in the face like a sledgehammer 11 years ago when I was talking with an architect colleague at a local AIA networking event.
This particular architect has been involved with many landmark projects and has 35 years of experience under his belt.
And yet when I talked with him he told me how he didn't have any projects and was struggling just to pay the bills.
He told me how he had built up his practice over the years to be highly respected in our local community.
He remembered a time when the phone would just ring with amazing opportunities to work on exciting projects.
Although he still has 15 years of working life ahead of him, his former clients have retired.
Instead of enjoying a life of skiing and visiting grandchildren, he's worried about how he'll pay for mounting medical expenses.
Instead of being able to retire to a comfortable location and enjoy the prime of his life, his investment portfolio is worth half of what he feels he needs.
Instead of continuing to work on projects that stimulate and challenge him, he was happy to pick up the most basic remodel.
I thought to myself, "How could someone who deserves so much respect feel so shattered and hopeless?"
"How could this man, with such deep, varied and valuable experience, be reduced to just hoping to pay the bills?"
I knew at this point there was some piece of the picture that most architects didn't understand.
I pictured myself 20 years down the road in the same situation, and it made my stomach clench.
I knew I had to do something differently to not go down the same path.
I knew design and how to draw a building, but how to earn an incredible income and build an sustainable and fulfilling business seemed like such a mystery.
This started my multi-year deep-dive study of the business of architecture.
I started interviewing architects from around the world and started a podcast to share with other architects what I was finding.
As I talked to architect after architect, you know what I found?
Most architects struggle with the same problem: how to bring in challenging, profitable projects on a consistent basis.
This is the bottleneck that keeps their firms at a plateau, that keeps them running from meeting to meeting but never getting ahead.
Then, back in 2013, I got a suprising email from an architect in New Zealand.