Business Development for the Architecture Profession

City Street
Thought experiment: What if architects considered Business Development for the profession instead for their own businesses? (Tip: look out for the twist at the end)

When the the architecture profession is doing well, more architecture businesses will do well. Architects doing better together.

With that in mind, how might the architecture profession take responsibility for the Business Development (BD) of the entire profession, rather than BD as individual businesses?

[Introductory note: I consider this the start of a conversation, rather than a definitive dissertation and I’m curious about what other architects might think and have to contribute.]

Starting with the end in mind. What does the profession doing well look like?

This is an unfiltered and unedited list. Don’t discount anything it will look different to different people.

  • An increasing proportion of building projects are designed by architects.
  • Architectural fees go up.
  • Trust in the profession goes up.
  • Referrals from builders and professionals in the construction industry go up.
  • A greater weight and value is apportioned to the services that architects provide, design and delivery.
  • Architects are engaged to undertake a more substantial role in the design and delivery of a building.
  • The profile of the profession goes up in the media, in a positive way. Their opinions, insights and ideas sought and heard.
  • It’s considered important to identify the architect of the project in all media and discussions.
  • Architects become celebrities in the way chefs have become so. (Vacuous perhaps and a reflection of our times rather than the profession.)

I’m sure there’s many more I’ve neglected. It’s a start.

Where might architects (and allies) start to deliver BD for the profession?

Some of these are immediately applicable, some almost fanciful. The idea is to simply start generating ideas and start on the work. No-one can do it all. Pick one that might work and start on it.

  • Spend time listening to and hearing what people have to say about the built environment and instead of talking at them or down to them, have a conversation with them and ask a lot of questions. Meet them where they’re at, which is at least half-way to their point of view. Find points to agree on and try to avoid challenging world-views. These people might include politicians, journalists, developers, landholders, local interest groups and so on. Seek them out – this is for BD for the profession not for a project. All this is with a view to creating change. Change in opinions, understanding, knowledge and values perceived. [This is an abridged version of the work Adam Grant has written about in Think Again on how to begin to change someone else’s mind. It’s also about enrolment]
  • Selflessly work in the service of others, either in your capacity as an individual architect or practice.
  • Get better at helping and working with other architects in delivering better work and share more within the profession. Share knowledge, ideas, experience, projects, insights, opportunities, etc. This also means not undercutting each other in terms of fees, critique or various manoeuvrings to win projects. Build up, not tear down.
  • Rethink architecture awards as an opportunity to truly show the value of the profession and use them to build trust. Architecture, Awards and Stories
  • Get political. Establish a political party with architecture, urban design and the environment as the platform, to create a platform to discuss issues important to the built and natural environment and by implication the profession. If a party is too much, how about a lobby group?
  • Consider how to work on an Unbuilt Legacy and to better shepherd rather than advocate.
  • Work on building better trust in the architecture profession.
  • Write, talk and present your ideas, insights or knowledge. Do it on what the profession does, what good design looks like, what isn’t good design and why. Get good ideas out in the world so they can spread, they’re of no use kept inside you. Be consistent and understand that it may take time to build up a following. Spread them as widely as you can. If they’re really good they’ll spread further.
  • Who might be able to assist? Who do you know of influence or someone that thinks differently? Work with them.
  • Take risks. Risky is Better
  • Try out the Directives for a Better Architecture Profession.

This is a thought experiment and I accept it will be far fetched for some. I hope we can all agree, however, that Architects working together in the interests of the profession will achieve more in the long run for the Business Development than those working in service of themselves.


PS: For those that are thinking how can I afford the time away from my own business in service of a bigger cause? Virtually all BD ideas listed here require the demonstration of a level of expertise. By demonstrating your expertise you will gain the trust and attention of potential clients. By considering the interests of the entire profession you will also promote your own value.


Image by Snapwire on Pexels [cropped & edited]

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