You know how difficult it is to start your own Practice or sustain a small practice. You need to get Projects, produce presentations, drawings, meet Clients, Coordinate with Contractors, visit sites and a lot more. It’s tricky to balance it all.
In-spite of the difficulties many of us still take the plunge, either by choice or being left with no other option. Some of us succeed and many fail. Most of the successful practices of today started small. What made them succeed? Why do so many fail?
Architectural & Engineering Practice is very sensitive and vulnerable to changes in economy. You can never be sure when Project stops and when it restarts. Your Cash-Flow goes completely haywire. How do you sustain during the lull?
A poll on Small Architectural Practice Management group on LinkedIn, 37% people voted “Relationship Management” as the most important factor for a successful Practice, followed by Marketing (20%). Surprisingly Design was amongst the lowest (13%)! So what does this indicate? Just being a great Designer is not enough to be successful. You need to be a good Manager as well. You need to ensure a constant flow of projects and deliver to Client’s satisfaction. Clients should find it easy and convenient to deal with you and have confidence in your capabilities. All this builds up relationship. Remember a satisfied Client can be your biggest source of new projects.
Next project from a satisfied Client may not immediately follow the first one. There may be long gaps. The Client may even forget you when a new project comes up. Remember, there is competition and your competitor may be present at the right place and right time instead of you and chances are that you may lose this project to your competitor. This is where Client Relationship Management comes in. There are various ways and options to remain in touch with existing or past Clients. You will need to evaluate the ones that suit the best to your particular situation.
The intervening period between projects from a Client can be very long – sometimes years. You need more Clients. You need to identify prospects and prospective Clients need to know you exist. The kind of work you do. How easy or difficult is to deal with you. What distinguishes you from the crowd? You need to build a Marketing Strategy based on your strengths, Professional Objectives, geographic region you want to work in. Based on your Marketing Strategy, you will need to formulate a Marketing Plan. Put this plan to practice and constantly review and adapt the plan based on your experiences. This process should help you gain the right type of Clients as well as projects that interest you and provide the flow of work you need.
Your marketing efforts as well as strong Client Relationship Management has reaped in benefits. You now have the projects. The best of Marketing and strongest of Client Relations can diminish almost instantaneously if you do not deliver. You need to deliver to Client’s satisfaction. Identify what the Client is looking for. This is critical as incorrect estimation can lead to dissatisfied client in spite of your best efforts and intentions. Establish and define not just Project Objectives but also those of your Client’s and these may not be limited to what is written or said, but also what is not said or written. Read between the lines.
In addition to external activities there is a whole range of internal activities that need to be taken care of ranging from Design, Presentations, Documentation to non-core activities including accounts, taxation, administration etc. How do you find time to do it all?
Delegation of work is the key to growth. Make a detailed list of activities. Identify activities that only you can do. Delegate everything else. Of course you’ll need to distribute tasks equitably based on your staff capabilities as well as numbers. It is a good idea to create an Organization Chart for your organization based on your goals. In addition to the Organization Chart, create list of roles and responsibilities for each. This chart becomes your guide. Fill in the blanks as you grow. This process helps you hire the right kind of people, with skills you need and get the most from them.
This where tricky issues of staffing come up. It is often a “Chicken & Egg” situation. What should follow first? Staff or Projects? Clients can go into hibernation, and when they wake up they want the work like yesterday! You were not prepared for this. Staff doesn’t grow on tree who you can pluck any time. Staffing is a process that needs time. There can often be a mismatch between the ideal person and what you can afford. It is no fun hiring people with whom you end up spending more time as compared to what you would without them.
This is where BimSrv can help you. You have a multi-talented team of Architects & Drafting Technicians working on cutting edge Design & Documentation software. Have a look at how we can be of help.