5 Reasons Why New Architecture Practices Fail
When starting up your own architecture practice, you’re motivated by the prospect of being your own boss, being in charge of your destiny, enjoying flexible working. And it can work definitely work out like that, but there are plenty of other things that need to be done in order to get there.
Because of this, many architecture practices fail or struggle under pressure – but this doesn’t need to happen. With the right planning, funding and flexibility, your practice has a better chance of succeeding. Here, I am going to go through some of the biggest reasons that new architecture practices fail, and what to avoid to improve your chances of success.
1. Your Website Isn’t Working For You
When architects set up on their own, often, they’ll think of a name, setup a website, create a logo, (sometimes at great expense) and then off they go. But there’s more to it than that.
If you have a website, how are people going to find it – to begin with, you’re just another grain of sand on the beach. What you really need to consider is how you’re going to direct meaningful traffic to it. You’re not going to be on the front page of search engines for a long time. Google won’t immediately think you’re interesting until you’re getting traffic and commanding some authority in your speciality. It’s a long process, and one that takes hard work, and time and money investment.
If you’re just starting out on your own, you might not have any completed work to show on your website. If you’ve worked for other practices before, you haven’t automatically got the copyright to use that work. So, you’re just putting up sketches. But how do you attract clients when you haven’t got any examples of completed work?
People often make the mistake of saying they’re award winning this, or that but your clients don’t really care, they want to see USP, why are you special, what makes you stand out.
The majority of architect sites are corporate. If you’ve designed a corporate website and you’re trying to attract consumers, they’re immediately going to put off by the corporate feel of the site.
One way you could easily overcome these issues is by buying a franchise instead of setting up on your own. Then you can enjoy the shared portfolio of completed works, the branding, and website authority that already exists.
2. You don’t understand your value or your time
Some people setup their own practice because they’ve won a job – that is a great place to start. Most architects have no understanding of their time or value, we’re used to university and long hours in a practice pulling all-nighters.
A big question is how you balance your time and value it. It is easy to get sucked into a downward spiral – trying to juggle working so hard on one job, closing the next client and the ongoing outreach and marketing for the clients after that. What is your charge out rate? It will work out pretty low and unsustainable if you’re working long hours for low pay. At some point, something has to give!
Clients hugely undervalue your time as well, if you have a client saying to you, “I really want to, but I can’t do this time, I work weekends and I’m out during the day – can you come at 8pm?”
Here, the priorities are wrong. The client needs to make time to see you – you need to be on equal footing or they’re not going to respect you.
Sometimes this means walking away from potential work – but you’ll be better off for it. If they can’t see you in the next 3 weeks, so be it, you don’t want to run a job where they don’t make time for you but then want everything yesterday. It is important to manage clients’ expectations whilst valuing your time and energy – if you lose the job, so be it, there will be plenty of other clients out there with patience who you want to work with.
In the Pride Road Franchise, the franchisee contribution funds the integrated marketing strategy that drives thousands of people to our website and phone lines every month – meaning that franchisees don’t have to balance this with their day-to-day operations like they would if they were a solo start-up. With a steady stream of potential work coming in, franchisees also have the flexibility and confidence to be able to manage client expectations and walk away from nightmare clients.
3. You’re speaking to the wrong person
Do you know your clients? Are they the decision maker? Are they the bill payer? And, will they pay in good time for you? If none of these are right, then it’s not going to work for you or the business
If they’re not bill payer, how are they to make decisions, and if the decision maker isn’t at the table, the information that is passed to you and to them is going to be third hand. Its easy for things to get confused, and miscommunication can be a project killer.
Is it a company with a long payment terms? What happens if they go bump? How much work do you have to do upfront before you get paid? That’s enough to put you and your business under pressure.
At Pride Road, we’ve automated and systemised the briefing process to ensure the right questions are asked each and every time- making sure that when you meet clients you can concentrate on design ideas.
4. You’re not specialising
It can be tempting at first not to restrict your client base. But if you’re operating as a jack of all trades, master of none, then each time you work on a different type of project you’re going to be learning. This means you’re spending a lot of time on researching, learning and other non-profit-making activities. The key here is specialise, specialise, specialise! Don’t reinvent the wheel!
In my first business, Raynes Architecture and later Pride Road, I found more success in specialising – working closely with homeowners and people with smaller projects, I found a stream of business that was able to ride out the downturn, while giving me the chance to help develop properties that truly contributed to people’s lives.
5. You’re not taking time to work on your business (only in your business)
Lots of people make the detrimental mistake of being short sighted. ‘I’ve got to work on what I’m doing now, please these clients, then get to that later.’ If you’re always dealing with urgent stuff because that seems important (or non-important – important to your clients but not to you in terms of growing your business) then you will likely be having a negative impact on your business long-term.
It is important to take time out to work on things that are important but not urgent, the things that needs to be of priority and focus in a long-term business growth strategy.
Marketing takes time and money and you need to be spending a reasonable proportion of your turnover on those things. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket – if someone promises you a steady stream of work, don’t stop advertising or marketing waiting for that steady stream, because if it falls through then you’re back to square one and you’ve got nothing! It is best to have lots of eggs in lots of baskets, not just relying on one thing.
About Lisa & The Pride Road Franchise
I created the Pride Road Franchise in order to share my knowledge and business model with any architects who would like to follow in my footsteps, to have a secure job, a good income, take pride in their work and have a much better balance between home life and their profession.
The main advantage of buying a franchise over starting your own business from scratch is the ongoing support in daily operations. For an initial fixed fee investment and a pre-agreed percentage of sales new franchisee businesses are granted an entire structure around which the business is built to include marketing, branding, sales territory, and ongoing training among other things.
Some other benefits of the Franchise model include:
- Group advertising resources not typically available to small, independent business owners.
- The benefit of a recognised and proven service, trademarks, proprietary information, patents and designs.
- A much lower risk of failure or loss of investments than if you were to start your own business from scratch.
- Being part of a uniform operation, which means all franchisees will share the same product, service and product quality and overall customer brand awareness.