Ride the Wave or Create Your Own?

Today I went surfing in Huntington Beach, California – a town south of Los Angeles that is the epicenter of California surf culture.

I'm rusty at surfing, so my morning surf mostly consisted of getting tumbled by waves and fighting my way back out beyond the surf.

As I was sitting on my board, waiting for the next set of waves to roll in, I was thinking about why some architecture firm owners feel trapped by their business.

We begin excited about the opportunity and freedom of running a firm and charting our destiny.

It's true – firm ownership brings flexibility and freedom. You choose your own hours and can work as much or as little as you want.

You don't have to report to anyone except yourself (and your clients).

However, soon you realize that there's too much for you to do alone.

So you hire staff members and delegate tasks to them.

This allows you to produce more, but you still feel like you're on the hamster-wheel – interrupted all day long by urgent requests from contractors, clients and your employees.

Then one day you wake up and realize that you've created a job for yourself – everything important still needs to go through you.

New referrals come to your firm because of YOU. Prospective clients want to work with YOU.

Yes you can hand things off, but if you step away for too long, the firm would descend into chaos immediately or die a slow death.

So you're trapped – and you're thinking about how to get off this hamster wheel.

You're at the point where you're contemplating “semi-retirement.”

You don't ever want to retire fully because you love what you do, but your shoulders are tired of carrying the responsibility of the entire firm.

Now, back to surfing.

When you surf, there's a lot of waiting.

I have no control over the waves; I need to wait for the waves to roll in.

A couple years ago I learned that one of the world's top surfers, Kelly Slater, built a giant artificial “surf ranch” in my home town of Lemoore, California.

The Surf Ranch is home to the largest man-made wave in the world, allowing surfers to ride a perfectly sculpted wave for 45 seconds (an eternity for a wave ride).

For pure surfing experience I'd prefer to catch wave after wave with consistency.

So here's the parable for today – your staff, no matter how good they are, will never be able to take the load off of your shoulders until they learn how to create their own wave.

Your team members are good at a lot of things, but it is rare to find a team member who can bring in the business.

This is the goose that lays the golden egg.

However, because as architects we are often creative introvert-types, this leaves firm owners in a bind, chained to their firm because they are the only ones who have the skills to make it rain (ie. create their own wave).

So what I'd have you consider today is this: what do you need to do to coach your staff and build your firm to run autonomous from you?

What resources, what training, what mentorship do you and your team need to get so you can move from chained to your business to true freedom as a firm owner?

This is what I help firm owners achieve in the DREAM Practice Accelerator. In this program, firm owners walk through a four step process to creating their perfect firm:

  1. Predictable client acquisition
  2. Systems and processes
  3. Delegation and team
  4. Internal mentorship and culture

If you're ready to empower your staff to create their own waves, visit this page and submit an application to speak with me or one of my team members about the DREAM Practice Accelerator.



Enoch Bartlett Sears is the founder of the Architect Business Institute, Business of Architecture and co-founder of the Architect Marketing Institute. He helps architects become category leaders in their market. Enoch hosts the #1 rated interview podcast for architects, the Business of Architecture Show where prominent guests like M. Arthur Gensler, Jr. and Thom Mayne share tips and strategies for success in architecture.

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