Tags: managementoperations
Episode 193

Architecture Firm Business Operations 101 with Josh Blumer

Enoch SearsApr 4, 2017

Today is the second part of my interview with AB design studio principal Josh Blumer. AB design studio is an award-winning architecture firm based out of Santa Barbara, California.

Go here to watch the first half of our interview on Taking Your Architecture Firm To The Next Level.

Today's episode is all about business operations 101 for architects, including in the trenches tips for running your architecture firm more efficiently, and how to create business processes that improve profitability and client experience.

In today's episode, you'll discover:

  • The key to attract and keep amazing team members
  • The surefire way to nail your next job (or project) interview
  • How to hand off work from your business development team to your architecture team
  • How to develop a killer client onboarding process
  • How to run a great architecture business (even if you hate business)
  • How to land your architectural dream job
  • How to do business development without being ‘pushy'
  • The job search strategy that works for architects
  • How to handle escalating construction costs and architecture project budgets

Resources for today’s show:

AB Design Studio Inc

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

[DAP errMsgTemplate=”SHORT”]
Josh Blumer: Opening up the door and allowing somebody else to participate in my firm has given me a way to participate in the business side of it differently.

Enoch Sears: The Business of Architecture Episode 193. Hello, I am Enoch Sears and this is the podcast for architects where you will discover tips, strategies and secrets for running a profitable and impactful architecture practice. I would like to invite you to discover how to double your architecture firm income and create your dream practice of freedom and impact by downloading my free four-part architecture firm profit map. As a podcast listener, you can get instant access by going to freearchitectgift.com.

Today's podcast is sponsored by AIA Advantage Partner BQE Software, the makers of ArchiOffice. ArchiOffice is the only office and project management software designed specifically for architects. It helps you manage people and projects, while you focus on designing great architecture. Whether you are working remotely or on-site, ArchiOffice allows you to monitor the status of your projects and tasks and send out invoices in an accurate and timely manner. Get your fully functional 15 day of ArchiOffice by going to Businessofarchitecture.com/demo.

Today is the second half of my interview with Josh Bloomer AIA. He is a principal at AB Design Studio based out of Santa Barbara, California. Without further ado, here is today’s show. Josh Blumer, I want to welcome you back to the Business of Architecture.

Josh Blumer: Great.

Enoch Sears: You in our last episode, we talked about the fact that you guys have been in business as a firm for about 11 years, relatively young firm, have gone through some growth over that time period, learned some lessons. You have talked about how you and your partner have found that delegating and dividing up the responsibilities really helped you to get to that point where you then could develop and grow the firm more.

Josh Blumer: Yes.

Enoch Sears: Right, you talked about bringing in Al Harris to be the director of operations and I wanted to ask you about that because that's very interesting. A lot of architects I talked to, they like being architects. They don't really want to run the business.

Josh Blumer: That’s right.

Enoch Sears: They want to be the architects. With Al, is he someone with an architectural background or is he someone with strictly a business background in other industries? Tell me about his skill set.

Josh Blumer: Al has a business background. He comes from a core of being in an accounting role. [inaudible 00:02:30] to doing [inaudible 00:02:35]. He actually also has a pretty good foot in the world of doing shipping containers, shipping container brokering and customization. I came to know him, Clay and I came to know him rather through our explorations. Anybody that looks at our work knows that we like to mess around with shipping containers as a base building block group. We’re building from about 40 foot shipping containers right now. We have a couple projects that we have done with shipping containers. We started exploring that from an investigation how much do you need to live? That was the question. The less is more kind of conversation and it just evolved.

We met Al along the way doing that and realized we had a lot of shared pathways that we were on and he is very interested in what we are doing as a business and we are very interested in what he offers and what he has been able to provide. The bottom line is I don't know that architects do or don't want to be good businessmen. I think we say things like that “I want to do the architecture. I don't want to do business.” I think really the truth, at least for me, is it's hard doing the business because it's hard to focus in both directions. They don't always agree with each other.

My training and development and background is in being an architect. My architectural license comes with responsibility. I'm interested in running a business, it's a different part of my brain that I have to use. It's a different focus and it has a different prioritization. I never forget that I'm a licensed architect and that's my number one role in my profession is to uphold the integrity of that.

I'm a member of the AIA. I have an allegiance to my fellow architects. I have a vested interest in mentoring and teaching people and I was mentored and taught and I want to pass that on. I'm interested in design. I have gone into architecture because I'm essentially a creative person that likes to make things and I enjoy math and science and those things that go with it.

Business is its own science and running a company and being good at business, certainly, there's no architect that cannot figure that out. It's just that we have to wrestle with that the way have to wrestle with that as architects. I don't know. It's hard to talk about it because there are so many words that get put to that every year and I don't know if I'm even really accurate. There is a wrestling match always being discussed about what it is to do business and be an architect.

All I know is for me opening up the door and allowing somebody else to participate in my firm has given me a way to participate in the business side of it differently. Al has given me confidence in that. Look, we spend a lot of time together helping each other to the table. I think it's more, the conversations got expanded and more good things have showed up to cover that because it's a bigger conversation and there's more possible that …

Enoch Sears: What have been some of the positive things you have seen come in from having someone like Al in the firm?

Josh Blumer: I think fundamentally when Al came into the firm, he really started to poke around about how do you guys get things done? What's the process? We have had to take things that we do well and define them. What he has been trying to do on an operational level is make these things tangible so that fundamentally, I don't have to be there to explain why we are doing something or how we are doing something in the process.

Enoch Sears: Tell me what that process looks like? What was the result of that conversation? What are some of the things that you guys are doing well?

Josh Blumer: Well look, I'll give you a process. This will probably be familiar to anybody that has had a firm. There's this process of going out and finding work and you’re in solicitation mode and you’re meeting clients, new clients or reconnecting with existing clients on new projects and new opportunities. A lot gets invested in that process. A lot of information gets built up and usually in a firm of our size one or two people are doing that.

In our firm, Clay spends a lot of time in that area and he is really defining the vision of the project and he is assembling the data and organizing the client and the firm around what's possible. Then there's a point where the contract is signed and the proposal phase is over and the project needs to find its way into the studio. Inevitably, another person, a project manager and a team have to pick that up from there, move it to the next step, which is a big shift in energy. It's a big changing of the gear that's in place there and there's a big transfer of information and it causes a lot of breakdowns.

You can spend months really cultivating a positive relationship with a client and have expectations built into that and then in the process of transitioning that into the studio to get the work done, if any of that gets degraded you are going to have phone calls from your client, “I thought it was going to go this way? I thought it was going to go that way? How come … You told me it would be two months? Why is it now three months?”

What we have seen is that if we focus on a better transition and create some predictability … One of the things I used to complain about and I hear it all the time from architecture studios is that work just keeps flying in from all directions. You finish one project and you turn around and someone’s handing you another and it can be an assault on a studio if that's not being managed carefully.

Part of what Eric has been doing as the director of the studio is working really hard with Al Harris and us to make sure that our project start-up process is as excellent as we can make it. It brings a lot of focus to how do you do that? Everybody has a method or an idea that how do you agree to a process that everybody can play with and succeed with and the first part of doing that is defining it.

That's where you literally find yourself in a room talking to your operation person. They are saying, “Well, what's step one and then what's step two? If step two is not step two, then what is it? If X happens, go this way and if Y happens go that way and then follow those processes.” It can be tough because you think you know something and then you sit down and you try to really explain it. You think you are being clear with your staff. You think you are being clear with your clients and you start to see where maybe there's some things we can fix here? Maybe there's some things I think I know that I don't know? Maybe there's some magic here that's not so magical after all?

It's fundamentally, just an examination. It’s a lot of looking into the mirror and try to understand what it is you have been talking about and put it into something tangible that other people can work at, but I think it's necessary. We have seen it actually make a difference in our work and I think it's starting to creep into other areas now.

Like I said, personally one of the things I'm interested in is designed workflow, so I'm looking at it there, too. It's actually given me new tools and new ways to address what is a design workflow? Can you chart it? Can you make it something repeatable? I'm not looking to homogenize our work or make it predictable necessarily, but I am trying to put hand-holds out there for people so they can really go into it aggressively and focus more on the big idea and the discourse of it, as opposed to modeling with trying to find the basic pathway. There's a basic guideline there that …

I have been in that time had me this year spend a lot of time in a policies and procedures pursuit where I'm looking at a phase checklist, defining what are the normal checklists that you need to follow a phase and make sure you do everything that you should do in schematic design and DD and those transitions? I'm looking at what do we do that's unique to us that needs to be there for people to understand the AB way or we call the AB Studios brand or methodology? We are also looking at drawing content checklists and looking at a lot of the contracts. We are using the A&A contracts almost exclusively and revisiting those and defining what does this obligate us to? What are we doing and not doing with them? All of it, it's kind of a background integrity to the kind of hustle, bustle and craziness of an architecture studio.

Enoch Sears: How do you guys keep track of the checklist, just technically? What format are they in? How do you keep them accessible and make sure they are used?

Josh Blumer: That's a good question because in the past we have had a lot of discussion with this. I think we have come to a realization of how we want to do it. Even in the past and what I experienced coming into an architecture office was when I was younger, was there was a binder on the shelf. It was kind of dusty and it didn't look like anybody looked at it in a long time. It was there and you could reference it, but it seemed to always be out of date. I think that's a problem for a lot of offices. You have these efforts to increase the policies and procedures and drawing standards in the firm and then they kind of wane and then the focus comes off.

What we had been looking at is how to create that in a more dynamic environment. What we are seeing is conversations for standards and integrity, if you can maintain them as a conversation and not have them be reference material they have more impact. How do you create a conversation today? Well, you probably use your computer. It probably has something to do with texting and chatting and creating an interface where the dialogue can occur and it can be visited easily and added to and commented on.

We are creating an inter-office type of web platform that basically is a knowledge center and we are using it as a hub for the discussion. It will have referential documentation into it, but we are trying to create it I think more as a conversation where you can keep updating currently without it being such a momentous task of creating a reference library so to speak.

Enoch Sears: Are these papers? Are they Word documents that would be kept on a server somewhere? Just in terms of the technology, what are you guys using?

Josh Blumer: Fundamentally, it's a searchable database, like a knowledge center. It could be, I think, print it off into PDF format and referenced to external references outside of our network, our Internet and so forth. There are a couple of software platforms available out there that tie together functions of email and texting. It’s a big issue in our business because we use to have a tremendous amount of control about how information was passed and we are now in an era where there's just a dizzying amount of platforms to communicate with, but at the same time the architect has to manage all that.

Part of what we are looking at is how to complement that process and need from a project management standpoint, the way information gets transferred, but also looking at how do we incorporate that into a knowledge-based environment where … Certainly look, there's nothing wrong with sitting down with the senior architect and having a lesson on how to do a cartoon set or what schematic design and DDR and how they differ, but there's also putting tools right in front of people so they can actually engage it directly from their desk and have a good reference.

We just feel the reference library on the shelf, with the generation of kids that we have coming in our offices, this is not adequate to what their expectations are. They need to be able to search it on the web. They need to be able to see it in the software they are using. To be clear, we are still in the formulation of this. We have compiled a lot of the information and it's all documents and PDFs and white papers that we have written and this and that. The next step is going to be creating an adequate interface that hits this what I'm talking about. It would be disingenuous to say we have it figured out. We don't. This is another exploration.

Enoch Sears: What will you have? You have some things figured out. What do you have figured, Josh?

Josh Blumer: Well, we have at least for that, I think we have the right people to do it. I feel like, again, going back to having Al here that we have somebody who understands how to organize that and fundamentally, nobody is really counting on Clay and I to do it, which is good because I think firm owners tend to take on too much and things get stuck with us too much and it doesn't get done. I think we have between Eric and some other folks in our firm and Al, we have provided a proper vision and given a lot of thought to the direction. We have the right vehicle to execute it and they seem to be excited and motivated to do it, so we are off.

Enoch Sears: Something that I am hearing repeatedly throughout our conversion here, Josh is the mention of people. I would like to ask you what is your hiring process? How do you guys build a team? What have you learned about hiring and attracting and keeping the right people?

Josh Blumer: Yes, it's funny. Again, another area that we could have focused on to talk about this operational aspect of our firm that we are enhancing. We have definitely looked at how do you recruit? How do you hire? How do you on board people? One of the areas where I think all architecture firms are challenged is the on boarding process. Again, it's like project start-up. There's initial expectations and then there is an on boarding process and learning how to gauge what the realistic … How long does it take somebody to acquire the studio? A first, second year person coming out of college, they have a different potentiality. Their opportunities are different than a person with 10, 15 years experience coming in the door. Those transitions go differently.

My current reference to this is it takes about three to six months for an architect who has experience to get him or herself firmly planted into a firm and really understand it and learn how to intermesh themselves with it. Well, sometimes longer. It depends on how the style of the firm is. We have a fairly, supee process in our studio. We don't silo people up on stuff. We have a pretty open dialogue and an open floor plan and we are pretty dynamic. We try to keep our project managers focused on their projects, but the rest of the staff has the opportunity to move around a bit to different projects, so that has an object on how that on boarding process goes because it can be a lot. When you are new at our firm there's a lot to deal with early on.

I think in terms of a hiring process, what we are looking for, again, another area where the technology has outpaced the profession. LinkedIn, there's web-based platforms, all these different ways that people can get their resume into our inbox. I don't think this is new, but it’s still the problem. Emails come into us. That seems to be the main way that people introduce themselves to us nowadays. I think if you are looking for a job in an architecture firm, go ahead and do that, but look and this hasn't changed in 20 years since I heard this when I was younger, pick a couple of firms that you want to work for, research them, go find out about them before you actually … And then put a concerted effort in getting in the door and getting the interview.

How do you do that? Well, be persistent and do what it takes to get the interview. I think if all you do is just send an email with your resume in it, you have really shorthanded yourself. I think it's worth packaging up something and putting it in an envelope and sending it to people. I think walking in the door and handing somebody a folder and saying, “I would like an interview. I want to work here …” I pretty much have a policy that if somebody walks in here and shakes our hand and says, “I would like to interview for a job,” I'm interested. It becomes so rare and I could actually see that as a proactive step.

Don't be afraid to be persistent either because as an architect firm owner, I have to send my staff to the city or the county or other jurisdictional agencies to compel them to move our projects forward. When somebody is polite and persistent with me, I'm thinking, “Wow, that's the kind of person I want advocating for my clients.” I like that polite persistence. I like somebody with who won't take no for an answer but still show up in a pleasant way and can keep pushing for their particular agenda.

I think there's these mixed messages. I think it's okay to be bold if you are bold, but make sure you get noticed. If you are not a bold person and you are a bit shy, then you need to package yourself up well, put multiple efforts together. Don't just send an email. Don't forget that you can walk in the door somewhere. Don't forget that you can make a phone call. Don't forget that you can send a package. Those things work and they get people's attention it puts your resume on the top of the stack.

I think after that, you asked about retention, it's tough. When you are growing a firm and growing yourself as a businessperson, as an architect, it doesn't always create the most conducive environment for everything to work out the way we wanted to. We have paid our dues. I can't say that we have always been everybody's favorite boss for the last 11 years. I have had some relationships go really well with employees. I have had some relationships that didn't go so well.

When you are a firm owner, it's one of the things that you have to confront. There are things about us that work and there are things about us that definitely don't work. If you want to find out all the things about you that don't work, go start yourself an architecture firm and hire 20 people and they will come to work and they will show you how much you don't work. I think you have to deal with that and everybody has their own way of dealing with it.

I have, for one, have had to break myself up and rebuild myself many times and I still think I have a lot to do in that area. It's hard. A lot of it is pointed at the firm owners. We try new things every year I think to create a stable environment where there's some predictability to the space, but at the same time we are always doing things that upend that. Our architecture tends to push aggressively at some boundaries. [inaudible 00:24:30] Created this stable environment either. It's exciting. We are forward-thinking and we are doing a lot. There's messes that get made and you clean them up and you keep moving.

Enoch Sears: In regards to finding the right people, it sounds like you guys are getting inbound inquiries. Is that where your people are coming from?

Josh Blumer: Yeah, typically people look at our … People look at the work that we do and they say, “I like the work that you do and I want to be a part of that.” Frankly, our home base is in Santa Barbara. Obviously, we have an office in LA and Clay and I have done a lot of work up in the Bay area and we may be opening up an office there at some point. There's no architecture school here in Santa Barbara. We have Cal Poly to the north, so we are not ringed by architecture schools, so there's not a thriving population of people coming out of Santa Barbara as new architects. There's a lot of people coming to Santa Barbara as architects, so it's an interesting mix. We get people coming from elsewhere. I think sometimes there's people who actually like the idea of living in Southern California.

Enoch Sears: Especially, Santa Barbara.

Josh Blumer: Sure.

Enoch Sears: Have you guys done anything intentional Josh to attract the kind of people that you want to have working at the firm?

Josh Blumer: I think one of the things we have done intentionally is relied on existing employees and asked them to fan out into their own networks. Some of our best hires and our best people have been a byproduct of those types of relationships. Clay and I have certainly became friends working in a firm and when we worked at another firm together before starting our firm, we influenced the hiring process by doing that and we got a lot out of it.

At one point, I remember working at a studio in the mid-90s. I had Clay in there with me and a friend of mine that I graduated architecture school from Colorado with who is actually somebody who is near to me, best friend really and Clay had brought in a draftsman. He worked in a previous firm that became quick friends and there were a couple of other folks that came through. It was this pleasurable place to go to work. We were friends and we had this camaraderie. It created with the folks that …

There are other people in that studio that were not necessarily, didn't have a background of friendship before they work together but because of that friendship happening in the office, everybody ended up operating inside of a more intimate, friendly manner. It was a group of people that tended to work together and we all seemed to end up sitting in a bar at the end of the week together or doing stuff together on the weekends. It was quite familial and we really got a lot of work done in that period and significant work with them and I think that influence me.

I think we have sought to create that a bit here. Clay and my’s first employee was Clay's wife. She was trained as an interior designer but also as an architect. A commonly joke about her being as an interior designer, the best architect I have ever worked with, which she always laughs about because she went to school to be an interior designer but she was one hell of an architect. That familial, that family type spirit in the background has always been there. My wife worked in our firm in an administrative point role at one point.

We bring in internships from folks that are near and dear to us. We bring them from God knows where and they become part of the family. There's always been an effort to do that. It's just a practice that's easy to do. It's just simply letting your employees know, “Hey, do you have a college roommate that you remember fondly? Where is that person working now and are they happy there? Call them, ask them if they want to come and hang out with you and do architecture.” For a young person, they usually look at you like, “Really, I can do that?” Yeah and it creates a happiness inside of the work that if you can find it, it's a good method.

Other than that, the usual, we are starting to explore it I think more deeply. I have actually been interested in what's going on in LinkedIn and the social media side of how that world works and recruiting. I don't want to disparage anybody unnecessarily. I haven't been able to figure out how to work with recruiters in our field, but I know that it gets done. I think an important to do is if you are doing good work, put it on the Internet and present it well. I think that people will search you out, they find you. I think if you give people a sense of what you are up to on a webpage that tends to do that work for you.

Enoch Sears: That's what you guys are finding now?

Josh Blumer: It may be the best reason to do a website is you are looking to recruitment. It's an open window to see in and you get to decide what they see, so it has a time. I think it's worth thinking about if that's a problem you're trying to solve.

Enoch Sears: What's your number one business challenge that your company is struggling with right now, Josh?

Josh Blumer: Well, I think anybody practicing architecture or working in the real estate or construction world in our region, especially Southern California, the Western United States, I'm sure it's impacting everyone, the cost of construction, the cost of doing business is challenging. I was sharing with somebody recently it's an interesting thing. Most architects are sole practitioners and some people work in firms and there are a lot of smaller firms out there. I'm not clear exactly what your viewership is, but I assume there are a lot of people tune in who may have a small firm or a medium-sized from or of being a sole practitioner.

If you are building a home for somebody that's a $6 million, $7 million, $8 million home that's a big, significant expense. That's a lot to be responsible for. If something were to not go correctly that's a lot to be responsible for. I think that's challenging. I think it's one thing to be a large firm and go build a museum. You would expect that you go into that knowing that there is financial considerations and assurances needed and there's a quantified analysis you can do to that and you expect a certain amount of responsibility.

I think more and more people in the normal realm of custom residential work, where you are talking about large expenditures the architects really have to be a part of controlling that expense. If a project goes two or three times over budget, I guarantee the architect is answerable to that. It's hard to predict. It's difficult to predict and project costs out there and the cost of work.

I think one of the things I have had to learn and relearn and I’m encouraging other architects to pay attention to is pay attention to your client’s budget and give yourself some tools but if you can't do it internally find it externally, but go find out what your designs translate to costs when it comes to construction and constructibility.

We are always dealing with time. Any architect would tell you that probably the biggest enemy is time and focus, but I think beyond that reality then I think it's not really worth much as much discussion. Cost and budget have been typically something we could take for granted in the past or not be so concerned about. I think nowadays it's something we have to be very concerned about and need adequate tools to forecast those things. I think that can be scary and difficult and it may be out of certain people's expertise to be able to project that, but the are tools out there and there are people that can help you with that and I think that's a challenge.

Enoch Sears: You say that the cost of construction or the cost to build was that the business challenge that you said and what specifically about that because you mentioned liability, you mentioned difficulty estimating project costs. I'm trying to hone in a little bit narrower to understand what exactly you find challenging about that?

Josh Blumer: I sit on a design review board and we are noticing that there are people presenting projects where they are actually having to confront do I tear down the house and build it newly or do I remodel it? When remodels cost more than the new construction, I think that should get your attention. I think the problem stems from …

Look, I don't want to oversimplify it, but one area I see to look at when you are analyzing this we have brought so much new requirements to construction in the residential realm and it’s not limited there but with energy requirements and the California Energy Code particularly, it keeps ramping up and ramping up our structural requirements, flood. We just have really placed new standards are what it is considered a residential project these days. The things that come to bear, there's just a long list and they are expensive.

When you look at remodeling houses that were built in the 50s and 60s, the amount of work that's required to get them up to this new standard is extraordinary. You can't just cut a building off and add on to it. You have to upgrade seismically. You have to upgrade the envelope for the energy calculations. You have to do things that are way beyond the performance capacities or the housing spots that we are doing. People used to be able to build on sites and a little movement of the site was not a big deal. Nowadays that's not acceptable, differential settlement, water intrusion, those are big issues in insurance claims. The things that go into place to ensure against that in that constructibility … When you are looking at constructibility, you are talking about major foundation systems.

Enoch Sears: Would it be fair Josh to say that the challenge you are identifying is the complexity of building in today's environment?

Josh Blumer: Yeah, it's just a higher threshold for a certain level of quality or performance. I suppose that leads to a certain level of complexity. The documentation process is more intense. What architects are being asked to do from a documentation standpoint and what they are being held responsible … If you follow what's going on in the courts in terms of what architects are being held liable for, every year we find we were responsible for something we never knew we were before.

I suppose that contributes to a certain level of documentation that “Well, I better cover myself carefully here,” but I also think that just the regulatory environment. It's easy just to bash on the regulatory environment that we are in, that we all know we are in. I think that people's standards are higher. I think the average consumer person coming in to build a home has a longer list of wants and needs than ever before and the technology part of that, the comfort level, all of it. It conspires to …

If you track it, for me in the last 20 years you look at the home prices. We used to look at in terms of the square footage cost. Whatever people thought was normal and standard 20 years ago, it's been completely advanced. We are looking per square foot costs that nobody has ever seen. The prices are going higher faster than they were before and I think that's because the labor is expensive. A lot of these buildings take a lot of labor and the materials are not getting any cheaper either.

There's not many buildable sites anymore in Southern California either, so people are taking to the hillsides and doing construction on more complex sites. Again, going back to remodeling or rehabbing, one of the things we really like to work on our remodel-rehabs or what we call adaptive reuse projects and some of those work out great. You really can beat the curve and get in there and take an old building and give it new purpose and avoid environmental damage and then avoid extra costs and avoid long time delays for doing a new project, but sometimes it doesn't pan out.

Sometimes the new construction with a little bit more control, it's going to get you to point B and more efficiently or it might get you there with a little more certainty. Knowing how much something is going to cost seems to be at a premium for right now, so going into a project where you are doing basic explorative surgery on a building can be a little bit hair-raising because you don't know where the beginning and the end of the costs are until you actually get in there. You are almost always disappointing if you are trying to keep costs under control because every time you are turning around your having to upgrade something that you didn't know you needed to until you get in there.

I don't know if that answers your question correctly, but it's one of the bigger challenges that's got to my attention and I think it's a good problem to solve. I don't think it's necessarily a problem like we are having a problem with this. I think it's the problem to solve in the current marketplace and the current time we’re in. It's another opportunity to look at how do I treat a design solution for that? That's something we throw around in the studio. Everything's a design solution to us. How do you design your way out of that? What's the problem solving solution that you can come up with?

Enoch Sears: That's right and how do you design your way out of that? We have two minutes left.

Josh Blumer: Well, I think the way you design your way out of that is you do a little bit of listing at the beginning, a lot of listening in the beginning rather. I think our fundamental approach to design is to figure out everything the project isn't and is and we try and let the project come to life on its own. It's a process. Sometimes that means you bring other people to the table early, engineers, for sure the owner, builders and we try to find out as much information as we can and we try to look at the site constraints, opportunities and constraints, the typical terming, but really cut away everything that's not that and then see what's left, see what the building wants to do, see what the design solution is and then listen to it, give its own life but follow it and try it just maintain authenticity in the process. Being over-imposing may not get it done every time.

I think it goes back to the idea of collaborative leadership, collaborative design, those two things. Letting the project have a seat at the table in the collaboration itself is I guess one way you can look at that, but it’s not an ego-driven process. It's a looking for truth process and you can include a lot of different people in that and I think you will find a deeper truth if you do.

Enoch Sears: Well, Josh Blumer, thank you for sharing with us your experience at AB Design Studio in Santa Barbara. I appreciate talking to you about your career and your thoughts about architecture and the business of architecture and wish you much future and continued success.

Josh Blumer: Yep, thank you, it's been my pleasure speaking with you and I appreciate your interest in us, thank you.

Enoch Sears: All right, thanks Josh, bye-bye.

Josh Blumer: Bye.

Enoch Sears: And that is a wrap. Thank you for listening today. If you are looking for more time, freedom, impact and income as an architect, get instant access to my free four-part architect profit map by visiting freearchitechtgift.com. Today's podcast is sponsored by AIA Advantage Partner BQE Software, the makers of ArchiOffice. ArchiOffice is the only office and project management software designed specifically for architects. It helps you manage people and projects while you focus on designing great architecture.

Whether you are working remotely or on-site, ArchiOffice allows you to monitor the status of your projects and tasks and send out invoices in an accurate and timely manner. Get your fully functional 15-day trial of ArchiOffice by going to businessofarchitecure.com/demo. The views expressed on this show by my guests do not represent those of the host and I make no representation, promise, guaranty, pledge, warranty, contract, bond or commitment, except to help you conquer the world.


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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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