Tags: businessstart a firm
Episode 045

Never Give Up! Lessons Learned Starting a Design Firm from Scratch with Cavin Costello

Enoch SearsFeb 2, 2014

In 2009, as a newly minted March graduate, Cavin Costello moved from the East Coast to Phoenix, Arizona with high hopes of finding his dream architecture job. Over the next 4 months, he sent out over 250 resumes and made hundreds of phone calls. His tale is an inspiring story of perseverance. Four years later he is a partner in his own design firm. Watch this episode to find out how he did it.

In this episode you'll learn:

  • The best way to find a job in a “down” economy
  • How a calculated risk in real estate had a big payoff for Cavin and his partner
  • The steps Cavin took to jump start his design firm
  • Connect with Cavin by visiting his website TheRanchMine.com.

This interview is on iTunes. Subscribe above, and be a hero! If you know another architect who would benefit from watching this video, share away using the social share buttons.

Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Enoch: Welcome back, Architect Nation. This is your host Enoch Bartlett Sears. Once again, you’re here on the Business of Architecture show where we talk about, yes you guessed it, the business side of Architecture.

Now, we always like to throw a little bit of design in there to keep our curative curiosity going. But, what we really try to focus on here is how you can have a great business, or if you’re not going to go in to business for yourself, how you can have a successful and fulfilling life as an architect, and not have money hold you back from achieving your true potential.

Today, I’m excited to have Cavin Costello on the program. In 2009, Cavin arrived in Arizona after graduating out east with a Master’s degree in Architecture. He had a suitcase and a whole lot of dreams.

Cavin, is that an adequate description?

Cavin: That’s perfect. Yeah it’s great.

Enoch: So, welcome to the show.

Cavin: Thanks for having me.

Enoch: So, tell me a little bit about your background. Tell us who you are, help us get to know you, how you got in to Architecture, and then tell us about that move when you came out east, and what prompted you to move to Arizona during the height of the great recession.

Cavin: Well, yeah. The job market wasn’t great anyway at that point. Yeah, a little bit about myself: I grew up in Connecticut, a town on the shoreline of Connecticut – Gilford. I went to school at Northeastern University in Boston. It’s co-op school which I thought would be a great school because you do at least roughly twenty-four months of full-time employment while you’re in school. So, I graduated there with an undergraduate of Bachelor of Science in Architecture, and went on to get my Master’s degree.

Between those two I took a summer trip almost around the world. I went to Texas, Denver, San Francisco, and Japan, and then back to Los Angeles, and Las Vegas. You would think of all of those places that Las Vegas would be the least interesting of them, but I was just fascinated with what was going on in the desert southwest.

So, after that trip I got really interested in the desert southwest. I had a professor who worked in Phoenix for a while, and I started to do some more research. I just found it to be a fascinating place and a place that I thought, maybe, I’ll move there and try to make a go at it.

Enoch: So, when you moved there did you have any job contacts or any prospects?

Cavin: I had a few recommendations from my professor who had worked here. He had a few contacts here, but I had reached out to all of them and none of them had any work. I decided to just, you know… I wouldn’t be able to get a job there while I was back in Boston, so I just decided to move out there anyway and try hitting the pavement.

Enoch: Alright. So, Cavin Costello is the chief designer of The Ranch Mine. In today’s episode, we’re going to talk about how he built a design practice from scratch.

This is going to be a great interview for those of you who are wondering how you can achieve your dream of being able to contribute positively by running your own business.

So, Cavin, you’re now in Arizona. Describe what that was like, that first month. Tell us a little bit too about the background. Did you have some money saved up? What kind of position were you in? Give us a good feel for where you’re starting from.

Cavin: Sure. I had some money saved up. I was fortunate enough to get academic scholarships for my undergraduate as well as my graduate degree, so I had very minimal loans. Because I was able to work for twenty-four months while I was in school full-time paid during 2006-2008 when stuff was good, I was able to save up some money and move out.

That first month was crazy. I have never been to Phoenix before. I drove from the East Coast to Phoenix and I just arrived – it was a different world out here than anything I knew. Nothing can really prepare you for that. You can look at a map, but it really doesn’t do the size or the scale of Phoenix justice.

So, the first month, I was just trying to get my bearings, really, find out where I was, what I was doing, and trying to get a job. I was applying to lots of places. First, I started off with contacts that I had from my previous professor. So, first, I reached out to them. When they had nothing, then I asked them for their contacts. I reached out to them and went from there. I ended up applying for roughly 250 jobs.

Enoch: In a time period of how long?

Cavin: Probably four to six months. So, it was just, you know, wake up, go to the computer, get the resume tailored to the firm I was looking at, and try to hand-deliver some stuff, but mostly looking online. I even expanded my search. I went down to Tucson, and I looked in Tucson as well thinking if I have to commute an hour and half, you know… Who knows?

There was no work. I ended up getting, I think, three to four interviews out of those 250 applications, and one part-time contract. So, I was able to work at a firm part-time for just one job that they had.

Enoch: Okay, Cavin, I want to go back for a second. Four months, applying for 250 jobs… First of all, I think, that’s interesting that you know that number, but maybe that says something about your personality.

Cavin: I have all the rejection [Inaudible 00:06:55] saved.

Enoch: Now, that’s what I was going to ask. I mean, how do you get up day after day, 250 rejections? How do you get up mentally, and go out there, and still want to get out of bed, still want to go and take a shower, still want to get on that computer and get told “No” again and again? How do you do that?

Cavin: Well, part of it for me, was, you know, I put myself out here. I moved away from my friends and family to go and do something for myself. So, that’s a sacrifice in its own. It was not only to prove something to myself, but also to my family and friends.

I didn’t want to put my tail between my legs and go back home after two months, and say, “Oh, I tried,” and move back in with the parents. So, really, that was a huge motivation for me. It was just keep going, and I really didn’t think that there was any other option. I had to get a job. So, that’s really what inspired me every day to just keep doing it.

Enoch: So, it was a dogged determination, persistence, not wanting to give up, and just not wanting to be defeated.

Cavin: Right, yeah. I mean, most of those 250, I would say, probably 225 to 240 were Architecture-based jobs. I applied to some construction type jobs. Didn’t have any experience in that, but I thought I’d try that.

In high school I was a bank teller, and then I tried applying to some banks to just get a job to carry me over, but I don’t speak Spanish. In Phoenix you need to pretty much speak Spanish as well to be in the service industry. So, it was kind of funny. I couldn’t even get an interview to be… Once I tried to be a pizza delivery guy.

Enoch: Wait. With a Master’s of Architecture?

Cavin: Yes. So, I tried to get a job in the pizza delivery service. I was asked, “Do you have any experience delivering pizzas?” which I did not.

It’s kind of tough that, I think, a lot of people were deterred by the higher level of education thinking that I would just leave when I got something better, which would have been true. It actually made it more difficult to get a service level job as well. So, it became very difficult, yeah.

Enoch: Wow, very interesting. I know it takes a lot of will power to be able to take that kind of rejection and to be in that situation, but we all experienced them. I have a buddy who was from an Ivy League school. In his desperation, he tried for a job at Wal-Mart, and he could not get a job at Wal-Mart.

Cavin: I’m not surprised.

Enoch: We just laughed.

Cavin: Yeah.

Enoch: This is really a good place to stop for a second and say, Cavin, I bet you are an ace interviewer, and I bet you know how to craft a mean resume, and I know you know how to look for a job. So, let’s take a little brief segment here and let’s talk about, for students who are in school who are listening to this episode today, what advice can you give them for finding not only a good job, but a job that plays in to their long-term goals and how to go about interviewing?

Cavin: Well, it’s almost impossible, I think, to get a job in a tight market if you don’t know someone in the industry or know a person who knows someone in the industry. So, my first advice would be to get involved in community-based things where architects go to socialize, and just meet them in just a very informal basis.

We get resumes now. It’s very difficult to get a random resume, and you know nothing about the person, and you’re comparing it against someone else’s. To me, you know, when you’re busy, it just looks like a word document with everyone having roughly the same resume, and the same stats, and all that kind of stuff. So, it’s very hard to differentiate between people.

I really appreciated, I know, now when people come up to me, and introduce themselves and talk a little bit. You find out more about the person. When you have a personal connection, I think that immediately puts you in the forefront and then say, “Oh, I sent my resume,” then you’re in that person’s head. So, I’d say that would be the first thing.

Then, the second thing is to make sure that it’s tailored specific to who you’re applying to – the firm. There’s nothing worse than getting just a standard, “Hello, Sir or Madam,” “I’d like to work for your firm” kind of thing. Make sure that you know something about the firm because, for me, it shows that they’ve taken the time to look at your work and they’re actually interested in helping your business.
The third thing would be saying, “This is why I would be valuable to you at your firm.”

Enoch: Okay, excellent. So, you landed a job. Tell me a little bit about that first job, and then bring us up to speed about the transition from working at that job to running your own firm.

Cavin: Sure. So, I landed a part-time job. It was really part-time to the point of where I would get a phone call, “Hey, can you come in today for four hours?” It’s almost an on-call type of thing. It was a residential firm of, again, the connection that I had from my professor back in Boston, someone he went to school with a long time ago, and they needed a little help here and there.

So, I was able to go there and do some work. At that time, I was still applying to other jobs. I moved out here in May, and this was probably September or so at this point that I first started working there.

Enoch: Wow.

Cavin: It was about a month, I think, total that I worked there. So, I’ve got time.

I had met and was dating a friend who is now my fiancé. We met through a mutual friend. So, we started to look at houses as a potential for an investment. She was out of school, and had some money saved up, and wanted to move out of her parents’ house, and I had the skills necessary to look at houses and find out what would be valuable or be a good deal, that sort of stuff.

It was just one of those things where in Phoenix, at that time, you would just be driving down the street and half of the houses were being foreclosed on. There was a huge opportunity there with very little money to create an investment opportunity.

At that time, I knew my lease would be up in May the year after, and I thought if there’s a way that we can purchase the house, and work on it, and put some swart equity in to it that we could, you know, not have to pay rent or all those kind of stuff. So, at that time while I was working part time, we are also looking at houses as a potential for an investment.

Enoch: What I’m hearing from this right now is you’re doing this part-time job, you met your fiancé, and she had some money saved up. Give me an order of magnitude. I mean, how much money are we talking here?

Cavin: I think roughly $50,000.

Enoch: Then, out of your own pocket? Was that combined with yours?

Cavin: Probably, if we combined, $50,000 – $60,000.

Enoch: Okay. One of the challenges I see is the cash flow. So, you guys are in this process and you managed to acquire a property. How are you making money to live? What would you be thinking about that? Like in your head, “How are we going to make this work?”

Cavin: Well, one of the things is if we had done it over again, I probably would have thought about more issues that came up earlier and maybe not have done it.

We just knew that the houses were really inexpensive. Her father wanted to do some real estate investing. He was retired and wanted to do some real estate investing in that market. We knew that we potentially could get an investment from him, that we could keep some of the cash and be able to pay him back the loan that he would give to us to do it.

So, that was really sort of how we set it up. If we could get a loan for a certain amount of money from him, plus the cash, we should be able to do necessary things. The other aspect of it was there was a first time homebuyer’s tax credit at the time, which I believe was $8,000. We were also looking to get a roommate to pay rent to subsidize the loan, basically.

Enoch: Excellent. So, you mean you minimized your living expenses, and you had enough investor money that you lived off some of that money?

Cavin: We lived off our own money.

Enoch: Your own savings, okay.

Cavin: We used the investor money to purchase the property and pay him back.

Enoch: Got it. Makes sense. So, I know some people listening to this are going to be like, “Oh, another story about someone that had money. They had the rich father-in-law and that’s what contributed to their success,” but when I look at it, because I’m doing the interview here, I see that it doesn’t seem that easy. I mean, if I go to my father-in-law and I say, “Hey, can you spot me a $120,000?” I mean, how difficult was that to get your father-in-law on board and be able to have to make that loan? Tell me about that process a little bit.

Cavin: Yeah, it’s definitely not easy. I mean, we put in a lot of effort, and work, and stuff to getting it. It’s also difficult from my perspective too because at the time my future father-in-law – we’re not married yet, but in a few months – we haven’t been dating for that long, and he didn’t know, you know, “Is this an investment I can make?” So, it was really more of an investment in his daughter than myself. I was just, sort of, part of the process.

We, sort of, looked at it as a case study type of thing. The housing prices were so low that there was really a no-lose situation to at least break even. So, because the buy-in was so incredibly low, he didn’t see it, I don’t believe, as a risky investment, just sort of, “My daughter’s out of college. Loaned her money. I’m getting paid back on this monthly schedule, so I’m getting my money back” with, you know, a date kind of thing. So, it didn’t seem like that risky of an investment.

Enoch: Okay. You know, I looked at your designs and I could tell that you put some thought in to your design – you bring a high level of design. So, here you are, I’m guessing in Phoenix. As this is a foreclosure, it’s probably a typical suburban type home?

Cavin: Yeah, it was very small. It’s a 1,400sq.ft. house. It’s just a very simple, rectangular house.

Enoch: What year is it built?

Cavin: The neighborhood is actually a 1950’s neighborhood, which is when most houses in our area were built. This house actually burned down in early 1980’s and was rebuilt.

Enoch: Okay.

Cavin: So, all the other houses are block and ours is actually a 2×4 construction with trusses. That’s actually the reason we purchased it. Because of the trusses, we knew we could move stuff around without getting a structural engineer on the interior, and save some cost there, and less risk.

We wanted to be in an older neighborhood because it is closer to amenities as one of the things I did to help finance later on when we needed some cash flow was I sold my car and went to just using one car as well. We wanted to be in a neighborhood where we can walk to coffee shops, and that kind of things, so we could have our basic amenities and just share a car eventually.

Enoch: Okay. So, you have this 80’s style house. Talk to me about the process of the design decisions you made in terms of turning this thing in to something that would have added value because of the design?

Cavin: Well, the biggest thing that we did was… The previous owner had a carport that they had enclosed in to a single-car garage. The house was one of those houses where you just walk in, and all of the rooms are probably 10×10 – just really small rooms.

What we did was we moved the Master suite and one of the bedrooms in to what was the garage area. We enclosed the garage and basically there was no true Master suite at that point. There are two bathrooms, but they both opened to the hallway. So, we made a much larger Master suite and connected the bathroom to that to make a true Master suite. We got rid of one of the bedrooms and opened it up to create an open dining, living, and kitchen area.

A lot of it was, sort of, shifting the bedrooms down in this rectangular house, and then completely opening up the floor plan to make the most of… It’s a decent-sized lot, so it would be able to open up to the outside and that sort of thing. So, a lot of the value added was rearranging the floor plan to be a much more modern and open floor plan that’s a lot more marketable.

Before, there was fluorescent orange paint and lime green… There was just some weird stuff going on in the house. A lot of it was just peeling it back and cleaning it up.

Enoch: What did you learn from the cost of building materials and the finishes that you wanted? Did you do anything, kind of, original that you learned during that process about building?

Cavin: Yeah, it was a great learning process. I have never done any building before. I have been on construction sites, but I have rarely ever picked up a hammer. So, it was a lot of just learning as we go.

I did a floor plan, and we pretty much went after that. Everything after that was sketches and just doing it ourselves. So, we used a lot of, you know, going down to Home Depot and seeing what we could find that was interesting or unique and doing it in different ways.

In our bathroom we looked at all the wall sconces and they’re all relatively expensive, $200 or something. We found the exterior wall sconces for outdoors were like $10-$50 for roughly the same sort of look. So, we used exterior lights on the inside, things like that. Obviously, you know, a bathroom, if they can take exterior elements – small stuff like that.

We did Ikea cabinetry which we assembled all ourselves and sort of Ikea hacked certain things for counter tops as well as some other things. We tried to do as much as we can and evolve the designs around our limitations of building. Then, we brought in professionals for framing, and rough plumbing, and that sort of stuff.

Enoch: Okay, great. So, September you’re doing this part-time gig, when did you close on this house?

Cavin: Closed on the house in November.

Enoch: So, November. Then, kind of, give me the timeline from there in terms of your story.

Cavin: So, closed on the house in November, started demo pretty quickly. Then, we started working on it in January. I moved in in April when my lease was up. The house wasn’t finished yet. There were a few nights where the interior temperature was in the upper 90s and I was living in there, which was not comfortable.

So, I moved in and we just, sort of, finished stuff up while we’re living there. It’s still a work in progress, to be honest. We haven’t done our backyard or anything yet, but just kind of piece by piece things together. I’d say we were pretty much mostly done in June or July.

Then, we had a roommate who was my former roommate in Boston who moved out to go to graduate school at Arizona State and needed a place to live. He lived with us while he was going to school. He moved down August, and at that point we had a renter to help with the income.

Enoch: Perfect. So, we’re basically talking, you got there in May of the previous year, so we’re talking about a year. You’re in to 2010. So, you’re up in to, like you said, August in 2010.

Cavin: So, in August of 2010, at that point, I would say we finished up more in the summer and then he moved in in August.

Then, my partner’s, Claire’s, father was really impressed with what had been done. He was looking for more houses to do more investments and purchased a few houses in Tempe, neighboring Phoenix, to do some investment – some were just to rent out, and there were some that needed work.

So, we decided to do the second step of proving ourselves on that second project. We worked on that from August of that year till December. During this as well, I was still applying to some jobs, not as frequently, but I was still applying to jobs, but no luck.

In December, I reached out to the Arizona Public which is the newspaper here to try to get that new house published. They told me that they can’t publish houses that are for sale in their cool home section.

I sent a link to our website, which was just a free website that I created. The author said, “I really like the bathroom that you did in this other house,” which is our house, “and I’m writing an article on bathrooms. I’d love to use your bathroom in this piece.” That was really where I started to think, “Oh, this could be a business.”

Enoch: Excellent. So, that was the end of December 2010. So, we’re going in to January of 2011. You got an article or you got a mention in an article.

Cavin: Yes, we had an article the Arizona Republic. There’s a little snippet of it on the front page, and then it was the big photo on the Home and Real Estate section of the Arizona Republic.

Enoch: Give me an idea of the Arizona Republic. I mean, I don’t get that out here, so is that [Inaudible 00:26:20]

Cavin: It’s basically the New York Times or the Los Angeles Times of Phoenix.

Enoch: Okay, got it.

Cavin: It’s the newspaper.

Enoch: Got it. So, a lot of circulation and a lot of exposure in the local area.

Cavin: Yeah, probably a few million in the area of Greater Phoenix.

Enoch: Yeah.

Cavin: So, that was a really big deal. That was pretty funny. Claire had actually just gone to the Grand Canyon for a birthday trip. That was when it was published, and I started getting tons of phone calls the next day to where I didn’t even know what to do.

I didn’t have any contracts, didn’t have a system for setting up interviews, didn’t have a calendar. I didn’t have anything. I was just getting phone numbers and just jotting them down on post-its of, “We might want you to do a bathroom for us.”

Enoch: Okay. So, you’re getting phone calls, you’re writing things down on a list.

Cavin: Yeah.

Enoch: You have a notepad with some leads on it. Then, what did you do with those?

Cavin: On the phone, as much as I could, I tried to set up interviews with them on the phone. So, they called, and they… You know, bathrooms are pretty simple in scope. So, they would say, “I’m looking to do a bathroom,” and I said, “Yeah, I’d love to go and check it out and meet you.”

So, I think I set up, from just that article that week, about five interviews, and went to those. It started from there. Basically, I think we got three or four of those jobs. Claire came back and we had to really scramble, you know, create a contract, how much are we going to charge, what kind of payment schedule are we on. We didn’t have a bank account for the business yet. We’ve got to set that up.

It was a very fast process of trying to figure out all that stuff out as well as how we’re going to go… We have been doing, sort of, development-based projects, so how do we transfer to a client-based project?

Enoch: Okay. So, I’m going to zip ahead a little bit. Let’s compare just really quickly that sales process that you didn’t have at that time to your current. Do you have a systematized sales process now to when someone calls? Do you have these certain steps that you take them through? If so, what are they and how does that work?

Cavin: Yeah. So, Claire who’s the Chief Executive of our company, the phone calls go to her now, but most of our contacts are actually email-based. On our website we have a sort of fill-in-the blank contact form in which the client can just type in name, address, type of project, rough budget, they can upload photos. We get a nice email contact form that has everything laid out and saved now. So, that’s where most of our clients come from.

When we get a phone call we often them refer them to fill out that sheet because sometimes when you get a phone call, some people would be very chatty and it could turn in to a thirty-minute phone call about their backyard. So, we try to refer them to this contact form and then call them on our time.

Enoch: How are they finding the website?

Cavin: A bunch of different ways. We’ve been published in a bunch of stuff, so through that. We get a lot of hits from the website Houzz.com, Facebook, just mostly internet-based stuff that is how they find it.

Enoch: Have you paid for any special placement on Houzz or are you just using it organically right now?

Cavin: We’re just using it organically right now.

Enoch: Okay.

Cavin: We love Houzz because we think it’s one of the most democratic design sites in which homeowners like or add things in their idea book, which then pushes you up in the rankings, or you get reviews, and that pushes you up in the rankings as well as opposed to being in a mostly paid for site. So, we love Houzz, and we get a pretty good ranking on there, so we get a good amount of leads from that.

Enoch: Excellent. Okay. You get everything and you push them to your email forms so at least you kind of qualify them, and get this. Then, what’s the next step?

Cavin: Right. The next step is setting up an initial visit with them. So, once we have all that information, we like to look at where the project is, if it’s in a certain range. We don’t like to do projects that are, potentially, too far away that aren’t a significant project.

We look up the project and see if it’s roughly something that we would be interested in, then we give them a call, and then we set up an initial visit, which is when we both go to the site. We do charge a $50 consultation fee. That’s something that we added in after the first year of business because we found that we were going to a lot of these things where people were asking for tons of advice and then we never hear from them again. We started to think, you know, is this information being used just for the general contractor? Do we give away too much information?

So, we charge $50 for that first visit. If the client chooses to go with us, we credit that back to them. So, it could be a free consultation if you end up going with us, but it’s just to cover our time, and knowledge, and that sort of information.

So, we set up that initial visit, we go. It’s about 30mins, typically. We walk through the site, we meet them, and then we go back, and we write a proposal for them.

Enoch: Okay. So, you come back, you get the information. Is there any selling that’s going on during that process or is it just more of a consultation?

Cavin: It’s more of a consultation. I guess it’s hard to create a line between selling and a consultation.

Enoch: That’s what I was about to say. I mean, you, obviously, you are selling.

Cavin: Right. We’d like to get the job, so we are talking about what we would do with the space. But, we also have had jobs where we dissuaded people from going with us just because we thought that we might not be the right person for this job, or they might not need a designer, they might just need a general contractor.

Enoch: Okay. So, then you come back, you write a proposal. What’s the next step after that?

Cavin: Write a proposal. We email it to them. Usually, we hear back fairly quickly, and hopefully we sign a contract and get started. If we don’t hear back from them, we call them after a few days just to make sure that they have any questions or anything like that. Once we get the signed contact, we start living on the project.

Enoch: Okay. Do you track your close rate of how many people close on proposals? What is it, generally?

Cavin: We just finished up the 2013 stuff. In 2013, we’re about 80%.

Enoch: Okay, excellent. Alright, you’ve given us a good nutshell. You’ve brought us up to the beginning of… Now, you’re starting to have your design practice. You started from scratch, literally, and with a healthy dose of helping from other people, which I think is one of the key takeaways.

Just to end up this episode, Cavin, can you give me maybe one or two, or even three key takeaways from those early times or maybe things that you didn’t know? Things that you know now that if you’re sitting down with yourself three years or four years ago, what would you tell yourself?

Cavin: That’s a great question. I would say definitely try to be proactive in the organization of your business – creating those contracts, trying to come up with a pricing schedule, creating calendars, a professional email. Some things that are just very simple to do, but you don’t want to be reactive in that.

So, I would say, that would be number one. Even your project folders, having storage, if you’re working from home, which we do, having the correct storage and making sure everything is organized. So, I would say that would be number one.

Number two: don’t be afraid to put yourself out there. A lot of people think they say, “Oh, you know, you’re very fortunate to have a father-in-law who invested,” which we are. But, it wasn’t like one day he just offered us money. We had to put together a proposal, a plan, and put ourselves out there and assume that risk that if things have gone poorly, it could have been very bad for me in a personal and professional level.

So, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there if you believe in something. Sometimes, you just go and try things that you don’t know how to do it if you feel confident that you can learn things on the run.

To go along, also, with the second one, the way we were able to get published, don’t be afraid to put yourself out there to try to be marketed because I look at it as a sort of win-win type situation. They need stuff to write about and you want them to write about you. So, reach out to people who you think would be interested in what you’re doing, and try to help them with what they’re doing, and they’ll ultimately help you with what you’re doing.

Then, let’s see, number three… I don’t know…

Enoch: You’re talking to Cavin three years ago. This young, idealistic guy, what’s ahead of you?

Cavin: Things turned out pretty well. I wish I had saved up a little bit more money before we started. Things were very lean. I lived without health insurance for about four years. We had a very small budget, which is, again, another risk on a grander scale.

So, I think figuring out and having a little bit more saved up so you could get through some of the slower periods would be beneficial. Now, obviously, that’s harder said than done because if you can’t get a job, how do you save money? But, you know, those are all things that could be figured out.

Enoch: Yeah. Okay, great. So, I have three takeaways: Organize your systems early, business systems, don’t be afraid of the risks, put yourself out there, and have a good savings, have a good runway as much as you can.

Cavin: As much as you can, yeah.

Enoch: Yeah, okay.

Cavin: But, don’t feel like you need so much. Don’t to let the money hold you back from doing what you want as well. Don’t be too cautious with it or it’s always going to be an excuse not to do it.

Enoch: Excellent. So, basically, just go out there and do it.

Cavin: Right.

Enoch: Alright. That’s a wrap.


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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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