Tags: architecture firmroadmapstrategic planning
Episode 061

Do You Have a Roadmap? Creating a Strategic Plan For Your Architecture Firm with Ray Kogan

Enoch SearsJun 6, 2014

Today we talk with architect, strategist, and author Ray Kogan about what goes in to developing an effective strategic plan, where firms fail in the planning process, and why it's important to start thinking about your firm's roadmap to success.

Ray Kogan is the President of Kogan & Company. His company specializes in helping design firms develop business strategies and improve firm management. He co-authored the book “Strategic Planning for Design Firms” and the section about strategic planning in the “Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice” with his partner Cara Bobchek.

Ray has helped more than a hundred design firms in developing their strategic plans, and has presented numerous seminars on strategic planning, management, and leadership development in many cities across the country.

Here's what we discuss in this interview:

  • How to identify and reach out to your target market
  • The number one reason why architects lose their focus
  • Strategic diversification: having more than one basket for your eggs
  • Choosing markets that you enjoy working in
  • Identifying your firm's strengths and weaknesses
  • Why engineers run a better business
  • What's holding you back? Get rid of the architect's baggage.
  • Architects as thought leaders
  • Show and tell: Using evidence-based design
  • To know more about how Ray can help you develop a strategic plan, visit Kogan & Company's website
  • Ray Kogan's and Cara Bobcheck's book: Strategic Planning for Design Firms

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Interview Transcript and Members Only Resources:

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Enoch: Hello and Welcome back, Architect Nation. This is the Business of Architecture show where we talk about running a fun, profitable, and enjoyable business as architects.

Now, today’s show is sponsored by the Business of Architecture Conference which is going to have everything you ever wanted to know about starting an architecture firm, about running a successful and fun firm, architect as developer – bringing on lots of great and wonderful speakers to that. Look for information about that in early October.

Today we’re joined by Ray Kogan, President of Kogan and Company. He specializes in strategic planning for architecture engineering firms. Ray also co-authored the book “Strategic Planning for Design Firms.”

Today, as we’ve talked about in the past with some other guests, we’re going to talk about strategic planning for architecture firms and why this is so important.

So, first of all, Ray, welcome to the show.

Ray: Thank you very much.

Enoch: Ray, glad to have you on here.

This is a topic that’s very near and dear to my heart because when I think about strategic planning for architecture firms, I think about a road map. A quote from Alice in Wonderland always comes to mind where she’s talking to the Cheshire Cat.

Ray: It’s amusing to hear you say that, Enoch, because, first of all, the road map metaphor is a very common and very popular one that people use when they talk about strategic planning. I think it’s a very apt metaphor too.

In the latest issue of AIA and Wiley’s “Architect’s Handbook of Professional Practice,” the one that was just published, my business partner and I wrote the section on strategic planning. We happen to have selected that exact, same Alice in Wonderland quote to insert in to that chapter of the handbook. So, yes, people use it a lot.

Enoch: Please tell me, for the record, the name of your partner so we could give credit.

Ray: Absolutely. My partner is Cara Bobcheck. She and I have been working together since the mid-1980s.

Enoch: So, in terms of strategic planning, I remember when I started researching way back in the day when I started getting more interested in the business of architecture, I remember a quote or something by Glen Murcutt where he said that the kind of jobs that we accept today will be the kind of jobs that we accept tomorrow.

It’s always been difficult. As a solo architect or a small practitioner, specially when in the start up phase when every job counts to try to figure out what, where do we go with that? Do we accept a job just for the money? How does the strategy work in to it? What’s the importance of having a strategic plan in terms of getting to where we want to be? What are your thoughts on that?

Ray: Well, almost every strategic plan that I worked on contains addressing markets and marketing specifically to what I call “target markets.”

I think one of the forces working against architects is desperation. It’s the feeling that “If I don’t take this job, I’m going to starve.” It’s specially acute for solo-practitioners or small firms, but it’s true even for larger firms. Larger firms are losing their focus, losing their way, veering off the roadmap, if you will, and taking anything they could get.

Over the twenty years that I’ve been doing this, I’ve come to believe strongly in the power of focus – determining your best target markets, a good, healthy, strategic diversification, which means, inherently saying “no” as well as saying “yes.” I think that’s vitally important for firms.

Enoch: Ray, I’ve heard through the grapevine, and I don’t have any specific examples, but in terms of accepting some projects and not accepting others, that there are some high-design firms out there that publicize these projects that they want to publicize, but then, on the back end, they have other projects that bring in their bread and butter that just, kind of, pay the bills and allow them to pursue the design work.

Ray: Yes.

Enoch: Is that something that firms do that you’ve seen?

Ray: I’ve seen that happen on occasion. In fact, I’m reminded of a firm that I’ve worked with many years ago in the Pacific Northwest that had exactly that kind of a situation.

They prided themselves on high design and there was a contingent in the firm that only wanted to work on that. Then, there was another part of the firm, roughly half the firm, that did big box retail. They had one or two patron clients. It paid the bills, it was profitable. We and they used to joke that basically the money they made on the big box retail, they would lose on the high-design projects. So, they pretty much broke even.

The difficulty is running two different firms because, essentially, those are two different firms under one roof. The cultures are different, you can imagine, everything is different, the type of people you attract, the way you produce the work, the technologies you use, the type of sub-consultants you employ, every single thing is different.

The two don’t go along very well. It’s really, kind of, a schizophrenic way to run a firm. A person couldn’t do that and a firm really can’t. In fact, an unhappy ending, this firm wound up disintegrating. They literally imploded. They couldn’t get along. They had this oil and water culture and neither one would give way to the other, so they wound up literally going out of business. It’s a sad, sad story.

Enoch: What suggestion would you have for an alternate way? What would you suggest as a more positive way to approach that problem?

Ray: Oh, I’ve got all kinds of ideas for that.

First of all, as I mentioned before, focus is really, really important. If you think about why clients hire an architect – assuming the vast majority of people listening or watching these are architects – clients hire an architect because, in theory, the architect knows something more than the client does. I believe this is true for every scale of project. A residential home owner wanting to do an addition or renovation to their house or a new house thinks, “Well, the architect knows more about how to design a house than I do because I’m a lay person.”

I think it’s true for very sophisticated projects, healthcare projects, hospitals, acute care hospitals. Hospitals hire healthcare architects because, ostensibly, those architects know more about hospital design, and the latest trends, and the best technique for this, and construction, and all that that goes along with it than a hospital administrator or a group of doctors.

So, I think, inherent in that knowledge that architects should bring to their clients is a focus, and accumulation and building of specialized expertise in a project type, in a client type.

I once heard Art Gensler, the founder of Gensler, of course, say that the key is knowing more about a client’s business than they do. Now, I don’t think he meant that literally. I don’t think that architects who work on banks know more about banking than bankers do, but they know about how that translates in to banking facilities. So, I think that’s true for architects who work on schools, commercial buildings, office buildings, retail, maybe even residential too.

I’ll just go on with that. So, the idea, I think, for any architecture firm small, large, medium is to have, what I would call, strategic focus and strategic diversification. To me, that means not having all your eggs in one basket because one thing that any of us who have been in this business know is that we’re in a cyclical, even volatile business over the years. Too many eggs in one basket mean that basket goes up and down over time, and we’ve all experienced that for worse or for better.

But, if you choose several markets, several types of clients, several types of projects that are independently cyclical, that are driven by different factors, different forces so that, in theory, they won’t all be down at the same time, then you will have a better chance of having a stable, growing practice over time.

Enoch: Interesting. So, sort of a combination of the two in terms of not necessarily being a generalist, having a couple of specializations, but having specializations where the cyclical aspects, sort of, balance each other out.

Ray: Yes. Exactly that.

There are ways to get at, what I call, “target markets” should be. First of all, I think, if you’re an architect, you need to like it. You need to have, sorry for the cliché, a passion for it. There is no point in doing work that you don’t enjoy doing. You used the word “fun” in your introduction here, and I believe that that’s exactly what this should be.

So, healthcare architects better like working on hospitals, and feel like they’re doing good for the world, and enjoying what they do, otherwise, they shouldn’t be working on those kinds of projects; likewise for residential architects working with homeowners – same thing. Some of us may find that frustrating, others find it gratifying.

So, you need to pick several target markets, different types of clients, different types of projects that you really enjoy doing or that others who are in your practice enjoy doing. Assuming that practices aren’t necessarily solo practitioners and they have these different factors: economic factors, demographic factors, regulatory – all kinds of things drive markets up and down.

Enoch: So, is it fair to say that that would be the first step in developing a strategic plan or is there something before that?

Ray: Well, that’s not exactly a step in the planning process. What I would say is that identifying your target markets and strategizing what to do about them is an important component in any strategic plan. It’s not really part of the process.

Enoch: Ray, what should architects think about when they’re identifying a target market, in your experience?

Ray: You have to understand it. If you take Art Gensler’s advice even close to literally, you have to really know a lot about it. Now, you have to be able to demonstrate that to prospective clients so that they believe and have confidence in your ability to help them in that way.

So, there’s research to be done and there’s learning to be had. Putting yourself in the client’s shoes is vital to that.

Enoch: Have you seen any successful or strategies for being able to do that research, to put oneself in the client’s shoes? Do you have any suggestions for how to go about doing that?

Ray: I do. One suggestions is difficult to describe in this kind of venue here where we’re videoing to each other, so I may have to gesture with my hands a little bit.

So, sometimes when I work with clients in a retreat, in a workshop which is typically the culmination of the strategic planning process, I go through what I call a “market focused matrix.”

Imagine a tic-tac-toe board, a matrix with nine cells, 3×3. On one axis you estimate what the market demand will be in a given market over the next several years. Is it going to be a strong market for the next several years? Is it going to be a weak market? Is it somewhere in the middle?

Of course, it takes a little bit of knowledge to be able to do this. You have to be able to forecast, you have to know something about the market, but as best you can, you estimate that. That’s typically on the horizontal axis.

On the vertical axis, you look at your own firm, large, small, or in between, and as objectively as you can, you ask yourself, “Well, how competitive are we in that market today?” not “Can we do something in that market?” because all know that we, as architects, are trained from the beginning to design everything from a brochure cover to a high-rise building. How competitive are you? How easily could you win work in that market?

Are you strong? The top row might be strong. The bottom row might be, admittedly, we’re not strong in that market. There are other players that are better than us, that are more competitive than us. The middle is the middle.

If you look at that and if you make the assumption that the biggest bang for the buck, the best return on investment for marketing resources… Every firm has a finite amount of marketing resources you can devote to going out and getting work. The best return on that investment will be where two things intersect: (1) A healthy market for, at least, the next several years which gives you time to take advantage of it, and (2) we have a pretty good competitive position, and we already have a head start in that market. Well, those should be our target markets.

The opposite, a weak market for the next several years and one in which we already are not a very good, a strong player. Why would you want to invest anything in that? More to the point, why would you even say “yes” to an opportunity that came up? Architects always say, “Well what if one falls in to our lap?” “What if we just happen to get a job?” I would say, “Well, then you want to probably want to say no to those because there’s an opportunity cost doing a job where you’re a weak player.”

If it’s a bad market that means you’re probably not going to get much more of that kind of work, right? There isn’t much more to be had. You’re probably going to not make much money at it because it’s a relatively new project type, client type, or market for you. The ingredients are not positive, and it’s keeping you from going after and doing the type of work that will give you a better profitability, that will be more fun for you, and that will lead to a better practice. So, it’s all about focus and saying “no” is just as important as saying “yes.”

Enoch: Okay. So, Ray, I’d like to stop here and just go back a little bit. Tell me a little bit about yourself. What’s your background and what brought you to do the business consulting that you’re currently involved in?

Ray: Sure. Well, I am an architect. I have a degree from the Ohio State University. I grew up in Columbus, Ohio and practiced as an architect, intern architect, then later a project architect, and even a young project manager.

I’ve been registered since 1979 and an AIA member at that time. I was working for a fairly large firm. I moved to the Washington D.C. where I’m based now, and that firm had a marketing department – a whole marketing department. I, kind of, was intrigued by that and asked if I could try my hand at that. I liked it, and took to it, and did okay at it. That put me in closer touch with the management of the company. I was, even though not a partner, I was on “partner’s row.”

So, I did that for a while. I was involved in a number of industry groups, and was invited by a friend of mine at the time in her practice doing what I do right now: strategic planning for architecture and engineering firms. That was twenty years ago or a little more – 1993 – and I’ve been doing that ever since.
We had a our practice for about four years. Then, I joined a national practice ZweigWhite where I ran their strategic planning for about five years. I then started my own business about ten or eleven years ago.

Enoch: So, Ray, when you come in to work with a company, what’s the first step that you take?

Ray: Well, I have to know what’s going on in the company. Again, whatever the size of the firm, architecture or engineering – and there are great similarities between the two, at least, when it comes to strategic planning – I have to know what goes on in the firm; what works, what doesn’t works, what their aspirations are, so I always conduct interviews.

I meet the partners, the principals, whatever the people are called, key staff members, and I ask them open-ended questions. I want to really encouraging them to just take a big step back from the day to day crush of deadlines, and proposals, and RFIs, and problems in the field, and irate clients, and everything, and to take a broad look at their business, sort of the 30,000 ft. view. I ask them to tell me what they envisioned for the future of the firm, and what’s going to help it get there, and what’s going to stand in the way of it getting there.

From a group of interviews I can discern, I believe anyone can discern, what the themes are that bubble up to the top, the kinds of issues we need to address in the strategic plan. So, it’s important to document all that, to write it all down so it’s irrefutable, in black and white, and everybody can see what the collective thinking of the leadership of the firm is, again, whether that’s a small group or a large group.

So, the first step is figuring out what’s working in the firm, what’s not working in the firm, and what the aspirations, the vision, of the firm is, and putting that all in to writing so we can have a good starting point.

After that, I always conduct a retreat. I mentioned the retreat a few minutes ago. Whether you call it a retreat or a workshop, it’s getting the leadership of the firm together – sometimes the current leadership as well as future leadership, up and comers in the firm. We talk about the vision for the future of the firm: What does it want to be like in maybe five years or more?

We then identify the issues we need to address that otherwise could stand in the way and addressing those issues with strategies, with action items, so that we clear the path and allow the firm to proceed towards its vision unimpeded.

Then, of course, you have to implement the plan. You have to do what you said you’re going to do. This is the trickiest part because firms, I think, tend to over-plan and under-implement. You know, you spend a couple of days in a retreat dreaming up what the firm should be, and then you get back to the world and a lot of things intrude on the time. You have to be realistic about this. So, implementation is no mean feat, but there are ways to ensure that that happens better.

I also believe in sharing, communicating the plan with the entire staff of the firm. I think that’s crucial. Not to be melodramatic, but a lot of people’s livelihoods and careers depend on what the strategic plan for a firm is specially in a profession as difficult as architecture. To be really direct about it, these days with the economy warming up, all those employees have a lot more opportunity to go elsewhere. So, you want to keep those people in the fold. You want to make them feel like they’re part of the firm. You want to make them feel important, that their input is valued, their contributions are valued. So, more than ever, sharing the plan and making everyone aware of what the future of the firm is vital.

Enoch: Ray, at the beginning of this process when you’re going through the investigation and the research phase of talking to people, are there a couple of questions that you find are particularly important and particularly give you information? If so, what would those questions be?

Ray: Well, there are. In general, I always like to start out asking, what I said a moment ago, about the vision for the firm. So, I ask people, “So, if you project yourself, let’s just say five years” – it’s a convenient horizon. “If you project five years in to the future, what would you envision for the firm in any way at all you might want to describe the firm: the size of the firm, the markets it would serve – just like we were talking about a moment ago – geographic presence, the type of organization it might have, how it would deliver its projects, the technologies it might use, almost any dimension that would describe what the firm is going to be like in the future.

We’re not talking about a snapshot of what it is today, but what it can be, and more importantly, what you would want it to be out there five years. I say five years because, honestly, things change so rapidly. Looking out beyond five years, the crystal ball gets, kind of, murky, you know. It’s a little bit difficult to see.

Shorter than five years is not very visionary in my opinion. Time goes by pretty quickly. Three years? That’s not much of a vision. So, most people think five years is a comfortable thinking horizon. So, that’s the first question I ask.

Enoch: Ray, can I stop you there?

Ray: Oh, absolutely.

Enoch: As a follow up question to that.

Ray: Yes, please.

Enoch: When you ask that question, are people generally able to verbalize and give a good vision?

Ray: That’s a good question, Enoch. Typically, firm leaders, more senior people, people with more experience, are better suited to do that than more junior people. Sometimes when I work with smaller firms, they want me to talk with everybody in the firm. To be frank about it, people with not much experience under their belts have a little more difficulty thinking in to the future that far. They just don’t know that much. They haven’t been with other employers. They don’t have the basis, yes.

Enoch: Okay. Just another follow up question on that: What kind of things could people be thinking about in terms of the future, in terms of that five-year horizon? You mentioned the size of the firm…

Ray: The markets that they would want to be in, that the firm would want to be in. Geographically – where does it want to practice? In the case of larger firms, that geography question could even mean “Where would we have other offices potentially?”

What services does the firm want to provide? I mean, more and more architecture is being very broadly defined as really project delivery starting way before schematics and ending way after CDs and CA. Technologies – that’s hard to look in to the future as that changes specially fast. So, those are the kinds of attributes.

The way I like to think of a vision for the future of the firm is, kind of, like a jigsaw puzzle as low tech as that is. You know, when you dump a bunch of pieces out on a tabletop, you’ve got a bunch of little pieces, each one of which is a fragment of an image and doesn’t necessarily make sense by itself. But, when you put a bunch of those pieces together, you get a picture, a picture of the Grand Canyon, a palm tree in Hawaii, whatever it might be.

That’s the way I think of a vision for the future of the firm. It’s not a single statement. It’s not a mission statement. It has pieces that fit together that collectively describe what the firm is going to be like – bullet points if you want, it doesn’t really matter. The words are not that important, the content is what’s important.

So, when I work with firms to develop their vision, which is really the destination at the end of a roadmap. It’s that stake in the ground that you’re aiming toward. I think that that should be descriptive and multidimensional so that somebody who reads it, who might not have been in the planning retreat or workshop, would read it and understand it the same way you understand a picture of the palm tree or the Grand Canyon and say, “Yeah, that’s the kind of firm I’d like to work for. That’s the kind of firm that I want to be a part of.” That’s part of the idea of the vision.

Enoch: I interrupted you when you were talking about the questions…

Ray: Oh, yes.

Enoch: So that was the first question. Please continue.

Ray: Yeah, thank you. Typically, follow up questions would be pros and cons, if you will. Certainly, I want to know about the strengths of the firm, the kind of things that could help it reach its vision, the kinds of things you want to preserve and build around, and not change over time.

Every firm has its own unique strengths – the things that separate it from other firms. Then, of course, conversely, you want to know what the shortcomings, the weaknesses, the problems, and the challenges. There are many euphemisms for this.

What are the issues of the firm that, again, stand in the way of getting where we’re going? Too many firms trip over themselves. They have problems. Ours is not an easy profession, as I said, so the issues, the problems, can be vast and wide-ranging. They can have to do with leadership, with ownership, with marketing, with financial management, with accountability, human resources – almost anything.

In my experience, the “almost anything” almost always revolves around people. Rarely are the issues that would keep the firm from getting where it wants to go technology, hardware, or software. Those are too easily solved. Architecture firms aren’t in the business of manufacturing widgets. We are a people business. We employ people. Most issues in most firms tend to revolve around people – people either not doing what they’re supposed to do, or perhaps doing what they’re not supposed to do, and then that’s what makes this job interesting.

Enoch: One of the many things, right?

Ray: One of the many.

Enoch: Well, Ray, I guess, you have, sort of, this broad perspective, being able to work with a number of different architecture firms and even other industries like engineering.

Ray: Yes.

Enoch: I’d like to ask you, this is maybe going to be anathema here, what things could architects learn from engineering firms?

Ray: If you’ve ever looked at any industry surveys… There are companies like ZweigWhite, like my former employer, like PSMJ, both excellent companies, and one of the things those firms are good at is publishing industry surveys. They publish an annual financial performance survey, each of those companies does, where they show every single financial performance indicator you can imagine, including, of course, profitability.

So, you look at profitability of different types of firms. Universally, always, every time, engineering firms are more profitable than architecture firms. It’s easy for us architects to ask ourselves, “Well, why is that?” “What could we do to be as profitable as engineering firms?”

I think that in my experience, and I think, over the twenty years – the last time I’ve counted – I’ve worked with well over a hundred firms in strategic planning – architects do things. You know I’m an architect. I’ve been one for many years. I’m married to an architect, my best friends are architects, and you’re an architect.

Architects do things where we get in our own way. We carry around a lot of mental and emotional baggage related to design. We’re taught that from the first year of architecture school, of course, and engineers don’t necessarily look at the world that way. They don’t have that, if you will, baggage, to drag around with them. They do their job. They do it well, just as architects do, but it’s a little bit simpler, a little bit more linear.

I wouldn’t want engineers to be insulted by this, but I think it’s a plain fact that they run more profitable businesses because they are more business-like than architects. Architects are more concerned about image, certainly more concerned about design. That story I told you earlier about the firm in the Pacific Northwest is probably a pretty good illustration of that. They were making money on the less design-oriented work, and they were losing money on the more design-oriented work.

I have to say that that’s not always the case. There certainly are architecture firms that do excellent design, that are well-known for design, and that are highly profitable too, so the two are not mutually exclusive. It’s only that over an entire profession, and over an entire industry, architectural profits tend to be depressed, and I believe one of the reasons has to do with a concern over design, and image, and the inefficiencies that come with that.

Enoch: Well, how do you think an architecture firm might be able to remedy that without compromising the value of design or the importance of design? That’s the golden question.

Ray: That’s probably a topic for another one of these presentations, and another one of these interviews, and perhaps with somebody else.

I think that there are architecture firms that treat design efficiently and don’t necessarily belabor it or over-belabor it (if that’s even a word). I also think that it has something to do circling back to the focus on target markets and those areas where the firm has the greatest expertise. Typically, if an architect is asked to design something in a project type that they don’t have experience in, it will take them longer to do it than one in which they’ve worked before. They’ll be less efficient and arguably less effective in their design.

Sometimes the great value that architects can bring to their clients is this body of knowledge. A phrase that’s bandied about a lot today is “thought leadership.” Is the expertise that they have over and above other architecture firms and certainly over and above their clients? That allows them to do their design work efficiently, effectively, and if they’re up on the latest trends and what’s going on in the client’s industry, they can do it better and come up with a better product than other firms can.

So, I think that keeping that eye on the ball, maintaining that focus lends itself to greater efficiency, probably better quality design, and subsequent increased profitability.

Enoch: Ray, let’s take the example of a firm who wants to, let’s say a solo-practitioner or smaller firm, wants to get more in to the design-oriented side of things. For instance, what would you say to the architects who want to get away from clients that don’t really understand the value of design, clients that are price shopping, or clients that view architecture as a commodity, and get more in to the echelon of “Hey, we want to work with people that understand design,” “We want to work with people that allow us to be creative in our designs”?

Ray: It’s hard, Enoch. You know, the past five, six, seven years have not been kind to architecture firms. Clients have become accustomed, maybe even more accustomed than they were before, to being able to buy architectural services cheaply. There’s just no other way to say that.

I think even now, 2014, we’re still living with the hangover of that. The result has been what I would call a “commoditization” of architecture and engineering services. That means that many of those types of clients whom you just described have a difficult time distinguishing between firm A, firm B, and firm C other than on the basis of price. So, that’s the price shopping that you were just talking about. No architecture firm wants to work for that kind of a client. There are firms who do work for that kind of a client, nobody really wants to.

I think the answer to that is in what I was just describing: decide what target markets you want
to be in. There are even markets that you would think would lend themselves to commoditization in which there are clients who appreciate the greater value and the thought leadership that an architect brings because, in truth, in any project, the architectural fee is a relatively minor line item in a pro forma compared to the construction cost.

So, if architects can offer evidence, proof, if you will, that they know something that will save the client money, that will result in an improved building, that can save construction cost, that can save life cycle operating cost, that will benefit the client more than their fee and certainly more than the differential between their fee, and firm ABC, or firm XYZ, I think that’s a powerful argument. Too few architects go down that road and are willing to invest in that.

Enoch: I have a suspicion that a lot of architects would say that they understand that. They know how to deliver that kind of value. They can give those kinds of savings, but yet they might say that their clients don’t understand that. So, do you have suggestions for how to go about positioning themselves, to be in the position to where either they educate their clients or their clients come pre-educated with an understanding of what that architect brings to the table?

Ray: This is hard. So, there’s an emerging field called “evidence-based design.” It began in healthcare facilities, specifically hospitals, and now it is spreading to other project types, other building types.

When it began in healthcare, architects were able to prove that certain types of design, certain patient room design would lend themselves to shorter patient stays and faster recoveries; that certain designs of healthcare units with nursing and other patient rooms made for more efficient use of nursing and resulted in fewer nurse hours, which is a cost savings to the hospital.

That’s been done in correctional facilities too – not the part about the shorter stays, by the way, just the part about fewer hours and fewer labor hours to really monitor it. It’s been done in educational facilities with respect to educational classroom design, school room design, and school design.

So, clients are becoming slowly, but increasingly, more sensitized to the idea that architects who, to be direct, know what they’re talking about and have this thought leadership can benefit the client in ways far in excess of the architect’s fee, and, again, far in excess of the differential, the delta between this architect’s fee and that architect’s fee.

This is harder to do in, oh, let’s say, single-family residential when you’re working with custom homes or renovations for individual home owners. The evidence-based design, the proofs that I mentioned before are more difficult. But, in general, I think that the more experienced architect can demonstrate that, and will hit home, and be a bull’s eye with a client, the more likely the client is to be willing to pay the architect’s fee.

Enoch: Very well. Ray, in our next segment we will talk about you going over, sort of, a checklist to help our listeners go through their own, sort of, strategic planning process, is that something we can talk about in the next segment?

Ray: Sure, absolutely.

Enoch: Well, Ray, it’s been an excellent conversation so far. I look forward to speaking with you more about the strategic planning process, specifically some case studies and some examples of how we can apply this to our business.

Ray: Very good, Enoch. Thank you. Me too.

Enoch: Thank you.

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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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