Seriously: it’s business time
My blog introduced the #savvyarchitect campaign.
Part 1 highlighted some the difficulties that architects have with ‘doing business’.
Part 2 presented some evidence to back up those observations.
They were written to ruffle a few feathers, and indeed they have done. Reassuringly, they have also attracted support. Discussions on various LinkedIn groups are generating fair numbers of comments and likes.
But as RIBA Ambassador for Business Skills, I have to be honest: it’s nowhere near enough. It’s barely a ripple on the surface of an ocean of indifference. In fact, it is symptomatic of the low priority we give to business skills generally.
Okay, we’re busy people doing what we enjoy, often working long hours in stressed conditions, and it is natural that this should occupy most of our attention.
But the depth and breadth of our indifference to business is striking.
Two RIBA-organised business skills conferences in Manchester and Liverpool have just been cancelled due to lack of interest. I’m not sure how many attendees they needed, but it can’t have been many.
The latest RIBA Business Benchmarking Survey reveals that 67 % of all practices don’t have a business plan beyond one year, and a third don’t set any kind of a budget. There has been growth in revenue, but almost all of it has been in practices with 50+ employees (a tiny minority of practices), and yet their profits have dipped – for the fourth year running, suggesting that they are buying work.
The inaugural RIBA Working With Architects survey – essentially a client satisfaction survey – shows that 56 % of clients are either very or fairly dissatisfied with their architects’ commercial understanding. Overall, clients are much less satisfied with our process management skills than our technical design abilities.
Don’t misunderstand me. I love our profession and our work is not just valuable to clients, but important for society. But I worry that our disregard for business is dangerous. There are serious commercial threats out there. Maybe there was a time that we could rely on our professional status to guarantee work, but those days are long gone.
Clinging to the past by carping about protection of function or, as the AJ is now doing, campaigning for a retrograde return to fee scales is to miss the point. We need to take control of our own financial wellbeing by being properly commercially competitive. We need to scope the future, adapt, and be ready for inevitable change.
So come on: join my campaign to realize your worth.
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