Practice Note 9: The Start-Up

— 3 minute read

When you start up an architectural practice there are lots of tings to think about. Money is usually pretty high on the list. Going back to my first start up in partnership (Douglas & King Architects), we did something which seemed natural to us at the time but was actually pretty special as it turns out. We devised a good plan to help us get started and keep our finances working positively right from the start. It went like this:

I left my day job at a large practice and started working on one of a small number of small projects we had been offered at the time. My partner slowly scaled down his time at his larger practice day job and at the same time we gradually scaled up his time working for our own venture. All the time during this transition period we split the earnings from both sources of income 50/50. Within a few months we had set up a fully-fledged practice. We hadn’t needed to borrow any money to do it and had both retained a reasonable monthly income during the transition. This meant a lot to us at the time.

But however you get over the bump that is the start up period, there is one thing that is worth doing while you are setting up: Read all the manuals – and try to do what they say. Really. Here’s why: It’s not that difficult to truck along happily in the middle ground in most aspects of small architecture practice life. But to give yourself a chance to work on the architecture that interests you needs insight into the process of practice management and the “how to” books help with that. Get structures in place to sort out the so-called boring office stuff. This helps to give you the space and confidence to do the work you want to do.

Along with all the good advice that comes in the manuals, the best bit of advice I have had – and the hardest piece of advice to stick to was this: Don’t take on work you don’t want to do. First time around me and my then-partner looked at each other when we heard this and both thought – sounds nice but who pays the mortgage? However, the day you start taking work on just because it’s there is not that long before the day when you start asking yourself why not go back and work for a big company where they build nice big buildings with lots of room for architectural ideas and pay you well for your services. So the lesson is be disciplined and just say no to the stuff that doesn’t fit to your plan.