Note from the Author: Help me help other architects! This blog is an excerpt from the first draft of my book: Breaking the Box: Explode out of Architecture School to a Successful Career as an Architect. You can help by leaving a critique in the comment section below. And if you are just starting I suggest you check out the table of contents for an easy road map. Thx you rock! -Steve
Clients = You Have a Job
In case it was not already obvious, the existence of clients makes the field of architecture possible. Without clients, there is no work. See the Great Recession.
Architects often confuse our job as a product delivery business. They consider either the drawings or the finished building as the product. It is more accurate to say that Architects provide a service. Let me say that again: Architects Provide a Service. Unfortunately, too many architects cringe at the idea of being service providers. Those architects need to come down from their ivory towers and pull their heads out of their asses.
Delivering great client service is a key driver to the success of an architecture firm. A high level of service is what keeps client’s coming back again. Therefore, it is in your best interest as an architect to provide the best service you can to your clients. Here are the basics for providing great client service:
Listening is step one. Without this you are cooked. I devoted an entire chapter to listening so I will be brief here. You must listen to your client. This is how you will deliver great service and this is how you will develop great architecture. In addition to listening, you must:
Have you done what your client asked? If not, why? Being responsive to your client shows that you are listening, builds trust and strengthens the relationship.
Architect’s like to complain about clients. “This client takes too long to make decisions, this client has bad ideas, this client won’t stop haggling over their fees!” And on and on.
Architecture is one of the most expensive decisions a person will make. Wouldn’t you need some time? I spent 15 minutes trying to find the best value for argyle socks on Amazon the other day. Have a little patience.
Sometimes we assume that our clients have the same amount of knowledge about building and design as we do. Although there are clients with extreme levels of building experience, most our at the novice level. It is your duty to educate your clients and share your knowledge. Explain why you moved the lobby to the north side of the building. Explain the cost impacts of the pool on the roof. Don’t assume. Which leads me to my next point:
Be an Advisor
This is not your building. It is your client’s building. As an architect, you have a duty to advise your clients. Sometimes I envision myself as a waiter at a restaurant. A very nice expensive restaurant. I advise my clients on a menu of design options and let them decide what is best for their appetite. If they have made a poor choice, it is my job to advise them of the consequences. Be an advisor.
Client’s love to see options. And who can blame them? Providing options for certain aspects of design is a great service to your client and allows them to play a bigger role in the process. Often I will highlight the superior design and then share the process options that took me their.
Develop Thick Skin
Every once in a while you will be in a situation where a client is not on their best behavior. You are likely to face criticism as an architect and occasionally you will have a client that is a bona fide asshole. It is always important that you maintain professionalism and take the high road. Remember, at the end of the day this is just a business.
Hey man! Nobody is perfect! And your clients doesn’t expect you to be pefect. If you have made an error, own up to it. And do it quick. These types of things don’t age well.
Your clients ultimately want to work with people they like. After all, they are going to be spending a lot of time with you. Ask them about their kids, ask them to happy hour, crack a joke every now and then. The purpose is not to be phony but to be genuine and build a relationship.
Say Thank You
Perhaps the name of this book should be: “Dear Architects, Say Thank!” Say thank you when a potential client calls you about a new job. Say thank you when you get hired. Say thank you throughout the job and say thank you when the building opens. Being an architect is a gift and it is only possible because of clients.
Don’t be Afraid
When I was a young intern clients often intimidated me. Mainly because I felt like I did not know enough to even be in the room. I mostly stayed quiet because I was afraid I would say something stupid. Maybe I was right. Over time, I developed more and more confidence and now I really enjoy those client meetings. I am still afraid that I will say something stupid but I am willing to take the risk.
I would love to hear your thoughts about working with clients. Do you have any tips or stories that have helped your client relationships? If you are a client, what can we do to provide a better service?
Flip the page to: Chapter 26: Embrace Failure
I did it!!! Another chapter in the books!
Chapter 25 by the Numbers
· 880 words
· 4 – Translates into approximately 4 pages in book form.
· 1 – Blog Posts
· 2 – Hours to Write and Post on Blog
· 1 – Stretched over 1 calendar days.
· 4 – Average book pages written per day.
The Book by the Numbers
· 44,234 – Total Words
· 177 – Total Pages
· 62 – Total Blog Posts
· 220 – Goal for final page count.
· 160– Days Since Starting
· 1.1 – Average book pages written per day.
· 39 – Estimated days to completion of first draft. (220-177) / 1.1) = 39
· 22– Chapters down.
· 6 – Chapters to go.
· 0– New subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter
· 55 – Total subscribers to the Breaking the Box Email Newsletter
Welcome to BUILDINGS ARE COOL!
Hello, my name is Steve Ramos. This site is about what it's like to be a young architect in Charleston, South Carolina. In 10 years, I will write about what it is like to be a middle-age architect.
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