You’re talented, you’re in demand, and your reputation is growing. Unfortunately, your incredible design talents don’t necessarily mean you’re also a pro at running a successful and sustainable architecture practice as it starts to expand.
Juggling the management of a busy practice as well as projects and clients can lead to a few common mistakes that may start to have a big impact on the success of your firm.
Here are 6 common pitfalls in practice management and how you can easily avoid them:
1. “Our great design reputation is enough”
Yes, the reputation of your design talents will go a long way in positioning your practice as a market leader. But being an awesome architect is one thing, and being a savvy business owner is another. If you can’t effectively manage the process for your clients, staff and contractors, then you’ll end up being known as a total nightmare to work with!
When pitching for work, don’t forget to also highlight your process, methodology and timeframes so your clients can see that you’re well-prepared to take on their project from an organisation perspective, as well as a skills perspective. If you think your organisation skills are lacking, then point number two is just what you need...
2. “We don’t have a job management system for our architecture practice”
Before your business starts to grow, you should seek out a system that will allow you to scale as required. A job management system for your practice will ensure you and your team can manage the daily tasks involved in projects with more ease, accuracy and efficiency - things like managing leads, quoting, time tracking and invoicing.
Remember, this doesn’t have to be an expensive custom-built software solution. Cloud-based software such as WorkflowMax allows you to manage all these critical tasks in one integrated system - the best part is that you can also access it from anywhere you have an internet connection, so no matter where you’re working you can keep up to date with who is doing what.
3. “We just use spreadsheets for everything”
Spreadsheets might have been fine when it was just you in the business, but as you grow and your need for accurate data grows with it, then your time-consuming spreadsheet system isn’t going to cut it.
Collecting and analysing data is critical to the success of your practice. Job management software like WorkflowMax makes this easy through the creation of customised reports. Reporting allows you to instantly collate data on whatever it is that is most important to your business - for example, who and what is the most profitable for your practice, where you may have some inefficiencies, whether you need to adapt your pricing structure or whether your quotes are still on point.
4. “Our document filing system works fine for us”
Are you sure about that? How often have you questioned whether you are working on the latest version of a document? How much time do you spend searching through email attachments? Or what if your colleague is away and you can’t access a document saved on their computer?
Using a cloud-based document management system like Dropbox, Google Drive or Box gives everyone access to the latest version of a document. It also means you’ll never have to worry about lost or damaged documents due to unforeseen disasters or technology mishaps.
5. “We don’t have a CRM system”
As your practice grows, and you’re no longer across all aspects of every project, you can’t expect that you’re also going to keep track of all client details in the same way you used to, no matter how good you think your memory is.
Integrating a CRM (customer relationship management) system with your job management software allows you to instantly recall essential client and project information. You can customise the fields to enter any information that is relevant to your business. A CRM system helps you deliver consistent and more personalised service to your customers, as well as nurture leads and maintain professional relationships.
6. “We don’t track project progress”
Architects will generally provide a quote when pitching for a project. But what are you basing that number on? By tracking how much time you are spending on particular tasks, you’ll be able to provide much more accurate quotes to your clients going forward. You’ll also be able to monitor where you’re at with a project in relation to the client’s budget, so you can ensure you’re not going to overshoot your target, and advise your client that some more time or resources might be required.
These are six changes you can make in your practice that will reap rewards for your firm now and well into the future! What other important management lessons would you share with other architecture firms?