The European Holiday Shut Down
Every summer, much of the European continent takes holiday at the same time. During the month of August, the city streets empty and the summer resorts fill up. Many architects have experienced the result of this shut down when ordering products or materials from European suppliers. If you order tile from France in July, don’t expect delivery until September or October. They’ll be, unapologetically, on a beach somewhere during the month of August.
For years, this inconvenience was very frustrating for me. My work needed to continue and I needed to get things done. Waiting an extra 30 days was unacceptable.
Then, one summer, sitting in my quiet studio waiting for the phone to ring, it dawned on me. Rather than fight our way through the hot, steamy summer slow down every year, I thought, “Why not join them and schedule our own summer shut down?”
The United States Slows Down Too
Most firms, here in the United States, experience a slow down at the same time every summer. Clients are focused on their own personal schedules and are away on their own vacations. The phones stop ringing and fresh prospects cease to inquire about new projects. Whether its official like our European friends or not, much of the United States slows down, or completely shuts down, for a period during the summer each year.
For many of us small firm architects, this sounds a bit scary. How can we just shut down? How can we close the doors, shut down our projects, disconnect email for more than a day or two?
If scheduled well in advance, communicated well throughout our our firms and project teams, and expectations are well managed before, during and after, shutting down for a week or two is not impossible. It’s not only possible. It may benefit you, your team and your business in many unexpected ways.
This year, my firm Fivecat Studio will completely shut down for two weeks during August. No marketing. No social media. No email. No communication. Completely shut down. Below are 5 steps that will allow us to enjoy an annual summer shut down at our architecture firm.
5 Steps to a Summer Shut Down at an Architecture Firm
1. Add “Shut Down” Dates to Your Calendar
What gets done, gets scheduled. The first step in accomplishing any goal is to add it to the schedule on your calendar. Shutting down takes time to prepare and manage expectations well before the shut down begins. If you want to add a shut down for next August, now is the time to do it. Pick a period of time and block out that time on your calendar.
2. Develop a Process to Communicate Your Schedule
In order to successfully shut down, you need to communicate your schedule to everyone affected by your firm’s absence. Your clients need to know. Your staff needs to know. Your contractors need to know. Prepare a plan for how you will communicate the details about your shut down. When and to whom will that information will be transmitted? Inform clients during your on-boarding process. Remind them well in advance by email and postal mail. This is information that must not ever be mis-communicated. Mail printed post cards with the dates clearly posted and a method for which they can contact you in the case of an emergency.
3. Automate your Systems
Just because you shut down, does not mean that you are willing to leave project management to others or miss opportunities for new work. Develop systems that automate your project management and new project inquiry processes. Custom autoresponder emails and voice mail messages directing contacts to custom landing pages on your website will begin a process automatically, allowing you to spend your time away without the fear of missing out.
4. Establish An Emergency Communication Procedure
Provide a method of contacting you, or a member of your team, in the case of an emergency. If something goes wrong and you need to know about it… you WANT to know about it. A crisis will very quickly escalate into a full scale catastrophe if not managed, so providing a process of contacting you is critical. Clearly define the term “emergency”. When is it appropriate to interrupt your shut down and when is it not? When boundaries are clearly set, most clients and contractors will respect your privacy. Providing a dedicated “emergency” email address or voicemail number will allow you to filter calls and prepare before calling them back.
5. Just Do It
As with most big changes, the toughest step is the step forward. If you want to make this happen, the only way a “shut down” will work is to try it. Decide to make it happen, take the steps above and next August you will find yourself on a beach or floating on a lake during a time when, in the past, you sat in your dark studio waiting for the rest of the world to return from their vacations.
Question: Do you schedule a summer “shut down”? If so, what is the number one benefit from doing so?
The #ArchiTalks Blog Series
This post is my contribution to an international blog series called #ArchiTalks. Each month, dozens of architect bloggers publish a post on a specific topic simultaneously on the same date. Search the hashtag #ArchiTalks on Facebook and Twitter to find links to all the past #ArchiTalks articles.
Scroll down for links to posts written by all of my #ArchiTalks friends on this month’s subject, “Summer”.
Bob Borson – Life of an Architect (@bobborson)
Summer is for the Young at Heart
Marica McKeel – Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
Summer : A Review
Lee Calisti, AIA – Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
summer working, had me a blast
Lora Teagarden – L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
Seasons of Summer
Evan Troxel – Archispeak Podcast / TRXL (@etroxel)
Eric T. Faulkner – Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
Summer — Architecture Imagery
Michele Grace Hottel – Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
#Architalks 20 “summer” and architecture
Stephen Ramos – BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
4 Secrets To Getting The Most Out Of Your Summer Internship
Brian Paletz – The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
Michael LaValley – Evolving Architect (@archivalley)
An Acrophobic Architect’s Illuminating Summer of Roofs
Sharon George – Architecture By George (@sharonraigeorge)
Glass in Architecture – Summer Wonders
Brinn Miracle – Architangent (@architangent)
4 Reasons Solar Power is a Hot Topic
Jarod Hall – di’velept (@divelept)
… and the livin’s easy
Samantha Raburn – The Aspiring Architect (@TheAspiringArch)
An Architectural Spark for your Summer
Kyu Young Kim – Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
Summer in Seoul
Keith Palma – Architect’s Trace (@cogitatedesign)
Adam Denais – Defragging Architecture (@DefragArch)
5 Things to Make the Most of Your Summer
Jim Mehaffey – Yeoman Architect (@jamesmehaffey)
An Architect Summer
Jes Stafford – MODwelling (@modarchitect)
The Dog Days of Summer
Photo Credit: Shutterstock/Antonio Guillem