How To Get To The Business of Your Business
In a recent conversation with a professional colleague who is a small firm practitioner (3 people total), he expressed his frustration with not being able to get to the ‘business of his business’. The demands of clients and project activities, plus other daily priorities leaves precious little time to do what he realizes is necessary to sustain his firm financially, from a management perspective.
This young architect loves to spend the time required to develop the design excellence of his firm and all that entails on a project-by-project basis each and every day. After much thought he came to understand that his love of design was not something that required him to ignore the non-design business aspects of his practice. On the contrary, he decided to embrace the challenge of taking on the time-consuming and complex issues of the management side of his business, as a ‘design project’. To that end, and since then, he has, in concert with another professional colleague, undertaken the creation and development of a project management system for his small firm. The ‘project’ is in its ‘beta’ testing stage at this time, in the anticipation of having it ready to ‘roll-out’ at the start of 2018.
I applaud this young architect’s commitment to his firm, his goals and his entrepreneurial spirit; Perhaps the three most important traits for any firm leader, regardless of the size of their firm.
Putting First Things First
In our conversation, it was clear to me that there is a sense of urgency to get things in place and operating, so as to take advantage of the strong (for now) marketplace opportunities. It is, for him, and I’m confident for others, a matter of setting priorities. As Stephen R. Covey said, “Put first things first”. One of the things he is aware of is the impact that poor business decisions and missed opportunities can have a huge impact on his small firm. Literally, he cannot afford such mistakes to occur.
Track Your Time
I believe I was able to demonstrate to him that the ‘first thing to put first’ would be to embrace a policy of discipline related to the tracking of time spent by him and his small staff. Clearly, this is one of the great advantages of a small firm; initiating new policy and implementing new paradigms to enhance the firm’s effectiveness and efficiency is far simpler and less costly than it would be for a larger firm.
Once the issue of a timely (twice-a-day) and accurate time sheet discipline is in place, the next step would be to grasp the importance of having the proper format for the firm’s accounting software, specifically the Chart of Accounts (CoA).
Establish a Proper Chart of Accounts
To assist my friend, I provided him with a copy of my ‘FM Cycle’ graphic and its brief supporting article. This material was previously published here on the EntreArchitect Blog (August 22, 2017) and it explains the reasons why the format of the CoA is so essential and impactful on a firm’s level of profitability.
With his newfound concept of business as a design project, my friend is learning to balance his schedule and focus not only on activities IN his business, but equally ON his business. Over time, he is confident the firm’s financial stability will be enhanced, as profitability increases.
All of this comes down to two things, awareness and a choice.
Design professional firm leaders must become more sensitive and aware of their firm’s financial status and choosing to do whatever is takes to find the balance and education needed to not only do well, but to exceed the ‘norms’ of our profession’s success rate.
Question: Are you ready to put “First Things First” and embrace a challenge that will alter the course of your professional career?
If so, then I invite you to accept that you must begin to uncover and learn “what you don’t know that you don’t know, the knowing of which will alter your life.” (Werner Hans Erhard).
I can be contacted through my LinkedIn profile, my website, my email, or my mobile number below.
Steve L. Wintner, AIA, Emeritus, a licensed architect), retired (1968-1985). Over the course of his 60-year career, Steve served as the managing principal of a small firm partnership and later as the VP/Director of Operations for two of the largest architectural firms in the country, at that time. Retiring from active practice in 1985, Steve started his second career as a management consultant, with a commitment to make a difference in the professional design industry by assisting other design professionals achieve their goals through his body of knowledge and experience as a managing architect.
Steve’s commitment to the profession has lead to developing a series of professional development workshops which have been presented to national, state and local AIA components, and individual professional design firms, since 1993. His financial management workshop, titled, ‘The Path to Profitability’ became the basis of the book he co-authored with Michael Tardif, Assoc. AIA, Financial Management for Design Professionals: The Path to Profitability. The second printing of the expanded book will be self-published in 2017, as an e-book, or as a hard copy, on request.
Main Photo Credit: Shutterstock / bleakstar