A Culture at Your Architecture Firm Will Make or Break Your Firm
As your small firm grows beyond its infancy of the sole practitioner and you develop a strong team, the culture of your firm will evolve. The different personalities and experiences brought to your firm will mix and a firm culture will develop; with or without your guidance.
You are a busy architect seeking your next contract and working hard to complete the current projects on the boards. You just need to get the work done. You may be thinking, “I don’t have time to worry about such ‘fluffy’ thoughts such as culture.”
Culture is Critical
Your firm’s culture and how you manage it is critical to the success of your firm. It will make or break your firm as you grow.
Left unchecked, you may be lucky and a strong, positive culture may develop. If not, you may find yourself fighting a daily battle to hold your firm together, managing the negative effects of a corrosive culture, struggling to keep it from seriously harming your operational and financial status.
What is Culture?
Let’s start with a definition. What are we talking about here? What is firm culture?
A firm culture refers to the beliefs and behaviors that determine how your team interacts and how they handle transactions, inside and outside your studio environment.
What do you want your firm’s culture to look like? How do you want your team to act? How do they make decisions? How do they treat your clients? How do they treat one another? How do they interact with leadership? How does leadership interact with them?
These are all questions that are significantly determined by your firm’s culture.
Communication is Key
A strong culture starts with clear communication. When we developed the business plan for my small firm, Fivecat Studio, Annmarie (my wife and architect business partner) and I included a section that helped us guide the culture within our firm.
Our Culture Statement was a way for us to define the culture we desired for our firm. It helped us solidify the ideas in our own minds and communicate the values on which we wanted to focus to our team.
Here is what we wrote:
Fivecat Studio’s Foundation of Values
Kindness: Be nice…even when others are not.
Honesty: Always tell the truth and communicate with clarity.
Integrity: Say what you mean. Do what you promise, when you promise, every time.
Respect: Treat all people as you would want to be treated.
Confidence: Know your subject. Speak and act with confidence.
Knowledge: Learn something new every day, and then teach it someone else.
Family: Keep you priorities in focus.
Innovation: Constantly look for the better way.
Creativity: Think out of the box.
When we developed this statement our firm was more than six years old. A culture already existed. Luckily it was a healthy one.
As our firm grew and we become more intentional with managing and planning our success, we understood that the culture of our firm would be as much of a factor to our success as anything else. Clear communication through a Culture Statement provided the foundation on which to build a healthy environment of collaboration and success.
Question: Does your business plan include a Culture Statement?
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