As a sole practitioner architect, used to working alone, with complete control of every aspect of your business, the idea of becoming something bigger can be terrifying. You tell yourself you’re happy playing it small, keeping it safe. No one does architecture for the money, right?!
That was my mindset for many years, no ambition to be more than just me, until I began to understand that scaling and growing are not the same thing. Scaling is about serving more clients, earning more money, but without having to necessarily become the big machine. Here’s three ways to scale without growing:
It’s all about efficiency. No doubt you have templates, for everything, if not then why not? This will save you hours of your life, don’t do anything twice. I worked from the outset on the basis of every task being templated, and if the template doesn’t fit, update that so that next time its right.
Drawings, written documents were a given, but then when I was introduced to systems, to my CRM (Customer Relationship Manager) I met the concept of “canned emails”, mind blown. I could deal with enquiries more quickly and efficiently to save them languishing in my inbox for months at a time. I could, with a Workflow, send a questionnaire, arrange a meeting and send a proposal with a few clicks of the mouse. All this without needing anyone to help me, my system was my new assistant.
With the use of canned emails and workflows, you can write around 50% of the generic project correspondence ahead of time, making you come across as super organised and you can still sound like yourself. Never forgetting to send an agenda, or to overlook a particular requirement I was pinging out emails with precision and ease. “Let’s have a meeting…”, “here’s the agenda…”, “your application was submitted…”
Systems, if designed and set up well can save you an incredible amount of time, and in doing so you have this time free to serve more clients. To scale your business, without growing.
Systems can only get you so far. When it’s the work you produce that earns the fees, you will eventually hit up against the same barrier, you need more hours in the day. Hiring people to overcome this can be another terrifying prospect, how will you retain control? One of the reasons you like working alone is because you’re a control freak, right?
Becoming an employer doesn’t have to be the answer to this problem, for some it’s the best way forward, for others not always. Think about how you can build a team. Are there collaborations you can set up to work together when things are busy, but can let go when things are not?
Liabilities need to be clear for all parties, but collaborations can work well and offer more flexibility, so that you can retain your sole practitioner lifestyle and for the business, complete control. Take a chance, reach out to someone, they can always say no and what’s better, they might say yes!
You can be the best architect in the world but you won’t scale your business without focus. Here’s three habits can help to get things done:
- Plan less, achieve more
If you could only plan 5 tasks for the week, what would they be? Try it, pick out your 5 priorities and focus on one each day. When you’ve achieved it, you can move onto the bits and pieces, but do the most important task first each day. I use a Productivity Planner to help me plan and hold me accountable. Is it a $30 notebook, where I make a list? Yes. Do I use it religiously everyday to work productively? Yes.
- Control your email, don’t let it control you
Partly this comes under systems, but believe me, it’s a habit to maintain it. I use the Inbox Zero method originated by productivity expert Merlin Mann, but I read about it in a book by Graham Allcott called How to be a Productivity Ninja. Whatever method you choose, limit how often you review and process email, you’ll get a lot more done in the meantime.
Each week, take twenty minutes to reflect on what’s gone well and what hasn’t. Document those wins and learnings, and what can you do better next time. If you know where the bugs are, you can fix them.
Systems, collaboration, habits – three ingredients to successfully scale your business. Make it part of your business development to adopt one thing this coming year. Setting aside time for business development like this, can be a daunting prospect, especially when you feel like you don’t have the time!
I’m Carly, an architect for families who want to re-think their homes. I set up my practice Greenway Barrow Architects Ltd in 2016 and have been building a successful business ever since! I love working with home owner clients to realise their dreams and also enjoy sharing my thoughts, ideas and projects through my blog. Tempting as it is to grow my business, I love the freedom of working for myself.