Sky Masterson: “You are stuck with a store full of repentance and no customers. Without sinners to repent, repentance doesn’t exist. So you’re stuck with a store full of nothing. Do I give you a fair rundown?”
Captain Sarah Brown: “I wouldn’t know. I’ve never had a rundown.”
Guys ‘n’ Dolls
Two hot topics in the architectural press over recent weeks are both made hotter by the recession: protection of title and fee competition.
The title ‘Architect’ is protected in the UK and the Building Design recently reported in a survey that the vast majority of architects want to retain protection of title and also want clients to be legally obliged to use registered architects for certain work.
Meanwhile Sunand Prasad, President of the Royal Institute of British Architects, wrote to every RIBA member this week urging them not to not to “succumb to pressure from clients in the recession to the extent of making unrealistic fee bids”.
What is at issue here is that Architects don’t feel they are employed enough, at the moment and generally.
Most building work in the UK doesn’t get seen by an architect and there is no requirement to use an architect in a building project, though this is a requirement in some other European countries. What is more, in the current climate of stiff competition for work architects are being tempted to fight for it by cutting their fees, and if Mr Prasad is to be believed, cutting fees below cost.
The thing is, I think this is completely arse about tit.
No wonder the non-architectural world is laughing, architects are complaining not that they aren’t making enough money, but that they aren’t being paid enough.
This is what I think architects should do:
Stop worrying about losing work and ask yourself Why?
I’ll give you a clue, the answer is not likely to be ‘because I’m not cheap enough’ but ‘because I’m not offering what the client wants.’
Thirty years ago the pricing of architectural services was fixed by the RIBA and architects were not able to compete for work or advertise. Today things are different, but I suspect many architects wish they could go back to the days when they didn’t have to talk about money.
Most architect practices are businesses like any other, working in what is essentially a commercial world. They have to meet their costs and make a profit in order to survive, and that means managing cash flow and dealing with the laws of supply and demand.
If you want more work, you have to go out and find it.
Demand is constantly changing in most areas of construction, and particularly at the moment. But demand has not evaporated entirely, there is need for what architects can offer, it’s just that the architects are not bothering to work out what that need is.
Talk to people who specialize in helping people sell products and services and they will tell you that sales is about identifying and removing the customer’s pain. Your client’s pain is not what you want it to be, it is what it is. Learn what your client’s pain is and work out how to take it away.
Thanks to @JohnkatCrittall, @EEPaul and @KarinaGW for helping with the Guys’n’Dolls quote this morning!
John Keleher says
This is a thought-provoking piece.
Having worked in industries which have faced the same challenges as architects do today, I would have made it a stronger message.
In a commercial world, adapt or die.
Miguel Villegas says
We work in a country where you have to hire a registered architect to build (only industrial buildings can be made also by engineers). And we are facing a really big problem with fees and competition amongst architects. We are more than 50.000 architects in Spain, the ratio is 0,95architects/1000 inhabitants…the competition is more than fierce…and there are new laws coming with wich engineers might be allowed to design and project buildings… ¡terrifying!
Johannes Stumpf says
here in Germany, with a fixed fee system prices have been declining constantly to a level where it is hardly possible to survive, even with a salary within the fee ranges possible. With architect’s fees coupled to the buidling cost and a ten years recession in the construction industry (Labor force was 1.5M in 1997 and is about 7-800thousand by now), there was in effect no work for architects for quite a while. So the problem lies not in the protection of the title or a lack of an official pricing system, economy simply doesn’t need architectural services. In this respect I sense that the article takes a bold step forward and produces a shift in perspective to a plain and convincing message: in the end it is you as a business person that has to take the responsibilty for promoting your goals and capabilities…. simple plain truth.
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