Here is a breakdown of the size of RIBA Chartered architects practices by size (no. of employees). It shows that over three quarters of the 2800 chartered architects practices in the UK have fewer than 10 staff, and more than half have fewer than five.
Why is this important?
Firstly it is interesting to consider why it might be that architects practices are generally so small. As you know I am of the opinion that many architects are not confident about being businessmen and women. Running a business has not been a subject of much consideration traditionally, and from discussions on this blog I’m of the impression that having an interest in business matters, in particular profit, is considered rather distasteful to some.
Nevertheless there is some logic in larger practices being more profitable, especially if they are organised in a way that tasks not required to be performed by a registered architect are done by others, be they part qualified staff, juniors or administrators.
In a small practice however, its much more likely that the partners/architects do everything, including composing and preparing their own documents, processing post, answering the telephone, writing cheques and sticking on stamps. And even more difficult is the delegation of ‘real work’ as it was recently described to me on twitter – the design of buildings. If delegation is difficult for you, then you’re going to be unable to closely supervise more than a couple of people, and even if you’re confident in that, no-one can manage more than 7 people without an additional layer of supervision, at which point the partners have to consider stepping away from the day to day management of projects altogether and get on with building a business, a full time task in itself.
So maybe architects practices are small because their owners don’t want an organisational structure like that. Maybe they are small because their owners want them to be. Or maybe there is another reason.
What do you think?
Before I got involved in the architectural world I’m not sure what I really gave it much thought. When I was given these figures, for which I am grateful to RIBA Director of Practice Adrian Dobson, I was interested to know whether the small size of architects practices would come as a surprise to people. Is it a surprise to you?
Notes: These figures are from July 2008, the height of the boom, and only represent RIBA chartered practices. The RIBA estimated that the 2797 Chartered practices make up about half of all Architects practices in the UK.
Around of third of RIBA chartered architects work in practices under 10 people, a third work in those with 11-50 people and a third in large practices (50+ staff).