When I started my business almost four years ago, I read every business book I could get my hands on.
Apart from a paper route in grade school, I didn’t have a business background. I hadn’t even taken any business classes in college. But after seeing many hardworking colleagues get laid off during the 2009 recession, I realized I wanted to call my own shots and be my own boss.
Needless to say, I had some catching up to do.
So I went to the library and the book store and got a stack of books on marketing, sales, and business finance. You name it, I read it.
The problem was that I couldn’t always put these books into a context that made sense to me. I didn’t want to run a Fortune 500 business. I didn’t have a marketing team. I didn’t even know if I wanted to hire employees. I just wanted work for myself and build something of my own.
At that time, there weren’t many business books specifically for architects and designers. Sure, there were a few “how to start your own firm” books, but there wasn’t anything for the architect who wanted to do things differently. Who didn’t want to trade time for money or work only for clients in the traditional sense.
What I needed was a book that would help me think more creatively about what my business could be. A book that would show me examples of architects and designers who were doing interesting things outside of traditional practice. A book that illustrated business models that made sense to me, given my particular interests and skills as an architect.
It turns out, what I really needed was Tobias Maescher’s new book, The Archipreneur Concept (affiliate link).
This is an essential book for architects and designers who want to succeed at running their own business.
The Archipreneur Concept starts with a clear look at the deficiencies of our current architectural education system, where students are taught to emphasize form-making and individuality over interdisciplinary teamwork and business acumen. These deficiencies, as Maescher points out in the following chapter, are out-of-step with the new realities of architectural practice.
As I mentioned earlier, I witnessed first-hand the effects of the 2009 recession, when many talented architects were out of work. This reality made me understand that working for myself would actually be a more stable option than working for someone else. Freelance opportunities for architects are on the rise as firms, still smarting from the recession, look to stay lean and keep costs in check.
One of the most important steps in starting your own business, or even just doing freelance work, is shifting your mindset from employee to owner. You’re no longer trading time for money. You need to leverage your time to get the most impact. You need to look for opportunities and learn how to calculate risk. It’s not always an easy transition. Trust me, I know. Having worked as an employee for almost twenty years, I understand the difficulty in changing that mentality.
In my favorite section of The Archipreneur Concept, Maescher positions entrepreneurship as an attitude that can be adopted and cultivated, and is not exclusive to Internet startups and tech companies. By shifting their mindset, architects too, can be entrepreneurs. The important thing is to think creatively about business opportunities and explore alternate business models.
One example of this is productized architectural services. Architects traditionally deliver custom services on a client-by-client basis. One of the issues with this model is that the business owner cannot leverage each project for maximum effect.
Productizing services turns one-off services into a highly repeatable process. The benefits are two-fold: clients know exactly what they’re getting and how much it will cost, while the architect can leverage each engagement to build a repeatable process. While this approach may seem counter to the designer’s instinct to never repeat a project, it can provide a more predictable revenue stream. As the author and entrepreneur Jeff Goins states, “Success is not about invention, it’s about iteration.” Add something here about innovation within a repeatable process.
This is just one example of the many business concepts illustrated in the book. Maescher take a detailed look at opportunities for product development, including software and online courses, as well as the architect as developer. He also covers the basics of branding and marketing, skills I think every architect should cultivate.
The strongest parts of the book are the case studies. Each section of the book is reinforced with examples of architects who are putting the concepts into practice, and succeeding. These aren’t just classroom theories. As proof, Maescher presents detailed interviews with people like Modative and Eric Reinholdt, who are practicing architectural entrepreneurship every day.
As architects, we’re trained to innovate and think creatively. The Archipreneur Concept is a valuable guide that helps you apply these skills to your business.
Click here to learn more about The Archipreneur Concept (affiliate link).