The business of architecture, with few exceptions, is a small business. Indeed, a recent AIA Practice Survey found that 86% of firms have fewer than 100 employees with more than half the firms having fewer than 20 employees. Even more interesting, ¼ of all firms have fewer than 5 employees! So while it’s well understood that the AIA is the single greatest organization representing the profession of Architecture, many of its members can attest that it hasn’t always been exemplary at representing the vast majority of its members—the small firms.
So it was with great excitement that I learned that the AIA’s Small Firm Roundtable (SFRT) was spearheading an initiative to create a toolkit to help its members, from emerging practices to established firms, address all aspects of their business.
The initiative is also intended to return the AIA to its rightful place as, among other things, the go-to resource for architects looking for ways to build and run successful practices. It addresses the needs expressed by other Knowledge Communities within the AIA, and progress has finally formally begun.
Over the years, the AIA has been publishing many documents that help firms in such a way, but they are often so ancient, inaccessible or out-of-print that many members haven’t even known they’ve existed. Recognizing this deficiency is the first step toward correcting it.
Where We Fit In
Many of you reading this blog have been following along with me for the past decade as I have morphed from being a practicing architect managing a firm with nearly 20 employees to my current iteration at BQE Software where we design and develop management software tools used by thousands of architecture and engineering firms around the world. Hearing that the AIA was about to begin a project that could help firms, firm owners and their staff become smarter, better equipped and successful was a siren song for me to become personally involved.
I’ve never been more proud of my company than when I discussed my desire to become involved with this project and our CEO, Shafat Qazi, suggested that I not only provide my time and experience, but also that BQE step up by underwriting the costs for this new AIA Toolkit. He even suggested BQE provide technical assistance for turning the toolkit into information that can be available anywhere, any time—from your computer to an iPhone, iPad or Android device.
Last week when I had the privilege to join the Roundtable’s kickoff meetings in Phoenix, AZ, I was thrilled that not only was I surrounded by a group of bright, energetic and like-minded individuals, but that my sense that we were embarking on a critically important mission was shared by everyone. The event was facilitated by the P.T. Barnum of the group: Brian Frickie, AIA, LEED AP, who managed to distill all the ideas and energy into concise points and keep the discussions moving in a direction that will yield results.
Brian’s job is a difficult one since he’s orchestrating ideas from extremely experienced and opinionated principals of architectural firms representing all regions of the country. The depth of experience is staggering and the insights and methods of this cast of characters are sure to make the final product rich in information and invaluable not only to small firms, but even to the multi-national behemoths as well.
How You Can Help
As this project will take considerable time to complete, I would like to use my extensive network of Principals, Project Managers and Architects currently working in small firms to gather more information, advice and input. Please feel free to write your comments within this blog or email me separately at firstname.lastname@example.org to share your thoughts or concerns.
So begins what I expect to be a wonderful relationship between BQE Software and the AIA. I’ll do my best to keep you all posted on further developments right here on our blog.
About the Author: Steven Burns, FAIA, spent 14 years managing his firm Burns + Beyerl Architects. After creating ArchiOffice®, the intelligent office, project management and time tracking solution for architectural firms, Steve brought his management expertise to BQE Software, where he is perfecting the business strategy and product development.