According to a PSMJ article, you don’t have to take on a project if you feel it is too big and risky, or too small and unprofitable for your firm. You can also say “no” to an unwanted project if you don’t like the client and can’t imagine working peacefully with him or her. There might be professional liability risks involved in certain projects, including exposure to asbestos and hazardous wastes, which carry high liability potential and endanger the lives of your hard-working employees. Furthermore, you may be unable to accept a project because the work demands knowledge and expertise that you don’t have. If you can’t meet the client’s expectations, then you are positioning yourself to fail.
Although these are all perfectly good reasons to refuse a potential project, the last statement doesn't necessarily hold true. For example, some architects might not have the expertise to perform a project well – so they hire consultants to help them with things they don’t know. In addition, a client would not hire an architect to design their building unless the architect had in-house expertise or was added to team as an expert. BQE Chief Creative Officer, Steve Burns, FAIA, recalls, “The first time I was hired to design a restaurant, my client knew I had never designed one before. But they liked our other work, liked our client references and liked our methodology and passion. Once the project was under contract, I immediately brought in a restaurant consultant to help our team design efficiently."
Certainly, these are not the only reasons for rejecting projects. BQE CEO and Founder, Shafat Qazi, proposes these other reasons to turn down a project:
- Too Busy: You are too busy because there’s already enough work on your plate.
- Impractical Deadline: The deadline is not practical and yet, your client still demands the project to be done in an unreasonable amount of time.
- Clash of Interests: There’s a conflict of interest between your client and yourself.
- Legality: You are not licensed to work and therefore, not legally allowed to pursue the project.
- Conflict: The project is not appropriate for the firm’s mission statement or business plan.
Steve Burns adds “Friends and Family” as another reason. He says, “It is not unusual for architects to be offered projects from close friends and family. Think hard about this because it can strain your relationships. I once had a friend who interviewed my firm to design their new home on the best lakefront property in the North Shore of Chicago. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. One of the issues they expressed was that we were such good friends that they were afraid it might change the relationship. I told them (jokingly), that I would rather be their architect than their friend. We all laughed but in the end they hired one of the most famous architects in the US - so I didn’t feel bad and we’re still close friends."