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The Architect's Guide to Small Firm Management: Making Chaos Work for Your Small Firm

ISBN: 978-0-470-46648-3
240 pages
May 2010
The Architect
The definitive guide to management success for sole practitioners and leaders of small design firms

Owning and operating a small architectural design firm can be challenging, with tight project deadlines, on-the-fly meetings, rush proposals, and fluctuating workloads as part of the firm's day-to-day activities. To help small firm owners cope with the chaos and prepare for the unexpected, here is The Architect's Guide to Small Firm Management, a no-nonsense guide to repurposing daily demands into workable, goal-directed solutions.

Crucial topics such as self-aware leadership, people management, technology, financial health, scenario planning, sustainable practice, and future trends are examined using real-life case studies and business model paradigms. This definitive text explores the whole system experience of a small firm practice to deliver organizational strategies proven to keep a firm's creative mission on a steady, productive path.

The Architect's Guide to Small Firm Management addresses how small firm owners can:

  • Deal effectively with unexpected circumstances and shifting work requirements

  • Meet the demands of the marketplace while creating a satisfying workplace

  • Set and achieve goals in an environment of constant change

This book is a must-have for those facing the often harsh reality of managing small design firms in a difficult and changing economy. Entrepreneurial architects and designers will discover how to define their own personal and professional meanings of success, as well as how to refocus their business approach to replace long, unrewarding hours with manageable, satisfying ones.

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS.

INTRODUCTION.

PART I:MANAGING IN AN UNPREDICTABLE ENVIRONMENT.

CHAPTER 1: BRINGING ORDER OUT OF CHAOS.

PROFIT AND SATISFACTION.

DESIGN FIRM BUSINESS MODELS.

EFFICIENCY-BASED FIRMS.

EXPERIENCE-BASED FIRMS.

EXPERTISE-BASED FIRMS.

ANY PROJECT THAT COMES THROUGH THE DOOR.

SMALL FIRM ARCHETYPES.

ARCHETYPE ONE: EVERYONE IS DISSATISFIED.

ARCHETYPE TWO: ADMINISTRATIVE BREAKDOWN.

ARCHETYPE THREE: UNINTENTIONAL ENMITY.

CHAPTER 2: WHOLE FIRM SYSTEM.

LINEAR THINKING AND SYSTEMS THINKING.

RECOGNIZING PATTERNS.

TRACKING TRENDS.

SYMPTOMATIC AND FUNDAMENTAL SOLUTIONS.

SUMMARY.

CORE INCOMPETENCE.

WHOLE FIRM SYSTEM DIAGRAM.

TIME MANAGEMENT.

COMMUNICATION EFFECTIVENESS.

JOB SATISFACTION.

CHAPTER 3: ROUTINIZE THE ROUTINE.

OPERATIONAL EFFECTIVENESS.

THE TYPOLOGY OF WORK.

ANALYZABILITY AND VARIETY.

SITUATIONAL LEADERSHIP.

MATCH MANAGEMENT STYLE, STAFFING, AND WORK TYPES.

HOW TO ROUTINIZE.

PROJECT MANAGEMENT/ACCOUNTING SOFTWARE.

PROJECT STARTUP PROCESS.

CAPACITY UTILIZATION.

CHAPTER 4: LEADERSHIP MATTERS.

FIRM CULTURE.

FIELD THEORY.

SELF-AWARE LEADERSHIP.

CONTROL VERSUS TRUST.

CAREER CONTENTMENT.

WORKING WITH CREATIVE PEOPLE.

EFFECTIVE FIRM RETREATS.

PLAN NONBILLABLE HOURS.

PARTNERSHIPS.

WHY PARTNER?

WHAT MAKES PARTNERSHIPS WORK.

RULES OF THE ROAD.

WHAT MAKES PARTNERSHIPS FAIL.

"UNINTENTIONAL ENMITY" REVISITED.

SUCCESS IN GROUP WORK.

PART II: BEST LAID PLANS.

CHAPTER 5: LIFECYCLE OF A SMALL FIRM.

WEALTH OR CONTROL.

THE PRINCIPALS’ DILEMMA.

GETTING TO THE NEXT LEVEL.

BE WHAT YOU WANT TO BECOME.

THE PYRAMID PROBLEM.

THE MATRIX SOLUTION.

TRANSFORMING MENTAL MODELS.

EVERYONE IS DISSATISFIED REVISITED.

CHAPTER 6: TRANSITION TIMES.

THE 10-YEAR ITCH.

WHEN PARTNERS GROW APART: J/H ARCHITECTS.

A CAUTIONARY TALE.

APPROACHING RETIREMENT.

10-YEAR RULE.

EXPANDED CHOICES.

NARROW CHOICES.

OWNERSHIP TRANSITION OPTIONS.

INTERNAL SALE AT RETIREMENT.

TAKING ON A MINORITY PARTNER.

CHAPTER 7: FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT: BEYOND INTUITION.

MACROECONOMIC INFLUENCES.

ECONOMIC INDICATORS.

THE CONSTRUCTION BUSINESS CYCLE.

HOW SMALL FIRMS SURVIVE AN ECONOMIC SLOWDOWN.

FINANCIAL TERMINOLOGY.

FINANCIAL PERFORMANCE INDICATORS AND BENCHMARKS.

FINANCIAL MANAGEMENT TASKS.

TRACK FIRM PROFITABILITY.

TRACK CHARGEABLE RATIO AND DIRECT LABOR EXPENSE.

TRACK BREAK-EVEN MULTIPLIER AND MULTIPLIER ACHIEVED.

TRACK OVERHEAD EXPENSE AND BUDGET VARIANCE.

TRACK BACKLOG AND OUTSTANDING PROPOSALS.

YEAR-END FINANCIAL CHECKUP.

ADDITIONAL FINANCIAL CHECKS.

CHAPTER 8: SCENARIO PLANNING.

INFLUENCES ON PROFITABILITY.

CLIENT EXPECTATIONS.

OVERHEAD EXPENSE.

STRATEGIES FOR INCREASING PROFITABILITY.

REALIZABLE REVENUE.

INCREASE HOURS?

INCREASE BILLING RATES (FEES)?

INCREASE BILLABLE HOURS?

ADD INTERN TO STAFF?

ADD SKILLED STAFF?

SCENARIO PLANNING STORY PROBLEM.

STORY PROBLEM CHALLENGE.

MOVE TO A LARGER OFFICE?

PLANNING FIRM GROWTH.

PART III: LOOKING TOWARD THE FUTURE.

CHAPTER 9: STRATEGIC THINKING.

BUSINESS PLANNING FOR SMALL DESIGN FIRMS.

MARKETING PLANS.

VALUE OF PARTICIPATORY PROCESS.

SAMPLE BUSINESS PLAN TEMPLATE.

LEARNING IS JOB ONE.

LEARNING BY DESIGN.

LEARNING AS COMPETITIVE ADVANTAGE.

CHAPTER 10: SMALL DESIGN FIRM PRACTICE MODELS.

SOLO PRACTICE.

ECONOMIES OF SMALL SCALE.

CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR SOLO PRACTITIONERS.

FIRMS OWNED BY MARRIED COUPLES.

COMPLEMENTARY SKILLS.

EASE OF COMMUNICATION.

LESSONS LEARNED.

SMALL FIRMS IN INTERNATIONAL PRACTICE.

FIRM SIZE IS NO BARRIER.

ANOTHER CALLING.

THE VIRTUAL OFFICE OPTION.

TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY OPPORTUNITY.

CONSIDER THE POSSIBILITIES.

CHAPTER 11: TECHNOLOGY AND INTEGRATED PRACTICE IN SMALL FIRMS.

ADOPTING BUILDING INFORMATION MODELING.

INTEGRATED PRACTICE AND INTEGRATED PROJECT DELIVERY.

ARCHITECT-LED DESIGN-BUILD.

ARCHITECT DEVELOPER.

CREATING POCKET NEIGHBORHOODS: ROSS CHAPIN, AIA.

GREEN DEVELOPMENT: TONY CASE, AIA.

CHAPTER 12: BIG-PICTURE TRENDS.

DIVERSITY IN PRACTICE.

GENERATION GAPS.

BOOMERS OUT, MILLENNIALS IN.

TECHNOLOGICAL TETHERING.

A MIXED BAG.

HOW TO MANAGE MILLENNIALS.

WOMEN IN DESIGN FIRM LEADERSHIP.

"BRAIN DRAIN" REVEALED.

LABYRINTH TO THE TOP.

TWENTY-FIRST-CENTURY WORKPLACE.

THE TELEWORKING OPTION.

CHAPTER 13: SUSTAINABLE ECONOMICS.

TRIPLE BOTTOM LINE.

SUSTAINABLE DESIGN FIRM PRACTICE.

GREENING THE WORKPLACE.

VALUES-BASED PRACTICE.

ANOTHER POINT OF VIEW.

SUSTAINABLE ECONOMICS APPLIED.

CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY IMPACT.

TURN RED BUSINESS BLUE.

FINAL WORDS.

INDEX.

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RENA M. KLEIN, FAIA, is principal of RM Klein Consulting, a Seattle-based firm offering business planning services, meeting facilitation, and management education to leaders of small design firms. Building on her graduate degree in management and her twenty years of experience as the owner of a small architectural firm, Rena regularly presents seminars on small firm practice. Her innovative work in this area has appeared in print and Web publications, including AIA's online Architects' Knowledge Resource.
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The Architect's Guide to Small Firm Management: Making Chaos Work for Your Small Firm (US $75.00)

-and- Becoming an Architect: A Guide to Careers in Design, 2nd Edition (US $39.95)

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