Explore first-hand accounts and resources from architects and AIA Trust about how the practice of architecture has transitioned to virtual models.
Letter from the Editor
By Karen Courtney, FSMPS, AIA
Transitions in Design Practice
Keeping an architectural practice thriving requires creativity, resiliency, sound business practices and innovative approaches. This issue of the Practice Management Digest covers a variety of topics to inform and enlighten readers about new ideas to benefit your firm.
Starting the issue is a compendium of articles that offers advice and best practices about firm valuation, retirement planning and ERPs, and more. These have been curated by the AIA Trust Executive Director, Ann Casso, now recently retired. The Practice Management knowledge community leadership would like to thank Ann and the AIA Trust for their years of support of the Practice Management knowledge community (PMKC) and wish her well in retirement and also welcome Elizabeth Wolverton, the newly named Executive Director of the AIA Trust.
Two members of the PMKC leadership group, Peter Macrae, AIA, and Jennifer Kretschmer, AIA, have run successful virtual practices for many years. This topic continues to generate much interest, particularly since the pandemic brought many changes to how offices function and spurred many practices to embrace remote working arrangements. Their experiences are shared in two articles about the cultural changes necessary for virtual practices as well as an inside look at making it happen.
Lastly, Craig Park, Associate AIA, FSMPS, gives an overview of five recent “ArchiTech” services as a software (SaaS) tool to improve the operational aspects of design practices. As Clark & Enersen’s Director of Digital Experience Design, Craig has long been at the forefront of technology in the design profession and is an early adopter of virtual practice and using SaaS applications.
New approaches: Reimagining the firm
An excerpt from Firm Management Strategies by the AIA Trust
Some firms have reexamined their current management practices and implemented strategic changes in marketing and financial management that make them more profitable and more efficient. In doing so, they have positioned their firm to help their clients with long-range and strategic business planning, keeping themselves connected to their clients so that they are “right there with them” when they’re ready for the next project. Don't miss the additional resources at the end!
Cultural change: Life first, then architecture
By Jennifer Kretschmer, AIA
In 2003 I set out to establish my goals and vision for my new firm. After initial growing pains, I was able to establish a virtual firm with systems that were effective for both staff and clients, yet still aligned with my goals, allowing for creativity and a flexible schedule.
The Virtual Architectural Practice Model—"Resiliency for Architecture Firms"
By Peter Macrae, AIA
My goal was to start a firm without any seed cash. I thought it possible to have a full-service, national architecture practice with zero fixed overhead…No rent. No equipment. No payroll. Just a laptop, with everything located in the cloud. And it has worked like a charm. This idea came to me at my previous firm when I noticed that, although they were located in a studio, the staff worked more or less “virtually.”
ArchiTech: Five new tools improving the business of architecture
By Craig Park, Assoc. AIA
In the past decade, there has been a literal explosion of online cloud-based Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) tools in the professional service sector designed to address the operational aspects of practice. Until recently few of these tools specifically targeted the needs of the architectural, design, or engineering practice. Digital developers have begun to address the operational aspects for designers with new "ArchiTech" (to coin a new neologism) applications that take a more focused approach to solving the challenges of the business of architecture.
Additional resources & readings
Retirement & Ownership Transition
By the AIA Trust
Our retirement products give you access to experts who can develop a custom plan for yourself or your firm and advise on planning for the potential future shortfall in Social Security, longer life expectancies, and the effects of inflation and taxation.
Architecture Firm Ownership Transitions
By Ed Hord, FAIA, 2014 Chair, AIA Trust & Ann Casso, Hon. AIA, Executive Director, AIA Trust
In this article originally published in the July 2015 PM Digest, the authors share how privately owned architecture firms in today’s consolidating, competitive environment face numerous hurdles when considering traditional internal ownership transitions and leadership succession programs.
Selling, Merging or Closing Your Practice?
By the AIA Trust, PDF by George Christodoulo, PC
To help AIA members through these types of transitions, the AIA Trust commissioned George Christodoulo, head of a national law practice serving design professionals as both buyers and sellers in mergers and acquisitions, to author the downloadable 18-page PDF available here to help members determine their own best course of action.
AIAU Courses on-demand
Contribute to the Digest
The future issues of the Practice Management Digest are currently planned to cover topics such as career path discovery and insight, as well as the perennial favorite of how to get more business for your firm. If you have other topics related to practice management that you’d like explored or any articles you would like us to consider for inclusion, please email firstname.lastname@example.org