The mission of the AIA Small Firm Exchange (SFx) is to advance the mutual interests of architects practicing in small firms. The objectives of the AIA SFx are three-fold:1. Advocate for small firms within the AIA and in outside organizations and agencies.2. Promote leadership in Small Firm professional development and practice; and3. Facilitate and support the local component round tables and small firm networks.
My name is Rohit Jain and I am an Architect from India. I have been working on the west coast for almost 19 years with large architectural firms.
At my firm we are 4 partners and we had a similar situation like you have, we were Top Heavy just like your firm. Just like you, we took pride in the Repeat Clients we worked with as most of our business came from Repeat Clientele. The 4 of us look after different aspect of project like Design/CD's/Codes/Accounts etc. It worked for us in the early stages and this made us comfortable in our early years and we never bothered about marketing , we principals ourselves used to reach out to our potential clients and secure their business. We found it out later that this model is not scalable and the firm growth remains limited.
If we had a chance of revisiting our decision, I would rather have one of the partners be exclusively handle marketing and find new pastures. There is no doubt it would be expensive, but it would be wise to create a budget for a marketing director and appoint one to find newer pastures. My experience tells me that this is a specialized role and it may pinches a firm financially in the early years. But it pays back many times over if it works.
To create a budget for this kind of role, I have seen firms cut down the expenses and use that money to budget for this need. The expenses that can be trimmed are easily identifiable by looking at the book of accounts. Cutting Expenses usually needs reinventing the existing workflows in one's office.
One option is avoid using Adobe kind of software and use Opensource and you can easily save a few Thousand every year. Others have opted to cut down the DD/CD costs because they are pure expense stages of project. The really smart firms have reinvented how they deliver projects at lower costs.
I hope this gives some clues.
rohit jain l founder partner
RSMS Architects (P) Ltd.
"Per the question, I am frustrated to tell you there isn't any good data on when to hire marketing staff. For each firm it's a different decision making-process and, of course, depends on their financial capabilities. Ultimately, a marketing team should more than pay for itself by securing new business and increasing the retention rate of existing. Besides the "can we afford it" question, things to consider: are the technical staff capable (expertise and time) and/or interested in doing marketing/business development?; can a consultant help first?; is there a new territory or business line (e.g., medical, public, academic) we want to pursue?; do we just need administrative marketing support like creating proposals?"