Business Models for Small Architectural Firms


The Small Firm Exchange 2018 Business Models Survey is closed for submissions

The purpose of the annual survey is to identify and measure the variety and commonalities in existing small firm models, with the goal of providing meaningful insight and analysis. This survey is conducted through the Small Firm Exchange (SFx), an AIA member group. The survey is intended for AIA members who are (1) sole practitioners and (2) architects in firms engaged in whole or in part in the practice of architecture, with a maximum of ten (10) total staff members. The data gathered will be presented in the Small Firm Business Model Dashboard, which currently displays the data collected in the 2017 survey. 

Small Firm Business Model Dashboard

As architects, we are all too familiar with the process and benefits of modeling our designs prior to construction. This effective medium allows us to study our proposed creations, make incremental improvements, and communicate the resultant concepts to our clients. Working with a model is a proven process that enables elevating our plans from good to better.​

We willingly take advantage of this process for architectural projects, so why not use it for designing our individual firms? In last year's survey a majority of firms responding did not have, or ever construct a business plan. This underscores the rhetorical question that, as a profession, why don't architects apply those concepts of creative process improvement modeling to plan their own businesses? Why indeed! We were shown how to model buildings in school, but left to our own devices to navigate the gauntlet of business survival. The Small Firm Business Model Survey aims to remedy this educational oversight and collect nationwide data on small firms, their projects, staff, insurance, contracts, and patterns relating to their financial success (or struggle). Participants in the survey will be given access to an informational dashboard of the results. Last year's business model dashboard can be accessed here.

In addition to the dashboard, the various patterns and percentages discovered from your answers will help inform an additional project of the SFx: to identify relevant characteristics of successful small firms.The deliverable of this effort will be numerous "canned" business models to better enable economic stability in our chosen profession.