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New Year, New Business

New year, new beginnings. I am excited to announce the launch of my own architecture practice in Austin, Texas.  Watch this webspace – Architecture By George is officially open for business!

I have submitted my resignation at work and I am wrapping things up in the chapter of my life titled ’employee architect’.  Over the last 16 years, I’ve had many titles – Intern, Architectural Intern, Intern Architect, Project Manager, Project Architect, Lead Architect, Senior Architect, Director of Architecture, in that order.

As fancy as the title “Director of Architecture” sounds and is, and as many opportunities, responsibilities, and authority it has given me, I slowly realized that it came with a price.  The stress of directing so many projects and so many people was sapping all my energy.  And my time!  As I’ve written before in another #Architalks post Work=1/3 Life, my work was consuming me.

I recognized that this was not a sustainable situation.  Or a very enjoyable one.  I was at the top of the ladder and the horizon looked grim.  The forecast was ‘overcast with a 100% chance of burn-out’.

Worse, I was missing out on my kids.

After some extrospection of the architecture profession, a lot of introspection, conversations with encouraging friends and family, I came to a conclusion.

That, if I want* to practice architecture for the next 25 years, do all the things I want to do, and live my life to my fullest potential, I would have to launch my own architecture firm.  That would give me the freedom to pursue my interests; have control over my time, to be involved in my kid’s day-to-day lives; and wake up each morning with purpose.

*Read this #ArchiTalks post to see why

What now?
I want to reignite my passion for architecture; shed the husk that developed through being the good employee; put all my talents and skills to use (not just the ones that an employer wants to use); find inspiration and joy in the work; connect and share with my community; learn and grow, always.

I have worked in the custom residential market for a long time.  I have always found great pleasure in meeting new people (especially those who are different from me), and learning about them.  Being able to design solutions for their ideal way of living and define their sense of home is an incredible honor and an opportunity.  It’s also a favorable time to discuss and impact their future health, comfort, energy-use, life-style, and their legacy.

I have titled myself Principal Architect at Architecture By George.  But that’s a joke, because my role will be that of Business Development Manager, Social Media Administrator, Marketing Director, Office Manager, Web Designer, Graphics Designer, Blogger, Content Creator, Designer, Chief Building Scientist, Energy Analyst, BIM Manager, Render Artist, Project Lead, Intern, Production Team, Spec Writer, etc.  At least, for a while.

Is there a title that covers all that?  “Small Business Owner wearing multiple hats” just does not have a zing to it.

The B word 
Notice how I said “New Year, New Business”!  If I was doing this a few years ago, I would have said “New Year, New Firm”.  Subtle? No!

I owe thanks to the preachings of my friends Enoch Sears at Business of Architecture and Mark R. LePage at EntreArchitect, who emphasize the things that are significant for success as an architecture business.  They have posted numerous free resources, shared their knowledge, connected people, and started important conversations – things that will strengthen our profession as a whole.

I also found Eric Reinholdt’s book, Architect and Entrepreneur: A Field Guide to Building, Branding, and Marketing Your Start-Up Design Business (Volume 1), to be incredibly helpful. These resources have been great for mental preparation, as well as creating the long list of things that need to be considered, in order to launch an architecture business.

I’ve been fortunate to work at architecture firms that were run well, by owners who were mindful of the business side of the practice.  I fully recognize that that allowed me, as an employee, to do what I love to do (practice architecture), get paid, and stay employed during the recession.  But I also realize that grounding will ensure that I will never get paid like a lawyer or an engineer.

As I crunch the numbers for launching my own business, I understand the low salaries, why there was an emphasis on efficiency over creativity, production over creation, and all those long hours, in these firms.  The margins are slim, the work is tedious, the profession is undervalued.  I sincerely hope that I don’t fall prey to that mode of operation.



Architalks credits

This post was a contribution to the #ArchiTalks series of blog posts.  To read what other architect bloggers have to say on the current topic, click on links below.

Links to other #Architalks posts

About the author: Sharon George

21 comments to “New Year, New Business”

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  1. matthew - Jan 25, 2016 Reply

    Congratulations on the new business. It can be rough at times. But my experience is that i would not trade it. The freedom to be part of my children’s lives and to make my own schedule has been extremely valuable. and if you can get the business side figured out, all the better. I am still working on that part, but i’ll get there.

    • Sharon George - Jan 26, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Matthew. A fulfilling career and a robust personal life should not be mutually exclusive. And I believe that businesses that take that approach are set up for long term success. I wish you the best in your business as well.

  2. sathish shantha kumar - Jan 13, 2016 Reply

    Congrats Sharon….

  3. Enoch Sears (@businessofarch) - Jan 11, 2016 Reply

    Sharon, congratulations on taking the plunge. My hat is off to you. Know that you have a virtual community to support you here in this new endeavor.

    While I’m sure your old firm will miss you, ultimately only you are accountable for your life.

    • Sharon George - Jan 12, 2016 Reply

      Thanks Enoch. And so another journey begins. There are no dead ends down any path in life.

  4. Jennifer - Jan 11, 2016 Reply

    Good luck in your new business! I feel like I’m a few months behind you in trading the traditional 9-5 for a solo business, so I certainly appreciate you sharing your resources & intentions.

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