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
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.
This post was a contribution to the #ArchiTalks series of blog posts. To read what other architect bloggers have to say on the topic of "New Year, New ______", click on links below.
The participants of this ArchiTalks blog post series are asking you to help a friend of ours who is dealing with a family tragedy. Rusty Long is an Architect based out of Portsmouth, Virginia, whose son Matthew is fighting for his life. Here is Matthew’s story, as told by his Dad, Rusty:
Matthew Long was born May 29th, 2013, happy, and seemingly healthy. Less than two days later his mother and I found ourselves in an neonatal intensive care unit waiting room, listening to a rushed intensive care doctor explain how our son needed immediate dialysis to save his life. The disease, he briefly explained, was one of a group of disorders called Urea Cycle Disorders, which impact the way the body breaks down protein. We later discovered that Matthew's particular variant is called OTC Deficiency, a particularly severe form of it in fact, which results in a rapid rise of ammonia in the blood, called hyperammonemia, resulting in devastating neurological damage. This form of OTC is so severe, Matthew has virtually no peers who have survived it. Once the immediate crisis was arrested, we came to find out more about the disease and the impact of this initial event.
The disease is inherited, and the damage is permanent. Treatment consists of a combination of medications, low protein medical diet, and ultimately a liver transplant. Matthew was fortunate to experience no additional hyperammonemic events in the following fifteen months of life, and had a liver transplant on August 24th, 2014. The cure for the disease, a transplant, isn't so much a cure as trading one condition for another. While we will never risk the chance of another ammonia spike, Matthew is on a half a dozen or more medications at any given time to avoid rejection. Despite these challenges, intensive daily therapy for cerebral palsy (a result of the initial damage), limited motor function, and various other challenges along the way, our son is remarkably happy and has changed all our lives for the better. He's taught us to be stronger than we ever thought possible, to have faith beyond human understanding, and the immeasurable value of life.
The #ArchiTalks community is hoping to raise $5,500 to help Architect Rusty Long and his family reach their financial goal on HelpHopeLive.org. If each reader of this post contributes a small amount, our impact will be massive and we can make a difference for Matthew’s family.
Enoch Sears - Business of Architecture (@businessofarch)
New Year, New Community on Business of Architecture
Bob Borson - Life of An Architect (@bobborson)
Matthew Stanfield - FiELD9: architecture (@FiELD9arch)
New Year, New CAD
Marica McKeel - Studio MM (@ArchitectMM)
New Year, New Adventures
Lee Calisti, AIA - Think Architect (@LeeCalisti)
new race new year new start
Mark R. LePage - Entrepreneur Architect (@EntreArchitect)
New Year. New Budget.
Lora Teagarden - L² Design, LLC (@L2DesignLLC)
New Year, New Goals
Collier Ward - One More Story (@BuildingContent)
New Year, New Business
Nicholas Renard - dig Architecture (@dig-arch)
New Year, A New Hope
Jes Stafford - Modus Operandi Design (@modarchitect)
New Year. New Gear.
Cindy Black - Rick & Cindy Black Architects (*)
New Year, New Casita
Eric T. Faulkner - Rock Talk (@wishingrockhome)
New Year, New Underwear
Rosa Sheng - Equity by Design (@EquityxDesign)
New Year, New Era
Michele Grace Hottel - Michele Grace Hottel, Architect (@mghottel)
"new year, new _____"
Meghana Joshi - IRA Consultants, LLC (@MeghanaIRA)
New Year, New Plan
Amy Kalar - ArchiMom (@AmyKalar)
New Year, New Adventures
Michael Riscica - Young Architect (@YoungArchitxPDX)
New Year, New Life!
Stephen Ramos - BUILDINGS ARE COOL (@sramos_BAC)
New Year, New Home
brady ernst - Soapbox Architect (@bradyernstAIA)
New Year, New·ly Adult Architect
Brian Paletz - The Emerging Architect (@bpaletz)
A Little Premature
Eric Wittman - intern[life] (@rico_w)
new year, new [engagement]
Brinn Miracle - Architangent (@simplybrinn)
New Year, New Perspective
Emily Grandstaff-Rice - Emily Grandstaff-Rice AIA (@egraia)
The New New
Jarod Hall - di'velept (@divelept)
New Year New Reality
Anthony Richardson - That Architecture Student (@anth_rich)
New Year New Desk
Drew Paul Bell - Drew Paul Bell (@DrewPaulBell)
New Year, New Appreciation
Greg Croft - Sage Leaf Group (@croft_gregory)
New Year, New Goals
Jeffrey A Pelletier - Board & Vellum (@boardandvellum)
New Year New Office
Aaron Bowman - Product & Process (@PP_Podcast)
New Year, More Change
Kyu Young Kim - Palo Alto Design Studio (@sokokyu)
New Year, New Office Space
Jared W. Smith - Architect OWL (@ArchitectOWL)
New Year, New Reflection
Rusty Long - Rusty Long, Architect (@rustylong)
New Year, New Direction