ArchiTeam member Ben Robertson of Tecture discusses his experience of starting his own Architecture practice in 2015
What systems have you discovered and would recommend for day to day administration of an architecture practice?
Xero has been a blessing in regard to accounting and Harvest has been great for time management. However, having had experienced varying software packages and methods at previous employers, we are still investigating methods and processes to further enhance efficiency. We are currently investigating changing documentation software to be even more efficient in the long term and on par with shifting industry standards. Which in turn will open up the opportunity for future employment to a wider audience.
Do you have a business plan?
My business plan was somewhat lacking. After many discussions with architecture peers and friends who had recently started their own practices and the pros and cons, I saw it as an exciting challenge. It all coincidentally aligned with the 10 year anniversary of completing my university degree and with my ‘future home’ funds as potential cash flow on standby, and with a ‘deep breath and dive’ mentality, I made the leap.
As some one who has recently started running your own practice, did you have any unexpected challenges or happy surprises in starting your business?
When you consider starting your own business, you forget that you will be reception, accounts, documenter, designer, administration and marketing, compared to the delegation ability within a larger firm.
Time management has been at the core. Being honest and providing realistic time frames to new clients about when I could program their work in and meet any deadlines has been integral. When I was a one-man band, it was important I expressed to any new clients that I was an individual and therefore a lead time to begin was required. I was very fortunate that all accepted this and it allowed me to look at a business forecast and place me in a position to employ.
Keeping my stress levels down initially was challenging as I was adapting to business owner. I was fortunate to successfully have a few new dwellings within the first month of business. Within the following month I found my stride and knew what I could deliver within a typical working week and therefore, what I could achieve if I increased my hours. Currently in a home office at the base of my residence, I slipped into the home office routine quite seamlessly. I do find it difficult to’ turn off’ and sometimes going to ‘quickly write one email’ becomes coming up with a new concept or documenting the following days agenda.
In hindsight, I think a more thorough business plan and research into the accounts operation of a small business would have benefited me. I am fortunate to have my partner as my administration assistant to help manage that side, who is a Director and operator of a wholesale business.
What are your top three tips for people looking to set up a practice?
Tecture is only 8 months young, so there are many things that we are still learning so it was very hard to limit it to 3.
1. In obtaining a client base, always act and present with honesty and integrity and greet everyone with a friendly demeanor – you would be amazed where your next clients may appear from, and the power of word of mouth.
2. Don’t sell yourself. In the pursuit of making a living, don’t undercut your fee to get it over the line. Present fees that are reflective of the time it will actually take to do it and understand your value as a professional – even if your overheads are lower and you are not an ‘established’ architect……yet
3. Don’t be afraid to delegate and invest in your company. Appoint a Graphic Designer to set up all your templates and collateral so that you are reflecting your vision from the start. Get a book keeper to help with accounting and invoicing. You cannot do everything!
Tell us a little bit about your practice
Tecture is an energetic 3 person team of passionate architects and designers who are obsessed with the craftsmanship of the built form. Founded by Ben Robertson in late 2015, Tecture specialises in Single Dwelling, Multi Residential and Interior Design, thrives on creativity, and providing meticulously design solutions within varying project typologies.
With modernism ideals at our hearts, our focus is to create timeless design that is understated, using attention to detail and materiality with a strong sense of geometry and simplicity.
We create exteriors that are effortlessly crafted, influenced by site response and budget that contribute to the public realm and meet our clients program simultaneously. Our interiors holistically adapt exterior motifs – and vice versa – achieving beautiful and genuine outcomes.
We are always challenging our architectural knowledge and are driven by authenticity and enthusiasm. Striving to create a unique identity for each project on a macro and micro scale with intelligent space planning, bespoke joinery detailing and timeless form, we seek to capture our clients vision and garner a strong collaborative process from concept to construction administration.