Architects Lack of Business Expertise

In my travels throughout USA and Canada, I’ve talked to many newly graduated architects and architects that are running small firms.  Many new graduates want to begin their own practice but fear they do not have the required business training.  Meanwhile the small architectural practitioners all concur that their lack of business skills is preventing them from achieving the level of success they dreamed of.  These experiences ring true as my experiences mirror those of most new graduates and small business architects.  I entered my own business armed only with architectural expertise and enthusiasm but no business skills.  Here is my story.

I graduated in architecture in the upper echelon of my class.  The economy, at that time, was booming.  That reality along with my academic record, made the world my oyster; I could work where ever I wanted.  The firm I chose was a leading practice with many prestigious projects under its belt.  I was eager to prove my worth and my abilities as a designer.  Within two years of graduation I was working on all the firm’s ‘important’ projects.  This instant success, gave me a sense of confidence and made me think it was time to start my own business,  designing projects under my own label and run an office the way I felt best.

My priority became to complete apprentice and professional practice exams as soon as possible,  in order to set up shop under my own name.   I believed the professional practice program would equip m with the basics for running a business.

Three years after graduation I set up my own firm.  The Grand Opening was exciting,

attended by lots of people, offering endless potential and hope.

Sets of Skills

Yet, it didn’t take long until I realized that setting up an office was much more time consuming than I had expected.  Designing office processes kept me designing buildings, which of course what I was trained to do and was good at – architecture.  I began to realize that running a business required a complete skill set that I had never learned:

            • leadership

            • management

            • finances

            • marketing

            • business development

            • client fulfillment.

During my apprenticeship  had paid little attention to these business processes that structured the firm where I was working.  For their part they made no effort to teach me how to run a practice as they no doubt suspected that someday I would indeed set up on my own – they had no interest in training a potential competitor.

Even after I started, I held the belief if I worked hard enough and long enough, I could overcome  my business weakness.  So I moved on and developed my own ‘homemade’ business practice – laughable!   It was ineffective, inefficient, frustrating and inconsistent.

Somehow,  with long hours and stress, I managed to stay in business.

After 25 years, experiencing marriage and health problems, due to the long hours and stress of this ‘homemade’ business practice, I said to myself  “either find a better way or quit”.  I found a mentor who was full of ‘tips’ to improve my business.  I realized that after all these years, I was still in over my head – I needed more than just ‘tips’.

I found and began working and completing a on on-line program with a coach who helped me apply the business skills directly to my own business.  This program and its transformation on my firm took 18 months.  During this time I transitioned from my ‘homemade’ model toward an effective, efficient business model where all the techniques required to properly run a small business were cohesively incorporated into my business.  I took a great deal of effort to make this change.  After 25 years my clumsy ‘homemade’ processes were deeply ingrained in my approach and changing to  the new business model took a great deal of effort to accept.  But, after all these years I finally came to realize that business training is an essential component to any small practice in architecture.


You will avoid the life long struggle of a marginal practice as I and many of my colleagues endured.  You will develop a practice that will move you toward the success of your dreams.

  NORBERT LEMERMEYER   Phone: 780 490 8831  Email:  Website:   Twitter:  @archplusbis   Blog:  Architecture+Business Blog   Author:   The E-Myth Architect    Why Most Small Architectural Firms Don't Work and What To Do About   


Phone: 780 490 8831



Twitter: @archplusbis

Blog: Architecture+Business Blog

Author:  The E-Myth Architect   Why Most Small Architectural Firms Don't Work and What To Do About