Clients are the lifeblood of all small businesses – including architectural practices – for without them there would be no practice, no business.
A client/architect relationship is based on trust and a close working relationship. As in any professional relationship, an architect is bound to serve their client by a strict code of ethics. This can sometimes be difficult for the architect, as they can see solutions that are ‘best’ for the client even though the client may not realize it and buy into the vision.
The client, on the other hand, with a large investment of money and time, places a great deal of trust in his architect and must feel the outcome of the design will be money well spent, function to suit his needs and be an ongoing source of pride.
The course of completing a project can become very emotional as there is a lot at stake. A client can have misgivings throughout the course of the design and building of the project, as their large investment rests in the architect’s hands. On the other hand, the architect is working very hard to satisfy the client’s needs and sometimes feels that their ideas are not listened to and their efforts not acknowledged.
This dynamic can test the client/architect relationship, and sometimes even drive it off the rails. It this happens, and you find yourself in a strained relationship with your client, it is imperative to take a step back to review the basis of the agreement and have everyone recommit to the successful completion of the project. Efforts should be made to resolve the problems as soon as the first hint of a controversy is detected. If it lingers it can grow into an unmanageable big problem.
A meeting on neutral ground to discuss any disagreements or misunderstandings in a calm non-accusative manner will usually bring the relationship back on track. In this meeting each party is given and opportunity to outline and air their issues. It may be useful to discuss and agree on a set of ground rules to move forward.
In my decades of experience working with clients, I can say that it is usually a lack of communication that leads to conflict.
As an architect you need be cognizant that your clients are not fully aware of the design-build process. Here you must take the lead and over-communicate rather than under-communicate, carefully and methodically setting out all the steps in the process for your client.
Clients, like all of us, are fearful of the unknown. A comfort level develops out of understanding of what is going to happen, what is happening and what has happened. Making an extraordinary effort to keep the client up-to-speed on their project will pay dividends. Communicating with the client about the various phases of the project can be systematized so it is never overlooked on any project and every client, without fail, is kept up to speed throughout the project
What is the value of a great design, if the client is unhappy at the end of the project?
Clients are your best sales force. You want them to say good things about your design, how you looked after their investment in a helpful manner throughout the process. An architect armed with skills for conflict resolution is even more likely to achieve this.
Phone: 780 490 8831
Author: The E-Myth Architect
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