SHOULD I SUE MY ARCHITECT OR REPORT TO THE BOARD?
Two-occasions provided me inspiration for this writing. One, a situation where an-architect is challenging the-Institute over wrongful-removal on the register; two, a-question from my Graduate-Architect, preparing for her part-III (equivalent to RIBA-PartIII), with regard to disciplinary-action taken for Professional-misconduct. The issue may have been similar but the context is different. If ever, it can be a question in the Professional-Examination for LAM-PartIII, ‘Write a note to explain to your colleague, who has been called upon for disciplinary-action by the Board of Architect LAM, as pertaining to his defence, arising from his negligence act of providing a service under the Act’.
I reckoned that it is a little-unfair to pose such a question, aptly to be answered by a lawyer, but knowing the law is fundamental to the practice as an Architect, as the saying goes, the Architect is worth, not just by his drawing but by his ‘statutory-undertakings’ under the law, similar to that of other professions.
The issues here are, whether can the-Board or the-Institute take actions against its member based on its inherent jurisdiction to interfere into its member’s right for livelihood? If so, whether a proper avenue for recourse is accorded to its member to be heard, as the bed-rock of ‘natural-justice’? If so, whether ‘misconduct’ has actually been breached when its member is yet to be found guilty of a crime in the court of competent jurisdiction? Finally, are the members of the committee or council of the-Board or the-Institute have immunity against any-claim by the members?
Foremost, the background. The architect is a profession governs by the-Act and such legislation provided for the setting up of the Board to overlook the profession of Architects and by annexure to the criteria of being a Professional-Architect one has also a corporate-member of the institute, a ‘social-club’ for learned-society, bearing no-statutory power.
Secondly, the Malaysia-law provided for, the constitution as the supreme-law of the land, hereinafter class-A; the-Act, with it provided for its-Rule, hereinafter class-B; the-Board’s discretion as in Order and Circulars, hereinafter class-C; and the-Institute’s Advisory and Rulings, hereinafter class-D.
Thirdly, the Professional-liabilities as in professional-negligence and professional-misconduct. One has to bear in mind, professional-negligence does not equal professional-misconduct. Thus, what constitute professional-negligence and professional-misconduct? Can the-Board or the-Institute administer action pertaining to both?
Whether can the-Board or the-Institute take actions against its member based on its inherent jurisdiction to interfere into its member’s right for livelihood? Legally, the-Board is the creature created by the-Act, within it, stipulated that it can take action against its member, only-its member, via the disciplinary-committee, subject to hearing and right of representation, upon the recommendation of the investigation-officer; limited to only defined-misconducts; including the act of ‘search and seizure’ by an ‘authorised-officer’, except with ‘lawful-authority’; a subject of much-controversy. But when the ‘counter-claim’ was premised on its member’s right for livelihood, it is a ‘whole new-level’ of consideration, beyond the ambit of the-Board. It involves one, the question of conflict of law i.e. class-B versus class-A; two, the question of the ‘right-forum’ to hear the case with regard to an issue of conflict of law i.e. class-B versus class-A, ultimately, answering whether a proper avenue for recourse is accorded to its member to be heard, as the bed-rock of ‘natural-justice’?
Foremost, the constituents of the disciplinary-committee go against the fundamental principle of ‘natural-justice’ to be heard in the court of competent jurisdiction. The question, are the constituents of the disciplinary-committee equal to the court of competent jurisdiction, i.e. the High-Court of the country? Whether the disciplinary-committee has the jurisdiction to hear matter pertaining to restriction of a member’s constitutional rights for the preservation of livelihood?
Careful reading of the misconducts is generally and mostly related to the matter of criminality, beyond the term of reference by the disciplinary-committee’s jurisdiction. General reading of the-Act, revealed as though the disciplinary-committee has a wide range of jurisdiction to decide upon its member’s fate. But in fact, the disciplinary-committee has only a very narrow jurisdiction. The correct way, is that the disciplinary-committee is to convict its member, only when the member is found guilty by the court of competent jurisdiction. The-Board cannot take actions against its member based on its inherent jurisdiction to interfere into its member’s right for livelihood, without the conviction from the court of competent jurisdiction. With such, there is an apparent conflict of law i.e. class-B versus class-A.
With regard to the act of ‘search and seizure’ that can only be made lawful, by making a ‘police-report’, obtaining the relevant-warrant, prior to the act of ‘search and seizure’. Imagine if you have a situation of a ‘trigger-happy’ enforcing-officer, by each and every trade or professions, competing with the rest of the ‘law-enforcing’ personnel in the country, wouldn’t we revisit the era of the wild-wild west? Even ‘law-enforcing’ personnel requires a warrant to ‘search and seizure’. So, in reality, it is a provision good in theory, lousy in application. The-Institute with only, class-D jurisdiction, has no jurisdiction on this area.
If so, whether a proper avenue for recourse is accorded to its member to be heard, as the bed-rock of ‘natural-justice’? The correct forum must commence in the court of competent jurisdiction, not the disciplinary-committee. The disciplinary-committee should under the recommendation of the investigation-officer pursue legal proceeding in the court of competent jurisdiction. Thereupon, conviction, shall the disciplinary-committee take remedial-action against the member. Whether ‘misconduct’ has actually been breached when its member is yet to be found guilty of a crime in the court of competent jurisdiction? Thus, in the same vein, the short-answer is no.
Another matter that is unusual is that appeal is only available via the appeal-board only on a narrow matter pertaining to refusal or registration and removal of registration; taking into consideration that these matters interfere into its member’s right for livelihood; warrant that the appeal-board to be presided over by a High-Court Judge. It means to say, any other matter not falling within these refusal or registration and removal of registration are not subject to appeal? As such, contravening ‘natural-justice’? Any difference if the matter of professional-misconduct be heard in the High-Court instead of the disciplinary-committee as it involves interference into its member’s right for livelihood, where the options of further appeal to the Appeal-Court and Federal-Court are available? The drafter of this Act is obviously aware of the gravity it involves and the limitation as to the jurisdiction of the disciplinary-committee.
Finally, are the members of the committee or council of the-Board or the-Institute have immunity against any-claim by the members? Public-servant is accorded immunity against any cross-claims arising from negligence. So, the question is, are the-Board and the disciplinary-committee, public-servants? Public services shall consist of the Federal and State General Public Service, the Joint Public Services, the Education Service, the Judiciary and the Legal Service and the Armed Forces. For all intents and purpose, Statutory Bodies and the Local Authorities are also considered as parts of the Public Services. This is because both these autonomous bodies resemble the Public Services in many respects since they adopt the procedures of the Public Services pertaining to appointments, terms and conditions of service and the remuneration system. Therefore, the-Board is a Statutory Bodies, its constituents including that of the disciplinary-committee can be construed as public-servants, enjoying immunity in the context of ‘good-faith’. However, that cannot be applied to members or councils of the-Institute, as they can sue and be sued, collectively and individually.
However, a point has to be taken of the inherent nature of the ‘possibility of bias’ on account of the members of the-Board, the-Institute and the-disciplinary-committee, as they are appointed among the peers of practising professionals, whom by strictly to the law, are also ‘competitors’ in some cases, serving the same clients whom are limited in the industry and not from members of the public-servant whom are answerable to only the government. This is a domain for challenge in a sense of mala-fide.
Concluding, what constitute professional-negligence and professional-misconduct? Can the-Board or the-Institute administer action pertaining to both? Professional-negligence, as in tort-liability has to be held by the court, not the-Board nor the-Institute. Whereas, professional-misconduct, as outlined by the-Act are illicit-commissions; non-disclosure of conflict of interest, fraud/misrepresentation, any act of disgrace, non-compliance to the-Act, as to conditions of registration, procuring under fraudulent misrepresentation, concealing of facts to the disciplinary-committee, contravention of restriction, causes sufferings prior-registration, or post-registration, criminal-conviction, withdrawal of qualifications, unsound-mind and bankruptcy or incapacity. These have nothing to do with professional-negligence.
So, technically unsatisfied clients should not complaint to the-Board on matters of professional-negligence. Instead, they should just sue the architect in the court of competent jurisdiction. The-Board should only administer action pertaining to professional-misconduct, upon the conviction of the court. Whereas the-institute can only administer action upon the conviction of the-Board.
Postscript: If the question of law is with regard to the matter of the-Institute alone, as a ‘social-club’ there is very little statutory-jurisdiction on the matter of professional-misconduct, especially so with the existence of the-Board. The-Institute shall not eclipse the-Board.
 Architects Act 1963 (Amended 2015)
 Board of Architect Malaysia (LAM)
 S.4(1) Architects Act 1963
 Licensed to practice architecture, carries the title Ar., with post-nominal P.Arch, ALAM.
 Being Associate of Pertubuhan Arkitek Malaysia APAM
 Institute of Architects Malaysia (PAM)
 The Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1957
 Architect Rules 1996 (Amended 2015)
 LAM Disciplinary-Order
 As in PAM Arbitration-Rules and the sort
 S.3(1) Architects Act 1963
 S.4(1)(c) Architects Act 1963
 S.7 Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(1)(b) Architects Act 1963
 S.6(a)(i) Architects Act 1963
 S.5(a)(ii) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(5) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(1)(a) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2) Architects Act 1963
 S.34B Architects Act 1963
 S.34B(1) Architects Act 1963
 S.34B(5) Architects Act 1963
 Article 5(1) Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1957
 Woolmington v DPP  UKHL 1: presumption of innocence
 S.28(2) Architects Act 1963
 S.28(1)(a) Architects Act 1963
 S.28(1)(b) Architects Act 1963
 S.29 Architects Act 1963
 S.28(1)(a) Architects Act 1963
 S.28(1)(b) Architects Act 1963
 Articles 132(3) and 160(2) Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1957
 Article 132 Federal Constitution of Malaysia 1957
 S.3(2) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(a) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(b) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(c) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(d) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(e) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(f) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(g) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(h) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(i) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(j) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(k) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(l) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(m) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(n) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(o) Architects Act 1963
 S.15A(2)(p) Architects Act 1963
The Chinese courtyard house is also known as the SiHeYuan house 四合院 or the combination of four courts, forming a center plaza. A basic SiHeYuan house is considered a module capable to be duplicated and expanded when desired. There are many rules governing the design of the SiHeYuan house. These rules are based on the principles of FengShui.
There are basically 3 sections of a single module.
The frontal portion comprises of the "Main Gate" and a terrace of worker's quarters to the left of the "Main Gate" and the horseman station to the left. Many people assumed that the "Main Gate" as the Main Door but this is not the case. The inhabitant takes the street as public spaces and high walls are desirous to conceal the private spaces within. So the worker's quarters, horseman station and the main gates are barricading the street front. The main gate is always located to the right side, looking from the street. It is in the location of Xun 巽 within the Green Dragon Embrace 青龍.
The Center Portion is the house proper. Aligned to the center is the Main Door. This Main Door opens up to a huge center court. Only VIP and family members can come in from the Main Door to the house proper. Only males can be seen walking pass the center court. Females are not allowed to use the center court. They can only pass through the terraces that link to the western wing also known as the White Tiger Embrace 白虎. Only on special occasions like festivity, marriages and ushering newborns, females are allowed to be seen in the center court.
The western wing is the living abode for the females. The opposite is called the eastern wing also known as the Green Dragon Embrace 青龍. The eastern wing is the living abode for the males. Contrary to FengShui principles that the Green Dragon Embrace 青龍 must be higher than White Tiger Embrace 白虎, the female quarters are higher than the male quarters for practical reason - allowing the female to see and not to be seen from the ground level.
Aligned to the center and opposite of the Main Door, sitting north facing south is the Main Living Hall where official receptions are held. There is no TV room but a large hall comprising of rows of seat with the main feature wall usually heavily decorated with altar and calligraphy. The master room is usually located to the back of the Living Hall. Usually the owner will plant 2 trees at the front of the living hall within the compound of the center court. Whenever the tree wither, it signify bad omens. If it is on the left, it affects the male descendants otherwise if it is on the right, it affects the female descendants.
The last portion of the house comprising the kitchen, toilets and the back of house. It is detached away from the house proper through a court of utilitarian in nature. There is also a back door only serves as the entrance for the female members of the family and as the only mean to allow the disposal of "night soil" or sewer.
Every sections of the SiHeYuan is comprising a number of buildings complete with its 4 walls and a roof above. So technically SiHeYuan is a compound with many individual houses. The courts are open to sunshine and rain water. There is a complete water reticulation system within the SiHeYuan where waters are designed to flow according to a certain direction in accordance to the FengShui principle. Nothing is rarely left for chances.
When the family grows, the extended family require extended place to live. The same module was duplicated to the back, again with a second center court complete with its own left and right wing living quarters with its secondary main hall, yet the secondary module also share the same kitchen.
As the family prosper, they may require their very own Chinese garden. They will not turn their main court into a Chinese garden and instead, they will purchase the neighboring lot and be expended into a standalone Chinese garden with internal access ways. So, technically the SiHeYuan remains intact and whatsoever add-ons are a matter of "plug and play".
Strategizing Your Firm is an uphill battle for an architect. Your architectural education does not provide you with the essential knowhow to survive the Red Ocean. That is one good reason why a Business degree is always the preferred choice before you do a post Grad in Architecture. At the very least, you will not be a pauper.
So what did the Business Guru has to say about strategizing? A “Farm House” matrix is a model of production to gauge the current situation of your organization against what you ought to be in the next level. Likewise, Architecture is a failed business model from the first principle and this matrix will tell you so.
Relative Market Share (RMS) is a yardstick to measure the popularity of a product, in this case your services as an Architect. The higher the demands means your services are highly sought after and the reverse is true for the lower RMS.
Market Growth Rate (MGR) is a yardstick to measure the ability of the organization to grow. Growth is in terms of acquiring RMS. The faster it is the better and it is very dependable on Marketing, Product Acceptance, Advertising, Lobbying and BRANDING… It eats up into your operation cost but together it is essential to push up your revenues.
Errorneous (E) is the measurement of regressive of an organization of moving forward. It is a measurement of Self-Denial, Self-doubt and most importantly Self-Destruction (A Topic we shall discuss later).
Go back to the business of architecture, you need to ask what your business model is? Production, Service or Design oriented? Then you dwell into the matter of Doing the Business, Branding and so forth…
The greater E factors you have with regard to low MGR and RMS, you are considered a DOG. Someone that can easily forgotten and disposed of. There is very little value in the organization.
If you woke up someday with lower E factors, will reorganize yourself. Re brand your establishment engage new talents. Have a good business plan. You will rise above being a DOG into something UNKNOWN. This is most start-up wannabe. The firm has the potential to grow ie. High MGR. It is a very good indicator for Investor to fund. Technical know who is essential to make higher RMS by disclosing new ventures and projects so that the masses believing into the trend. This is where a good CEO is needed.
With the right opportunity your firm will be a STAR or GOD-like with high MGR and RMS. This is where the Firm is going to be RAPE by its shareholder and subsequently a downward path begins.
With the decline of MGR, your firm is going on a plateau hopefully, as a CASH COW that continuously milked by its shareholders until a time where it becomes from GOD to DOG. That is the entire life cycle of your Firm.
Strategize with this matrix in mind, you will know what action to take for being relevance and not forgotten into oblivion.
We often come across the term – The Angry Boss. How often do we ask, why the Boss is angry? Well hypothetically he is angry because he is not able to complete a task perfectly and he aspect you to complete it perfectly. Because you are, in fact, imperfect and how is it possible for you to carry out a task perfectly? That is why he is angry and his anger will also make you angry and you throw your anger to your subordinate and everyone in the organization is angry.
To mitigate such do a One Minute Management, daily: -
1 – MINUTE OBJECTIVE. For whatever we do contemplate for 1 minute what is our purpose and objective of doing such thing and write it clearly. For example, my objective is that by 3pm everyone should have a tea break. Can the HR look into these?
1 – MINUTE PRAISE. People say, praise must be cast in stone, insult should be written in sands. Praise your fellow mate for helping you even as small as picking up the phone for you. Trust me, it will make your day.
1 – MINUTE REPRIMAND. Your fellow mate is your mirror to oneself. It is good to reprimand someone who you think had done wrong – but that is only for 1 minute and no longer. For example, hey! Why the HR only brief us on the spot without issuing the guidelines much earlier?
1 – MINUTE APOLOGY. Be brave and if you had identify your shortcomings just ADMIT and apologies. Live moves on. For example, Aiya! My mistake… I should have given you more time to vet the document…
It is PERFECT to be IMPERFECT. Drill oneself of these 4 mantras and everybody’s life will be better. Give it a try!
What is in a Business of Architecture? What makes a FIRM ticking? It is again the model of production – A Stage, A Script and The Crews.
A Stage – Is defined as a Hardware. Its address speaks a thousand words. A Firm in CBD is different from a Firm in the Suburb. The Location, Imagery and its Organization gives meaning to a BRAND. Your office represents what and who you are!
The Crews – Is defined by its ORGANIZATION. Organization is who’s who within the confine of an Office (Stage). There is a “BOSS”, called it by whatever name – CEO, MD, Managing Partner, Principal, he is the “Fountain Head”. He alone makes the ultimatum. If you have 2, the organization is going to doom. Subsequently, it is ROLE PLAYING. The head is supported by his team, all in it is called the ADMINISTRATION. Different components or ROLES are classified as PRODUCTION, MARKETING, IT and so on so forth, each potentially becomes a full-fledged company in itself. Crossing this line, it is an amalgamation of Holding Company with its Subsidiaries. This ORGANIZATION defines its POLITIC.
THE SCRIPT – Each Crew liked an ACTOR has different SCRIPT such as LEADERSHIP, STAFFING, DIRECTING and CONTROLING.
Leadership is best done by example. There are basically 2 types of leadership – the BOSS and the LEADER. You choose…
Staffing is what you want your staff to be 5 years down the road. There is a different between a Career and a Job. Every employee should have a Career path, not just a Job scope!
Directing is another word for Communication. Right communication is essential. If the instruction is clear, the execution erred – it is the executives’ mistake. If the instruction is unclear, the execution erred – it is the superior’s mistake. Communication is to put a decision into action and worse of all is no decision and not wrong decision. It is judgement call. Everyone should have it. For standardization is good practice to lay them down as SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) and DL (Discretionary Limits).
Controlling is the flow of authority. If it originates from the top, it is called top down control and there are various sort of controls. What is your preference?
When you gel all these together, you get yourself a FIRM.
You are an Architect for Project ABC. The Contractor CDE has delayed. The Contract Period has another 6 months to go. The Contractor is blaming its NSC of non-performance and herewith request you as the Architect for consent to terminate the NSC under PAM2006. What will be your response?
1. One of the method employed by Contractor for mandatory EOT is to determine the NSC almost to the tail end of the Project.
2. The PAM98 form does not require consent for NSC determination. However, in the PAM2006 form Cl27.8 require the Architect’s written consent as a precedent condition for NSC determination.
3. Here is the catch, if the Architect consented, the Contractor is automatically granted for additional EOT as time is required to re-nominate. If the Architect decline, the Contractor may accused the Architect for unreasonably withholding consent.
4. To avoid being unreasonable, the burden of proof rests upon the Contractor to present. Such proof has to be beyond reasonable doubt. The benefit of the doubt must rest within the NSC. Cl27.8 implied the Architect to be in due diligent to the NSC.
5. In the event that the proofs are insufficient, the Architect has the right to withhold consent until further notice. There is no specific time for the Architect to give consent.
Many years ago, the Board had in placed the Noblest Scale of Fee called the Scale of Minimum Fee Rule (SMFR) and one Towering Figure of that Time, almost sharing the same stature of “Lord of the Rings - Gandalf”, our grandfather Architect nick-named “The King of the Loo” has risen to awake newbies architect that “Thou Shall Not Undercut Your Professional Fee” or “You shall Face the Full Force of the Board!”. Such “commandments” shiver through the spines of every newbies architects to the extent that one committed suicides because of such!
In reality, with the exception of Government Jobs, no private practice actually go by it or rather openly admitted to have not complying to SMFR, a staggering FACT shown by the polls conducted by both the Board and the Institute. Yet, the noble of noblest Board happily admitted that fact and the irony is these practices agree that such Rule shall be continued for perpetuity as it safeguard the interest of the practitioners. Now you know why Newbies are forced to take jobs at ridiculously low price as nobody has faith in this archaic rule.
For the benefits of Newbies so that they are not caught red-handed of committing such heinous “crime”, this is how the BIG BOYS did it. Assuming Construction Cost = RM100,000,000.00, “market Fee” (1.2%) = RM 1,200,000.00. What is in their appointment letter reflects, Construction Cost = RM30,000,000.00 and the Scale of Fee Rule (4%) = RM 1,200,000.00. Even with the compliance of the SMFR, one is able to manipulate the figures and that is how BIG FIRMS are doing to protect the interest of their shareholders. You are technically in compliance to the Rule.
SMFR is again going to be the same stale subject in the Professional Qualifying Examination but as a matter of surviving the Red Ocean to the Newbies, pledging your alliance to such will only make you death by hunger unless one is born with a silver spoon.
Let’s look at what is in a BRAND. There are 4 quadrants to where your products are graded: -
The first quadrant is where your product is too generic and has no exposure WHATSOEVER to the market thus being irrelevant. In simple word, what is your Architecture? If you are doing the sort of Architecture as just another production oriented firm, you are in the stage of HOPELESS. This is where most startups are.
The second quadrant will see your product move vertical upward. You need your product to be relevant! So, technically you sell your stuff to Design and Built contractors and Developers who can immediately tap into your resources either on pro-bono, below market price or delay gratification basis. At this stage you move from being technically competent to technically intimate with relationship builds after time. You will be known among the circles of people who employed you and to a certain degree take advantages of you. Such your product or Architecture is still very generic in nature. This is what is probably known as COMMERCIAL ARCHITECT. You are just ONE of MANY!
The third quadrant is a horizontal approach. You tend to be Artistic and Passionate about what you are designing. You may have a grand scheme that nobody wants. Who cares? It fills your ego but it may not fill your hunger. You are born rich and you have no family to feed. It is OKAY! This is the sort of Stararchitect in the making. The Primadonna that NOT anyone can be. Your product is so distinctively individual that it is waiting for the right Audience to appear and to accept. The fact is you remain IRRELAVANT.
The fourth quadrant is a GRAND BRAND. It is highly relevant meaning acceptance by the Public and absolutely distinctive. This is where most of the successful practices are. What has it in common?
Your product must be CREDIBLE. Being credible means there must be a degree of trusts put upon your product either in production, services or design. Credibility can only be built upon years but you can destroy within second. That is why BRAND promises, INDIVDUAL don’t.
Your product must be UNIQUE but not necessary functional. There must be some kind of architectural concoction that only you can produce and everybody can remember it. That is your kind of Architecture.
Your product must be RELEVANT. In other words it must be CONTEXTUAL, FINANCIALLY and TECHNOLOGICALLY VIABLE and SOCIALLY ACCEPTABLE to a certain degree of POLITICALLY CORRECT. There must be the audience or consumer that constantly consume your product and perpetually financing you.
Your product must be MOTIVATING. It must create a following, a campaign or a movement so that the masses are your believers. This is where you make your product like a cult, religion or the “Opium”. You subconsciously imprint your Brand into people’s thought. You manipulating their desires and selections without giving people choice for selection.
In summary, reaching the Grand Brand is not too far off. It is a diagonal movement along the 4 quadrants. You make a balance between “one of many” and “waiting to happen”. Ultimately translating into creating your very own BLUE OCEAN.
There are 6 aspects to Business Development also known as MARKETING MATRIX.
You must understand your PRODUCT and what you offer. This goes back to the approach of your firm’s orientation such as DESIGN driven, SERVICE driven or PRODUCTION driven. Most start-up will start with PRODUCTION driven. This what known as the “bread and butter” of architecture where recycle of workable plans, fast churning of production drawings and fast authority approval for a mediocre fee are the order of the day. When you are in the market for some time and able to survive the “red-ocean”, you want to carve a name for yourself you start to leech to newbies developer, you start to shift gear to SERVICE driven. Some goes as low as to “SLEEP” with potential clients to get JOB. Some went into POLITICS and be the cronies. Ultimately the performance is measure as to how good your relationships with the Clients. The quality of your product does not count. When you are comfortable enough with the jobs available, you have the opportunity to choose and select and such potentially make you a Starachitect. On this pedestal only then you are DESIGN driven in a “Blue-Ocean” you had created.
You must understand who you are OFFERING to. What will be your market segment? Start-up will approach individual owners because you have no precedent to showcase. Interior works are best to start with for its short gestation period and potentially gloss over magazines. Later they will be promoted to engage with Developers with all kinds underlying tactics. Some will operate as “in-house” others will be engaged as outsourcing that the firm will need to finance itself during the gestation period – also called delayed gratification. Some will be partnering with foreign firms in creating their blue ocean and the lists go on.
You must understand if your offering is UNIQUE. There goes your branding liked ECO-ARCHITECTURE, BIO-CLIMATIC, ICONIC and so forth. This is to create your own market segment – we called “Blue-Ocean” strategy. To garner such you must appear to be EXCLUSIVE. For example, there is a Firm whose individuals happened to be once the President of the Institute of Architecture. He lobbied and headed the newly minted Green Certifying Body under the auspice of the institute. He set his rule and game plan. For out of the Blue, he champions for Green Building and marketed his firm as Guaranteed Green Building Certified Architect in town. Whoever developers wannabe Green must go to him for he only knows how to go about it and no one else.
You must know your PRICE. It is true that the bottom line of any commercial decision is the price. Do you know how much your service worth? It is naïve to think that there is no price war within architectural practices although it is mandatory for all to follow the minimum fee rule. The BIG BOYS are throwing their fee just to keep their organization afloat and the SMALL FRIES are surviving on shoe-string budget waiting to go bust. Price war is the stupidest thing to do and yet is the most practical thing happening in this industry. Both the Board and the Institute cannot do anything about it because it is believed that they are the party to it as well. Learn to be smart with pricing.
You must know how to PROMOTE. Promoting a BRAND is a better choice of word. The practice as a BRAND where Brand Promises, individual don’t. You must be a MEDIA’s darling. You must create events and generate awareness. You must be seen championing a cause. You must engage in Social Media. You must cultivate Brand Awareness within your own organization. You must LIVE as the Brand. You must communicate with the Brand via your writings, speeches, social works and so forth. It must be a 360 days awareness campaign to make your Brand jingles in everybody’s head. If nobody ever knew you existed in the first place, you are a total FAILURE.
In summary, you must have a good PRODUCT. Then you BRAND the product. Next, you PROMOTE the Brand. With the Brand you open up your MARKET SEGMENT. The Market Segment will indicate your PRICE – This is PROGRAMMING.
There are 4 aspects to BUSINESS LIFE-CYCLE – at least in theory la…..
Getting the Business – Business Development. We need a FLESHY PORTFOLIOS. Works that can sell itself without much deliberating. We need to create more SEXY-Buildings. The wow factors that will excite the potential client. If it is not the building we need SEXY-People. Good looking people and charming orators that can sell ice to the Eskimo. We need SEXY-Coverage from the Medias, although the Board is very cautious about it! We need to be creative to work around it. We need to “buy” our way through the intriguing networks of brokers, managers and lobbyists. That is reality – the $ speaks loudest. Over-promise is NEVER a Sin. Under deliver – YES! We also need SEXY-Address. Imagine one lobbying for jobs amounting to Billions with an office somewhere in the slum?
Doing the Business – revenue. Revenue is your BLOOD line, without it everything will “close shop”. Revenue comes in the form of your collections, invoices, bills and so forth. You have to find ways to increase revenue and none other by Getting the Business! Newbies mistake is to provide FREEBIES in the form of Free Proposals that brokers will salvage to sell them to their potential clients in your expanse, not theirs. That is a FAIL Business Model. Recruit debt collectors if necessary because in this line of business, payment is always on credit terms. Overall it is unhealthy. The paradigm has to change. Perhaps bridging loan is a short term solution. Remember, REVENUE = PRODUCTION COST + PROFIT. Either way both production cost and profit have to increase!
Managing the Business – Effective Delegation. One reason business fail is because the Principal abdicated its role to someone else. Abdication is not Effective Delegation. Effective Delegation comes with the reward, abdication – no. Effective Delegation comes with a precise objectives and discretionary limits, abdication – no. Effective Delegation comes with proper reporting, abdication – no, and the list can go on. If one fails to delegate, the organization will not grow. The real assets of the firm is Human Capital, not the owner. The owner is credited for its foresight and vision. In other words, if you find someone asking the screw driver to do a hammer’s job, you know it is going to be trouble!
Financing the Business. This is the very one aspect that makes Architectural Practice a FAIL business model. Firstly, Architectural Practice is heavily dependable on human capital and production technology plus all the fixed expenditure and that incurred REAL Cost. Second, services payment are on credit terms and may not be prompt. Such Financial Charges will add up into our REAL Cost and if you are not careful you will end up with LOAN SHARKS. Thirdly, recouping Bad Debts are a risky business due to high Legal Cost and Prolonged Legal Battle. Holding ransom with the Letter of Release will not offer much help. It fails on the first principle and it really doesn't make money sense to run a firm. Yet, people does it! Why?
These 4 aspects will continue to haunt you. Once in a while you will rudely wake up from your sleep with chilling sweats that you need to make up for the 100K pot holes to keep your firm up and running before the bank foreclose your personal property. If you care to look at the profitable firms, you will understand that they had broken away from this paradigm. The question now is… what is this new paradigm?
I am sharing these information with a caveat that these information is for educational purpose only and shall not be taken as an advice be it legal or otherwise. You should seek proper advice to your case with the relevant professionals. The author cannot guarantee the accuracy of the information so provided here.