I highly recommend you go read “Life of an architect” at www.lifeofanarchitect.com by Bob Borson. Bob always does an outstanding job! His latest post “Mission Statements” got me thinking about two experiences I will share. Bob latest post to me is typically about truth. People use certain verbiage to fluff up what they say or write to make it sound better. I guess one could say they embellish their accomplishments to sound more important or prominent? I am more of a straight shooter myself. This is a conflict of what I believe because I firmly believe that your fantastic idea is 50% and your impressive presentation is the other 50% of selling a project to a client. Since I am not much into the presentation part, my work ethic and reputation are what gets me my work. I know I should do better, but it is just not “me” Which leads me to my two stories.
I don’t do much interviewing, but every now and then one slips in my life. I have done several rural churches and because of that church work I got invited to talk to a fairly large size church about doing an addition for them. The interview went well and at the end of it someone asked me “Tell me why we should use your firm?” I told them I couldn’t tell them that they should use my firm. I assumed that all the other architects they had invited were all qualified to do the work. I also told them that getting involved with a project like this was about relationships and they need to pick the firm they felt the most comfortable with, as this was going to be a long process. They told me that was an excellent responses, but I did not get the project. I guess they felt more comfortable with someone else. When asked that question the standard answers raced through my head. The things we always hear people say, not just architects. “This company has been around for (add your number of years here), we focus on customer satisfaction giving you what you want, we are responsible and concerned about efficiency, cost and getting the project out on time and in budget!” I just can’t go there. I should do more promotion and “branding”, but if people will take the time to sit down and talk to me then I don’t need to do all that other stuff. I can’t tell you how many times I have been told “I have dealt with a few architects in the past, but you are different” and I take that as a compliment.
I got involved in another church project. These poor people had hired a “consulting group”, that I had actually worked with in the past, but parted ways because I didn’t not like the way they handled their clients. They were preaching godliness, but they were not practicing it. The consulting group had done design services, but when it came time to do construction documents “Their architect” was not licensed in that state! I guess they could have been turn in to the state board, but I don’t know if they were. I was asked if I would be interested in completing the work, so I went up to interview. The consulting grouped has billed for about $40,000 and at the time I interview had not returned any of it. During my interview I was asked “So I see you are requesting a deposit, so what guarantee do we have that if we give you a deposit we will ever see you again?” My mind raced through all those stock answers previously discussed and I answered “None, and what guarantee do I have that when I finish this project you will give me my last check? All I can tell you is if you don’t trust me, don’t hire me.” To which I got a laughing reply “I guess it works both ways doesn’t it?”. Not an answer I would typically expect anyone to give, but an honest answer on my part. I did get that project.
I do believe that we don’t necessarily need to be good salesman, but good communicators. If a client will give me the opportunity to sit down and just meet them I firmly believe they will know what they are getting if they hire me. What is the saying “You never get a second chance to make a first impression”