As an architect, I get few phone calls that are more satisfying than when a contractor contacts me to say there is a client he wants me to meet. Likewise, when I am talking with one of my prospects, I am always eager to connect him or her with the contractors with whom I work best.
This reciprocal marketing is beneficial to all sides of the conversation. The client finds construction professionals who have good communication skills and a history of success, and the architect and contractor benefit from each other’s network.
As business owners, we are always keeping an eye out for prospective clients. The day I started this article, I was marketing my services to a building inspector who was at my house to look at my new furnace. Everyone is a prospective client or collaborator. Each person we meet has different needs and project requirements.
By regularly working with architects, contractors have access to their expertise. When you meet a prospect, you’ll have our knowledge base as a potential selling point for your services. You can provide a particular scope, but you’ll also have a strong working relationship with someone else who provides a different service. You don’t lose out on work because you can’t provide everything.
But marketing is just the preamble. What the marketing relationship really points toward is strong collaboration during a project. Architects and contractors have overlapping and complementary skill sets. Some of us truly straddle the line between the two and can function as both, but many of us can’t and shouldn’t try.
I, for one, am an architect who shouldn’t be left alone with a power tool. And that’s fine. I’d rather have conversations and design meetings with people who can. I want to enable you, the contractor, to focus on what you are passionate about and best at. Because when we work together and support each other’s strengths, then we can all do better work. We can land additional work and enjoy what we do more.
Does every project need an architect? Does every project need a contractor? Does every project need a client? No. But the best projects have all three.
When people learn that I’m an architect, they always ask, “What kind of projects do you like to do?” or “What’s your favorite style?” or “If you could design anything, what would it be?” As a building professional, my favorite work is rarely what outsiders would guess. I use this opportunity to turn the discussion to what really matters: people over projects.
The common thread throughout all my favorite projects is the team I worked with. Quality teams are enjoyable to deal with, and strong teammates make me better at my job, allowing me to focus on what I excel at.
Our complementary strengths and values are why I hope that when your clients ask, “Do I need an architect for this?” you unequivocally say, “Yes.” Or at the very least you say, “The permit office might not require one for your project, but you want one.” It’s important for us to know the limits of our expertise and the conditions under which we perform at our best.
Jared Banks, AIA, is an architect living in Seattle, Washington. He is a member of the AIA Custom Residential Architects Network Advisory Group and enjoys writing about being an architect in the 21st century. Visit www.shoegnome.com for more information.
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