Thanks for dropping in. If you've got a few minutes, I'd like you to know more about me.
As a 24 year old entrepreneur, running a practice was daunting for me as well. Early on questions about contracts, profit, collections, hiring, marketing were so challenging. I adopted a mentor to leverage his experience into mine. I thought you might want to know how I earned my stripes, and why my experience could be very valuable to you.
"My goal is to help you move your practice to the next level. "
Burwell Consulting is my way of sharing through mentoring, advising and guiding professionals in small to medium sized practices to help them learn from my experience to avoiding the kind of mistakes that can be harmful to a practice. You can leverage my experience into your practice - except with your point of view. My goal is to help you move your practice to the next level.
Burwell Consulting was formed after retiring from private practice in 2013. My professional career spanned 45 years. In that time, I built several practices, sold businesses, merged with larger firms, opened offices in other cities, created side businesses peripheral to my practice and ultimately enjoyed a successful small practice firm specializing in corporate interior architecture. Early on I knew very little about starting a firm; and, as the saying goes, if I had known a lot more I may have chosen a different path. Ignorance can be bliss, but it can also be expensive.
All through my various business adventures, it occurred to me that my profession had four keystone practice areas - marketing, practice management, design and project management. I learned countless valuable lessons in each area. An area that also has been of keen interest is entrepreneurship itself. It speaks to the mental and emotional forces that drive us to test the water of self-employment. The forces that drive entrepreneurship are powerful motivators. It changed the way I thought about business forever.
Stop me if you've heard this story before and click on the next topic. If not, here is a little history:
Round 1: Starting Small but Thinking Big
"After 12 years, the firm became an overnight success."
William M Burwell started his firm one year after graduation from University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971. Conceived more as a design firm that also provided architecture, the firm had six disciplines - Architecture, Space Planning, Interior Design, Graphic Design, Photography and Scale Model building. With little or no business or social connections, the Bill propelled the firm on sweat equity and shameless self-promotion. Bill was an early member of the Houston Chapter of SMPS and was known to speak regularly at SMPS, IFMA,NAIOP and other industry events. Bill pioneered utilizing paid advertisements to build his brand in Texas Architect Magazine, Time, Wall Street Journal, Houston Business Journal, Texas Monthly, Southwest Airline In-Flight Magazine and The Society for Performing Arts. During this timeframe, and as complimentary to his main business, Bill created a professional model material retail business, and an architectural custom signage and installation business. Bill was a founding partner at Kinetic Systems, Inc. and its successor firm William M. Burwell Inc. After 12 years, the firm became an overnight success.
Round 2: Selling to Big Architecture
"As a member of the Management Committee comprised of the 12 largest shareholders , Bill helped guide the firm through a tough three years of a declining market in Houston due to the real estate and banking crisis that plagued most markets from coast to coast."
In late 1982, his firm was competing with a large multi-discipline architectural firm for space planning and interior design, while at the same time being hired by that same firm for Interior and architectural signage design. A sale of the business to Morris*Aubry Architects was negotiated and Bill became a partner in Morris*Aubry Architects from 1983 to 1986, directing and managing the Corporate Interior and Architectural Graphics divisions for the firm with responsibility for 50 staff in a firm that touted a total staff of over 300 at that time. As a member of the Management Committee comprised of the 12 largest shareholders , Bill helped guide the firm through a tough three years of a declining market in Houston due to the real estate and banking crisis that plagued most markets from coast to coast. With declining local market due to a down business cycle and the reluctance of some to recognize the importance of the market shift, Bill, Gene Aubry and Janet Goodman chose to redirect their professional efforts in 1986.
Round 3: Joining Mid-size Architecture
"Bill and his family lived in Washington, DC and Georgetown for a period of five years. His role was to double the business with new projects from local clients and developers. "
In 1986, Bill joined long time friends Glenn House and Ed Reh and ultimately formed House Reh Burwell Architects. Bill directed the interior program and marketing for the firm from 1986 to 2003. Bill assisted in the opening offices in Washington, DC, Philadelphia, and Austin. Bill and his family lived in Washington, DC and Georgetown for a period of five years. His role was to double the business with new projects from local clients and developers. Returning to Houston in 1991, he continued to work with Glenn and Ed and in addition to developing the Corporate Interior business in Houston to a substantial level, Bill was instrumental in managing the firm's growth from 50-60 staff to close to 100 staff at peak. To strengthen their presence in Austin, the firm a merged with a small local firm in 1996. In 2000, the firm was re-organized as Reh Burwell Architects with offices in Houston and Austin. In 2003 Bill took over the Corporate Interior Architecture portion of the Houston office and his partner retained the Austin operation.
Round 4: Small again and Focused
"Burwell Architects flew under the radar of much larger competitors often winning prestigious commissions by using a 'results and process' style presentation directly against the larger firms' voluminous design portfolios. "
In 2004, Bill founded Burwell Architects with a singular focus on corporate interior architecture. Over the next five years, he successfully doubled the initial staff from four to eight, doubled the business volume, and tripled the profitability. While the firm excelled with clients from the technology and accounting sectors, oil & gas and law firms balanced out the portfolio. Burwell Architects maintained a small practice of eight including Bill with a tightly run, process driven and highly client centric design focus. The firm gained recognition through astute attention to client needs, creative design solutions and speed of delivery in a high-pressure broker driven market. Burwell Architects flew under the radar of much larger competitors often winning prestigious commissions by using a 'results and process' style presentation directly against the larger firms' voluminous design portfolios. Bill proved time and again that design and substance can win over mere style any day.
Round 5: Merging with Big Architecture
"Better than to 90% of his former clients followed Bill to Studio One at Ziegler Cooper Architects. "
The success of Burwell Architects led to the merger in 2009 with former competitor Ziegler Cooper Architects. Bill worked as a dedicated consultant to this firm of 110 staff from 2009 to 2013 to transition his former clients into the new firm as well as to handle special projects that better fit his portfolio of work. Better than 90% of his former clients followed Bill to Studio One at Ziegler Cooper Architects. His work included clients in accounting, technology, engineering, oil and gas and law. Bill also took on special clients of ZCA in redevelopment of existing office buildings including Park Laureate, 20 Greenway and Four Oaks Place. Bill retired from architectural practice in November 2013.
Today: Sharing the Knowledge
The idea of Burwell Consultants was formed many years earlier. It became obvious to Bill that like most, he graduated with considerable design skills and talent. The missing part of the architectural educational was any sort of briefing or instruction in forming a practice, accounting and business economics or marketing. These skills, it was the common belief, would be learned through apprenticeship and practice. This simply could not have been further from the truth. Like most Architects, Bill learned these skills through the school of hard knocks as it is said by trial and error. However, once learned he adapted quickly and honed skills like marketing and self promotion, team building, client skills, design selling, listening, and hearing what clients want. With 40+ years of experience in firms with annual fee sales from $1,000,000 to $20,000,000, working in one city or multiple cities, Bill has learned many lessons and gained ample wisdom honed by the variety of experiences. Bill advises principals of firms in propeling their businesses to the next level.