Is hiring an advisor to the firm....advisable?

In support of Burwell Consulting, William M. Burwell writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas: Design; Marketing, Firm Management and Project Management

Practice Management Post 1.7

Architects, by nature of their education and profession feel that while they may not know everything, they are capable of analyzing situations and making the right decision.  Of course this is true for many, but I contend that if their analysis included the experience of someone who has walked that path ahead of them, they may have benefited.  This is not a gratuitous answer, it comes from my own personal experiences in my own professional practice development.

Growing up, I had a sixth sense to know when an employer had an interest in helping propel my career.  I listened and learned from them as they took me under their wing.  Later in life I used that sense to locate more experienced friends who would take the time to offer me some advise and counsel on my practice.  I sought out their personal attention and plied them for their knowledge so I could compare, understand and adjust my own business.  I devoured business articles in the Wall Street Journal, Fortune and Forbes on how others operated and pushed their grand ideas into successful firms.  As an architect, I used my open mind and creative analysis to adapt the stories of other often non-related businesses to my own practice.  I also lived a real life experience of growing my business from scratch, one year out of college, forming and evolving my practice, selling and buying firms, merging and acquiring firms, folding firms and starting over.  I often wonder how my life practice might have been different if I had hired a mentor / advisor to listen to my dreams and help me fashion a business that may have avoided the pitfalls and trial and error method that I and so many young friends suffered through.

An architectural practice is one of the most interesting combinations of ethereal and pragmatic, product and production, opinion and dogma.  It is a complex, intriguing affair.  When starting a practice or in the midst of running a young practice, sometimes the vision of the future is a great big boiling cloud of choices, decisions, clients, projects, employees, ideas, contracts, hiring, marketing and it can be daunting to sort out the priorities. An advisor to the firm will listen to the dream, understand the vision and help the practitioner cut through the fog to see the direction to be taken.  They can provide a road map complete with "AAA" level advice on starting out, distances to your goal, where to make the correct turn and where to stay overnight.  

The best part is that an advisor can provide the clarity of thought that allow the practitioner to re-focus on their clients and design with a clear head and a renewed sense of direction.

William M. Burwell  is a retired Architect and Interior Designer who focused on corporate interior architecture for over 40 years in sole proprietorships, and partnerships from 9 to 120 staff.  Bill retired in 2014 and began a Small Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm to share the wisdom and experience of those 40 years.   He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence.