Death of Vision and Rise of the Manifesto

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

Marketing Post 4.7

Honestly now, how tired are you of hearing that you need to create a "Vision" for your business?  I have seen more eyes roll at the mention of this word than at the thought of hearing Presidential campaign ads for the next year.  Enough is enough.    No more lofty ideals or glamorous thoughts about saving the world through technology or building the best design firm on the planet.  Small practices distinguish their firm by expressing the personality and ideas of the founding principals.  It's in this light that I am a proponent of the Manifesto, a more passionate and more personal expression of firm beliefs.  By way of definition, a manifesto is a public declaration of intent, motives or views.  A manifesto is just YOU making a statement about YOU - what you do, how you want to deliver your idea, and what it means to you.  Simple.  Direct.  And it can be a explosive tool for a small firm.

The prompting for this idea was my own Manifesto for a Small Firm, written back in the heady days of 2005, when once again I began again.  This time with renewed energy, no partners or engorged and bloated business structure and overhead.  It was just me and a handful of loyalists.  I was creating a new paradigm.  I had one service and one client type.  Small and simple were my mantra.  Normally I wouldn't show my own work but by way of example, here is an excerpt that was particularly meaningful:

"The Single Team Concept – The New Paradigm relationship to the single team concept is so powerful that I can’t believe I missed it altogether.  The single team provided more depth, coverage, overlap and support, not to mention better client support and communication.  Instead of splitting the firm we meld all of us together into one mutually supportive group.  All projects belong to all of us.  We do not polarize - we synthesize.  At the center of this is the desire and ability to stay small.

Staying Small – I believe that a small firm is good for a number of reasons

  1. Being small keeps us tight and energetic and more competitive. 

  2. Small means that we can better withstand the normal ups and downs of business cycles. 

  3. Small means that we have fewer new folks that need to train. 

  4. Small means that our learning curve is flat, not vertical.

  5. Small means that we can upgrade our technology with less capital investment. 

  6. Small means greater professional growth and profitability. 

  7. Small means that we can all fit at one table for lunch.

In order for this firm to stay small we need to create systems that allow us to perform at peak performance without breaking a sweat or having nervous breakdowns.  Small is good."

While my manifesto continues on to include all aspects of the firm from marketing to design and management...can you feel the heat and excitement as I penned these words?  What made them powerful was that I had written down both my plan and my emotions of the moment, a true manifesto.  So get fired up and define your plan and express the heat of your moment.  The power of the written word tremendous..  Share it with your staff.  Then, live your own words in your practice.  

William M. Burwell is a retired Architect and Interior Designer whose career focused on corporate interior architecture 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 45 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.