Small Pond + Big Fish = Happy Client

For almost 6 years I ran a singular service practice.  I built a boutique Corporate Interior practice.  We had one product.  Nothing else.  But it was Corporate Interiors soup to nuts, meaning we programmed, planned, designed, produced, furnished, branded and delivered to our clients spaces that defined their corporate vision and culture.  It was one of the smallest yet most exciting practices I had operated.  

I had a vision of great design, efficient delivery, well trained staff and a process that consistently delivered excellence.  After my experiences with large firms, middle sized firms and huge firms, I was really looking forward to having no partners, no committees, and no frills.  If it didn't contribute to the bottom line we didn't have it.  Here was the blueprint:

  1. Master set documents.  Every issue, code item, detail that didn't pass muster in the field was adjusted on the master set after every project.  Each project manager went back to the master rather than adjust any previous similar set. 
  2. Thorough staff training.  We knew we would be only as strong as our weakest employee so we mentored, trained and reviewed every page of every project together until we held a reputation for error free documents.
  3. Select Consultants.  We utilized a group of 4-5 consultant over and over.  They knew our documents and expectations as well as our team.  We knew how they thought and only used consultants that began every project with excellence in field site review.
  4. Select General Contractors.  We invited the same 4-5 GCs to bid every time. They knew us and we knew them.  We had preferred field superintendants at each.  We understood their estimating methods.
  5. Select Subs and Vendors.  So much Interior Architecture success depends on detailed execution and engaged subcontractors and vendors, so we built a preferred list to deliver excellence.  Our GCs supported our choices. 
  6. Project Meeting Control.  Each weekly meeting followed a tight agenda and notes followed.  We did not skinny down attendance but rather asked all parties to attend all meetings.  We did not want to hear from anyone that any anomaly was not clearly identified and understood.

You can quickly see that we intentionally kept the pond small.  Full of only the best, proven and most trustworthy support that we in turn could trust with our clients.  Keep in mind that small and big are relative terms. To some GC's we would have only qualified as bait fish at best.  They were not in our pond.  To some consultants we were big and they worked hard when on our team.  They were definitely in our pond. 

Our clients benefited with superior results, and since we trusted our support to offer viable cost options, we often delivered on time and at or below budget.  Our firm was the common denominator. The client was always the winner since we treated his project as we would our own, his time as our own, and his money as we would our own.  Our project delivery model created the highest client satisfaction and repeat and referral business I have ever experienced.

For more insight into how we pulled off this concept, see my blog  If you feel it might just make you a big fish, give me a call.

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 Burwell Consulting a Firm Marketing and Management Consulting firm, to share the wisdom and experience of those 45 years.  Bill writes articles sharing his experience in four keystone practice areas:  Marketing, Design, Project Management and Practice Management.  He graduated from the University of Houston College of Architecture in 1971 and now serves the College on the Dean's Committee on Excellence. Check him out at