One step ahead of the Monster

The monster would eat me alive if it caught me.  If I relaxed, if I took my lead for granted, if I let my confidence allow me to slow down - it would win.  As a young practitioner I had more than one bite taken out of my backside by that monster.  The monster was nothing more than voracious competition.  It was always hungry.

I would be awaken in my sleep by fear of the monster.  Just the thought of it instilled heart pounding, sweating in your bed fear in me, but it was a powerful motivating fear. I was building my practice and we were young, idealistic and full of ideas to bring to the six different service areas we offered.  In those early days what we lacked in marketing or financial training, we made up for with a virtual fountain of ideas jam packed with creative thinking. Our investment was energy and youthful exuberance.  We studied our services, and what our clients wanted.  We kept looking for things that the client didn't know they wanted - yet.

As we pushed these new ideas out, sure enough, the monster picked up on our move and emulated our services and offerings.  However, just as he stepped up, we changed the game and moved ahead two steps to his one.  The monster was so busy figuring out how to match our service and creativity, that he couldn't implement this own innovation and creativity.  They were followers, we were the leaders.

Our secret weapon was a two edge sword.  One edge was knowledge.  We analyzed each area of business and what made the client happy and learned how to relieve their anxiety by stepping up our game on knowledge and service.  The second edge, was systematizing our delivery.  We standardized our document package never drawing the same line twice.  This provided us the dual benefits of improving our profit or allowing profit at very competitive fees.

Keeping the monster at bay is a full time job.  Small firms, medium firms and large firms all fight the good fight.  Think about it - no seriously, think about it.  Clients love a thinking firm.  They want designers who think around corners and bring creative ideas and experience to the project and exceed their expectations and performance goals.  There are plenty of firms that just want to meet the minimum, get in, get out, done.  Own the project with your client, think about what would take the project up a notch, be more competitive, more successful, add analytics, know the market, do your homework.  You won't be seeing any monsters except in your rear view mirror. 

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