Now that I’ve completed my first week of being in business for myself, here is the inaugural post of our Video + Blog series “What the Hell is Architecture?” A series that will present Case Studies, Code Commentaries, How-To Videos, and anything else that comes to mind to try and get the word out on what Architecture, Engineering and Construction ACTUALLY is. (Something the industry has done a poor job of enlightening the public on)
Counterintuitively however, this first post will not be following that format, instead it will discuss something I (And I imagine many others) have encountered quite a bit during the first week, while informing everyone I could about the new business.
Every person I told always responded with one of two responses. The first is overall support, whether it is being wished good luck, offered support, or told it’s a great idea. The positive responses, while seemingly small, always make the day better. The other response however, is the one this post is about…
“Why Now? You Should Have Waited a Few Years”
Nobody (Yet) has given any negative feedback, it’s always the statement above however.
The question I want to discuss is, “Waited a Few Years for What?” When continuing the conversation with those who ask, “Why Now,” it also seems to break down into a combination of the factors listed below as to why now was not the right time.
- Not Enough Money or Savings
- More Professional Experience is Needed
- Business Plan and Marketing Plan are Not Perfect Yet
- There is a lot of Well-Established Competition
- What Happens if it Doesn’t Work Out?
Now as I said, my firm is less than a week old, (Anyone who visits my company site will surely find some broken links or unformatted pages) so I can’t use it to personally refute these facts. However, I have worked in my industry for years and have still personally encountered all these points.
Point 1: Not Enough Money or Savings
Parkinson’s Law states that when given a task, people will take all the time allotted. If given five hours, they will use all five hours, if given twenty hours for the same task, they will still use all twenty hours. I would argue that the same principle applies to income as well. As we make more money or handle debt, our budgets and lifestyles will adjust to consume the extra money. There are a few exceptions of people with radical savings plans, (Recent upsurge with Dave Ramsey’s financial advice gaining popularity) but the large majority of us spend what we have.
If this sounds unreasonable, ask yourself this…Ten years ago, presumably making much less than you do now, if two of your paychecks disappeared, what would your financial situation be? Now think of where you are now ten years later and ask the same question and be honest. Are you any more prepared than you were when you made much less? This is not to denounce the importance of budgeting and savings, just to clarify that waiting for a magic amount of money isn’t going to happen. Personally, I converted a spare bedroom I used for storage into my office, invested in a computer and some software, and set aside some money for filing costs and a personal buffer for expenses.
If you start with minimal costs and follow very simple bootstrapping techniques, you can get started for much less than you think.
Point 2: More Professional Experience is Needed
This is personally what made me wait as long as I did. There is no denying that in a professional service industry (Architecture specifically for me) that the longer you practice, the more you learn and know. However, it is a sad truth that professional aptitude, whatever the industry, will very rarely translate into any business knowledge. Research and Education will help, but it will not hold a candle to real world experience.
If this sounds unreasonable, ask yourself this…When you graduated school and was about to enter the workforce, how prepared were you? Flash forward five or ten years and ask yourself how prepared you feel now? Which helped your comfort level more, school or actual experience? Personally, I had to take an entire exam of Practice Management to earn my Architecture License, and I am not too proud to admit that despite all that studying and passing that exam, I had a lot of meetings and research over the past few weeks on different business structures, Business Planning Firm Finances that I had no knowledge of.
No matter how long you wait, or how much you learn, you aren’t ready until you take the plunge and run the company yourself.
Point 3: Business Plan and Marketing Plan are Not Perfect Yet
Whenever this was brought up, it was difficult to dispute as it was absolutely true. It still is true, as I will not try to claim that I have marketing and all Business Planning figured out. The argument against this is pretty similar to the above point, there is some preemptive planning that can be accomplished to make your life easier, but to continually make predictions and try to imagine what is going to happen in the end is not very productive.
If this sounds unreasonable, ask yourself this…Think of a home improvement project you have wanted to do in the last year. How much progress did you make on it when you got home from work after a full shift? I would wager that there isn’t enough time to take on other projects with a full-time job. Personally, I spent the last few months in “Research Paralysis” and read countless books and resources on running a business. While helpful, in the end they all had the common theme of running a “lean and agile” business, quickly pivoting and adjusting to the market and testing customers and the market while practicing.
I filed my business papers over a month ago and did not send a single email or make a single website edit until this week…It is very hard to find motivation for a project while focusing on another full-time job.
Point 4: There is a lot of Well-Established Competition
This is also a point that is true. However though, it will not be less true as time moves on. In fact, I would argue that there will be even more competition as you keep waiting. You have probably noticed a running theme in these points, it being that by starting now will hopefully help getting ready and established for the future, which you would still be starting from square one if you waited. Personally, I started a very small Architecture Firm in the City of Rochester, which has quite a few national firms that end up on MANY top 100 lists, I even worked at one for many years. Yet, their size prevents them from being able to take on certain projects, as well as structures that might prevent trying certain things that a tiny firm can do in no time.
If this sounds unreasonable, ask yourself this…If you were thinking about starting an E-Commerce site back in the 90’s, would you have rather tried to take on the established E-Bay, or wait a few years and then battle with Amazon?
Competition is never going to disappear. It sounds cliché, but no matter how established the competition is, you have the most flexibility to experiment and provide unique services as a small firm.
5: What Happens if it Doesn’t Work Out?
This will be short and sweet. If it doesn’t work out, then you are left with two choices…Pivot and make adjustments or accept that it wasn’t time and “rejoin the working world.” Personally, I am 30 years old, and this seems to have caused a lot of people asking me why I didn’t wait. However, I argue that because of how early I am doing this, I have more time to make radical adjustments or new plans. Something that would be much more difficult if I waited a few years.
If this sounds unreasonable, ask yourself this…If for whatever reasons your company was shut down and your financial savings were obliterated, what would you do? Just give up and curl into the fetal position, or would you find another job?
Nothing will ever “Work Out” if you never start it.
I hope after reading this my initial counter of “Waited a Few Years for What?” seems much less entitled and arrogant. Hopefully, it at least offers some insight that perhaps I or any other young entrepreneur that made the jump into running a company didn’t rush into a rash decision on a whim. But then again, as I said before, I am new to all this.
If you feel I missed the mark or am misinformed on any aspect of what I wrote, please let me know.
If you did enjoy the post or have any ideas or questions you would like to see or hear about in the upcoming posts and videos in this series, please let me know that as well.
Thank you all and have a great day.
Bryan Toepfer, AIA, NCARB, CAPM
Principal – Architect
TOEPFER Architecture, PLLC
Lets Build Something Together