A Typical Day for this Small Firm Owner
My Day: Nov 18, 2014
The following represents a day in the life of this owner of a small architectural firm. This play by play is representative of a fairly typical day in my life as the owner-operator of a firm of 8. Every day in my office is a new chance to learn, create, and grow as a professional and leader. As with any person in the universe, work has its good days and its bad days. But most of the days are just days. I enjoy my work and rarely do I “dread” the office. It is my place to make it what I want it to be, and that is a rare opportunity for many. So I try to stay aware of this fact as I traverse through every day as “the boss”.
8:00am wake up
This may seem late, but my office opens at 9:00. And I traveled 350 miles yesterday for a school board meeting and got home a little after midnight.
8:01am Screen time
Grab my work phone and check emails for any pressing concerns. Construction starts early and they tend to email early as well. I have 26 emails. Luckily only 6 are project related. I respond to one and flag the others for review once I am at the office. The others are various professional emails and some website type updates. Then I run through my personal emails; I have 72 of them. But that’s super-fast skimming and mass deletion so it happens quickly.
Get up and moving. I ready myself for the day. Shower and dress, you know the essentials. I review another set of emails as they come in on my phone. I miss the days before this was possible. Leave my house and head by Starbucks to get done coffee because it’s cold today. It’s 37 degrees. And that’s cold for Texas. While this does double my commute time from 5 minutes to 10 minutes, I feel that it is still acceptable.
Finally I make it to the office. (But hey I’m the boss.) I set my belongings (a messenger bag, yesterday’s mail, and my coffee) in my office and then go chat with the troops to see where we are for the day. We converse as a group for a bit to get a general consensus. We discuss the events of the project’s school board meeting from last night and get everyone up to speed on how it affected our work. I inquire about any news from while I was out of the office for the latter part of yesterday. Then I talk with each employee (5) individually about any specific issues form yesterday, guidance for progress and work they should be doing today. I then review some schematic design options for a new recreational center project with the other architect in the office. He just started work in our office so it is a new type of discussion among peers. We discuss the local ordinance requirements and how we can meet them with our current design. We discuss what we need to change too.
Finally sit at my desk. Look at my email (yet again) to see if I need to respond. I have to do some clarifications on projects and spend some time looking over questions from contractors and working up answers to their questions. During this time, I have a few phone calls and employee questions. So things can get a little disjointed. There are some start/stop/start issues that decrease my efficiency, but are necessary to keep the office moving forward. This is something that has taken time to adjust to as “the boss”. The simple fact is that your efficiency and billable time decreases as the person in charge. And this grows with each additional employee and project. It is the price of business and growth. Out of necessity, I have learned to choose my battles in this arena.
I have lunch with a local engineer. He is my “go- to” engineer for all my structural and most of my civil needs. He is the same age as me and he purchased his business about 18 months before I purchased mine. SO we have a lot in common. He and I talk business and business development tactics over lunch. His office is larger than mine, but it is good to talk strategies with another business owner. We discuss marketing and lead cultivation over lunch.
Once lunch is over, we get to continue our discussion during the one hour drive to meet with client for a new project that is just starting. The project is for a university with which we have an open-ended services contract. This type of contract is called an IDIQ contract which stands for Indefinite Delivery/Indefinite Quantity. Basically we provide our services for any project within a three year period that the university sends our way. It’s a good type of contract to have; although the work is usually never glamourous it is a consistent client and provides consistent work. Both important to small firms like mine.
Once at the University, we meet with their project manager for a bit and discuss a few logistical items about the project. Then we decide it is time to head over and look at the actual project site. I have reviewed this project once prior to this meeting when it was originally presented to our office. I had to create the proposal for the scope of work and fee structure so I had visited before today. But this is the first opportunity for the engineer to view. So . .
We get to the site location in the middle of campus. We are renovating/ repairing a set of pedestrian bridges that are on the second and third floor of three buildings. These are basically lower “sky bridges” that connect all three buildings together. They span over a lower main mall area for the campus. Even though they were constructed in 1986, they have begun to move and deteriorate in a way that could become unsafe. So we are going to repair the damage from movement and then remodel them into something more aesthetically pleasing and climate appropriate. They are currently two glass and concrete tubes. With their solar orientation, they basically become glass ovens for most of the year. And due to the humidity in the area, more like glass saunas. The steel structure on the interiors has some significant signs of rust from pooling condensation. So while not glamourous, I find this to be an interesting problem and one I look forward to solving. It is a small project, but could present some unique opportunities.
So the engineer and I document, measure and speculate about all the possible causes and results that have led to this condition. We measure movement via a zip level tool, take photos of every last detail and sketch notes about certain issues and locations. This is one of the reasons this guy is my “go-to”, we talk and discuss this situation for quite some time and then develop a course of action to determine what is happening to the best of our ability. But we discuss every angle and come to an agreeable course of action.
Now we just drive back the exact same way. We have more discussion about business, personal lives and what we need to do on a few of our other projects. Oh! And I have my second cup of Starbucks for the day. We grab some coffee for the drive home.
Now that I am back I go back once again to talk to employees and talk about anything I missed in my absence. Not much has happened, so I get to sit back at my desk for a bit and check emails and do some construction administration work on our projects that are in construction at the moment. I also try to square away some things to work on later this evening and “game plan” what I plan to accomplish by the real end of the day.
Time for me to leave and go pickup my girls from school. We then spend our evening together and I help with homework and we eat dinner, read books, watch a little TV and other various things. We goof around a bit and it gives me a chance to relax for a bit and enjoy life.
Well I have gotten my girls to bed and now it is time for me to sit at my home computer and log into my office and do some work for the day. I like this time. Well sometimes. It is a chance to work uninterrupted. That is something I do not get very often in my work day. The phone, emails, employees all have their free shots at me during normal business hours. So in reality, this is the time I get to accomplish tasks for my day. Now this is not always the way my day goes, but if I have a few tasks that I know I can complete before bed or I need to catch up, I take this time to do those things. But other days, I just want to relax and watch some TV or read a book or even sleep. But today is not one of those days. I have some tasks that need to be completed and not on my docket for tomorrow. So I VPN to my station at the office and get some work done. As I am going to travel all day on Thursday as well, I need to take this time to work.
I decide I have had enough for one day. So I log out and head for the bed. And tomorrow is another chance to do it all again. At least tomorrow is my first full day in the office this week; and really the first of just two. So I need to be rested to make it a good one.
I get to see lots of beautiful and awesome things as I travel the state. I tend to take plenty of pictures as I travel around . . . as any good architect should.
–Andrew G Hawkins, AIA
This is part of a Series created by Bob Borson (Life of an Architect) and consisting of a group of great Architectural Thinkers. We are using the hashtag #ArchiTalks to hopefully gain some momentum and help others understand what we do as Architects. It should be a great dialog and one that I hope will continue for some time into the future. As several of the other responses are being posted around the internet, the links below are those that have already posted. This list will be populated and updated as others continue to contribute today. *Also is should go without saying all opinions expressed by those in the links below are their own and are not reflective of Hawkins Architecture, Inc. (* legal stuff)
Today’s open topic: A Day in the your Life as an Architect
Bob Borson – Life of An Architect ( @bobborson )
Jeremiah Russell – Rouge Architecture ( @rogue_architect )
Jes Stafford – Modus Operandi Design ( @modarchitect )
Nicholas Renard – Cote Renard Architecture ( @coterenard )
Collier Ward – Thousand Story Studio ( @collier1960 )