Entrepreneurs are, by definition, dedicated to exploring new ways of running enterprises and generating innovation. This willingness to break away from traditional business models comes with a set of stresses and risks that far exceed those afflicting architects who work for a paycheck. The fear of failure and economic uncertainty are some of the biggest concerns that either result in budding entrepreneurs quitting the idea entirely, or keep them from getting started at all.
How can entrepreneurs overcome these mental hurdles and push through their fears?
The first thing every entrepreneur must realize is that fear is completely normal. People may question their expertise, and see a lack of initial funding and client base as insurmountable obstacles. While these are important issues requiring practical solutions, they shouldn’t prevent you from taking that crucial step toward entrepreneurship.
There are many examples of entrepreneurs who have managed to successfully grow their businesses without having to borrow from investors or take out bank loans. Many of them have built up their client base from scratch.
When it comes to archipreneurship, the AEC industry is brimming with opportunities. In response to the unnecessarily cumbersome back-and-forth process architects have between clients, developers, architects, contractors and subcontractors, archipreneurs are beginning to create new business models that push the boundaries of the profession. They are developing new, more efficient software, management tools, design strategies and manufacturing techniques.
Across the spectrum of the AEC industry, most archipreneurs have three things in common – a belief in their ideas, an understanding of their niche and the patience to take it all one step at a time. Thanks to a combination of knowledge, vision and support, they are able to overcome initial fears and realize their potential.
Here’s a list of seven things to help you take the plunge and become an archipreneur:
#1 – Do Your Research
The truth is – most young businesses fail within the first few years. Some of the main mistakes they make are: creating products and services that don’t fit the market, overlooking the business side of work, getting caught up in day-to-day survival, losing sight of long term business plans, and being reluctant to pivot and introduce core changes.
The good news is – the roots of these failures are identifiable, often logical, and can serve as useful lessons for those looking to start their own enterprises. Identify failed businesses in your niche and study them carefully, to learn about the possible problems you may encounter. Dedicate an equal amount of attention to successful examples in your industry, and find out what makes them great.
Reach out to people who have already achieved the goals you’ve set for yourself and find out how they operate. Read, take courses, enroll in webinars, and join groups of like-minded archipreneurs. Just make sure you don’t get stuck in the research phase.
#2 – Get Experience
Some successful archipreneurs start their own businesses straight out of school, but most spend at least a few years working for others in their field of interest, or have business savvy mentors who understand their niche. Some archipreneurs initially worked as architects for a long time before venturing out on their own. They joined support communities, forums and networking groups to get help and advice from experienced business owners.
Whichever path you choose to pursue, whether it’s building your own projects, developing software and apps for architects, or providing design services, make sure you understand how architects operate and how designs get built. You need to have insider knowledge on the state of the industry to create the products and services people will buy.
#3 – Create a Solid Plan
Benjamin Franklin said: “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.”
In order to prepare for all the hurdles and obstacles coming your way, you need to know what you want to provide, who your target audience is, and how you plan to generate revenue.
What need does your business satisfy? How is it different from the competition? Leave as little as possible to chance and be meticulous about funding, cash flow, logistics and operations. You will probably have to abandon ideas and adapt to different circumstances along the way, but as long as you keep your eye on the big picture you’ll be able to recover from any setbacks. Ask yourself: how can processes relating to the business of architecture be improved? How can you avoid having to wait for clients?
Most successful archipreneurs optimize their businesses by applying high levels of productization to their work. Approaching the traditionally service-based architectural practice with a product-oriented attitude allows them to keep in step with the evolving industry and client needs that require speed, efficiency and flexibility. Find out how to make every aspect of your business more efficient, from designing and manufacturing to billing and marketing.
#4 – Assemble a Great Team
Surround yourself with smart people who share your vision. Going into archipreneurship can be scary, and it’s practically impossible to do it on your own. A team of like-minded, motivated people who can work well together will share the burden of starting out, and they will contribute and execute ideas more efficiently between them.
People who are great at what they do will provide you with the freedom to delegate and grow your business without having to micromanage its every aspect. These include partners, employees, and collaborators. Great leaders know their own limitations and bring in other experts for advice.
#5 – Have a Safety Net
In a 2013 paper on the shared traits of entrepreneurs published by University of California, Berkeley, economists Ross Levine and Rona Rubenstein found that entrepreneurs “tend to be white, male, and come from higher-income families”. However, for an architect with an average salary, today’s volatile economy makes it hard to renounce security and start new businesses. Those with families have added responsibilities that can make them even more reluctant to experiment.
Most successful archipreneurs will advise employed architects to keep their day jobs and start small. Growing a business through bootstrapping can give you leeway to experiment and fail without losing everything. A safety net can alleviate some of the fears and keep you from making hasty decisions. This way, you will be more willing to try things out without the fear of financial and personal ruin.
#6 – Master the Work-Life Balance
In the early stages of business development, enterprise owners are likely to sacrifice personal and family time for work. In their attempt to ‘make it’ through the first few years, archipreneurs are rarely in a position to give themselves time off. This is why you need to ensure that you have full support from your loved ones.
Take the time to present your business model to your spouse as if you were presenting it to an investor. Explain how you plan to generate revenue, and point out the obstacles you may encounter so that they can also prepare for the road ahead. If you play it right, over time you can grow a business that will give you enough free time and contribute to creating a balanced lifestyle.
#7 – Do It!
If you are not yet sure where to start, take a concrete step towards learning all about your niche area of expertise. Take classes, read books, and talk to experienced archipreneurs. Don’t let your fear and perfectionism paralyze you! Mistakes are bound to happen, but the best way to learn is to actually do the work. Prepare, launch something, get feedback and improve your business as you become more experienced.
Stop stalling and start creating!
Are you an experienced archipreneur? How did you overcome your initial fears?