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Why small architectural & design businesses struggle (and what you can do about it)

Updated: Feb 24

A Leader's Journey

You're already on the road...

Whether you are an emerging business or a veteran business owner, you are somewhere along your unique journey with your architectural/design practice.

But it's different to all other small businesses because of what you do...project work.

Each of your projects is a unique and temporary endeavour, consisting of coordinated and controlled processes and activities, with a start and finish date, undertaken to achieve an objective(s) conforming to specific requirements, including the constraints of scope, time, cost, resources, quality and risk.

Your projects have taken you to some amazing places, they've been inspiring to you and others, you've enjoyed the experience of creating something of value and met interesting people along the way.

But now, is it a road to nowhere?

There's a gap between the dream and the reality of business. There seems to be a crisis around every corner...

Not enough new projects, not enough profit, not enough time, not enough resources, not enough reward, not enough blah, blah (insert your issues here).

Crisis Management has become your default position and you've lost the most valuable thing you have, it's irreplaceable...


You lost time to be creative, time to consider things, time for your personal life, time to relax, time to get shit done.

There's simply not enough RETURN ON ALL THAT YOU'RE INVESTING!

There's also a Road Map out...

So, where did your journey start?

The Passionate Technician

You're good at it.

You’re qualified, you’ve been employed and you know how to deliver a project.

You have experience. You love your work and your clients love you. You are Gerber’s ‘Passionate Technician’...

or perhaps...

The Solution Provider

You're observant and you can see the need for a product or a service. Maybe it's an epiphany, or you simply apply your Design Thinking methodologies and...

There's an opportunity

There’s talk about a new project. It’s going to be a good one! This is your opportunity to do it your way and take charge of your own future.


You've taken over the responsibility of re-vitalising and growing an existing business.

You understand Demand Management and...

You’re thinking like an Entrepreneur.

The Entrepreneurial Seizure

You secure the project, find some space and set yourself up and get cracking on the project.

Or you need to revitalise the business you've taken over.

They’re your ideas and you know how to deliver them - and you are going to do it ‘your way’, it’s what you’ve dreamed of.

But now... you're on the Project Roller-coaster

The highs of launching your projects start to turn into anxiety lows, as you realise there’s more involved than you allowed for in your fees. You struggle to meet your promised deadlines.

One month there's more work than you can handle - with barely enough resources. So you work harder and longer to meet the promises you made, sometimes 45, 50 or 60+ hours per week.

There's a growing gap between the dream and reality

You find yourself rushing to deal with fires that are out of control and as you bring them under control, one or two new fires breakout.

You are caught up in Crisis Management and there's not enough time to do what you originally planned.

You hire more help and delegate work to make the deadlines, but things are failing. You realise they aren’t doing it ‘your way’. You have to step back in and re-do it – the way it should have been done.

You've doubled your workload but not your revenue.

Meanwhile, to survive, you have to find new projects to replace the completed ones, so the failed processes of the past repeat themselves, and the gap between what you want and what you’re doing…. continues to grow.

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result.”

- Albert Einstein

Your business is out of balance - but you CAN re-balance it.

Find the balance between working IN and ON your business.

You ARE The Technician, the expert at working IN your business. You also need to develop as The Manager, who can integrate with The Technician and The Entrepreneur - so all personas work together.

You can't eliminate all crises from your business, however you can reduce the number and frequency, and mitigate the time lost to Crisis Management.

Find your Tipping Point

Small improvements can make a big difference to your business, and the Tipping Point is identifying which improvements will tip your business fromStriving (to reach your goals) to Thriving (from having reached them).

Close The GAPP from Here to There

You're 'HERE' now with your business and personal goals.

You persistently invest YOUR time, skills, knowledge, creativity, passion and financial capital, striving to generate a RETURN on that INVESTMENT, but the risk and consequences involved, can turn what you're striving for - into simply surviving.

You ARE the EXPERT TECHNICIAN at your project work -working IN the Business - and there's no need for anyone to interfere with that, but many of us are not as adept (or interested) in working ON the Business

The Way Out: Your Tipping Point

The 'THERE' is identified by Your Tipping Point. It's what you need to improve, to reach your goals.

The practicalities of moving THERE and achieving those goals, are delivered through the GAPP Portfolio, which is underpinned by the values of Governance, Assurance, Performance & Profitability.

For an obligation-free assessment using Simon’s unique ON-Business GAPPSystem, book in a suitable time by clicking here.


© 2019 by Practically Partners

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