The Business of Architecture/Engineering: It's not the fun part?! Five things your systems should do!

August 27, 2013 | LeAnn Nowak

You set out to build and design. You wanted to make an impact in the built-environment. You wanted to spend your days doing what you are really good at. You got a degree. You probably chose a specialty. You found a job – or maybe started a firm of your own.

Then came time sheets, and the need to track reimbursable expenses, and to setup phases/activities and be able to break down an invoice that gives the client detail in all of those areas. It came time to budget and to set project milestones. It came time to determine if you were profitable – not just overall but on a project basis, because you realized you need to know where to spend your time and focus your efforts. Then you need to do business development and write proposals and follow-up with existing, potential and past clients. And, dare I use the word collections?

Did you think you could get by with using a combination of disparate systems to track all of the above business entities? Are you spending hours doing duplicate entries between your spreadsheets, home grown databases and generic accounting systems? Does this pain sound familiar?

It gives me a headache just writing/reading about all of it. So how can it be fun? It can be fun if it’s painless, it can fun if it is done quickly and with the right tools. It can be fun if it yields results and keeps you spending more time doing what you love and less time on non-billable overhead.

Whether you are a Principal or you are an accountable employee, as an Architect or Engineer, you will need to be involved in the business side of the business.

So let’s picture a prettier world.

  1. Your staff is entering time slips on their iPad or iPhones, they are putting these entries and expenses into a system designed for Architects/Engineers so they have activated phases/activities available to them.
  2. Project Managers are able to take this project data and have real-time information at your fingertips that will let you know if you are on, over or under budget.  Your project milestones are also right in front of you so you can see if there are any delays or room to wiggle.
  3. All of the data you are entering into your AE specific system is flowing right over to QuickBooks so your accounting team has the data they need, in a system they are familiar with.
  4. The same system has an address book of all clients/contacts – tied to projects.  You can enter your notes, follow-up and tasks so you can track your business development efforts and client promises.
  5. As a bonus, you can also prepare your proposals from this same, single system.  You have access to past data to use for preparing the next pursuit and you can forecast on what you expect in the door.
Make the investment.  Find a business/project management system that is built for you and what you do so that you can do what you love – build and design and leave the work to your systems.  And, have fun doing it.  “Do it with passion or not at all!”