It amazes me every time.

Many architecture firms come to us looking to fill a number of key positions. They make it clear from the beginning that they are only interested in talented, motivated individuals. They want the best people out there. But as my team and I begin to interview the leaders of these firms, that’s when things start to get a bit bizarre.

When we ask them ‘why’ someone would want to come and work at their firm, we get a blank look and then an answer as boring as “because we are looking for someone,” or “because we are offering a good job, and good prospects for the right person.” Even questions as basic as, “What are your goals, plans, and vision for the next 5 years?” are met with a rather awkward silence.


These are not some obscure little studios that no one has heard of. Some of these firms have been in business for years and have an impressive portfolio of projects. But, these “answers” are simply not good enough. If firms can’t identify what makes them unique, what they stand for, and why people would want to work for them, then they have practically no chance of attracting the best talent in the market, not to mention remaining successful and relevant in the coming years.

I have been in the architecture and design industry for a while now. In that time I’ve been personally involved in the movements of many of the industry’s most talented people. I’ve watched these individuals join companies and then leave, and I’ve watched many firms rise and fall.

The firms that can confidently answer our questions… the ones that have already booked in the financial targets for this year… the ones that have a solid succession plan in place and that recognise and reward outstanding performance, these are the companies that are forging ahead. Ten years from now, they will still be successful and relevant.

How Does Your Firm Define Success?

I want to close this article with the above question because it is really the starting point for meaningful change.

In business there are many measurements of success. There is financial success, market penetration, brand and reputation awareness, customer satisfaction, employee retention, and the performance of individual employees as well as teams, to name a few. In some firms, success is also measured by how well the company lives up to its own core values and vision. If senior leadership and key employees can’t arrive at a clear definition of success for most of these areas, then it is strong sign that something, somewhere has gone off track.

If you really want to attract and retain the best talent and stay competitive in the coming years, then you’ll want to do what you can to get back on track as quickly as possible. You owe it to yourselves, your employees, and your clients to find out what makes your architecture firm so special in the first place.