Crickets

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Yesterday I was informed of two of things:

1. A residential renovation/addition project I interviewed for was not going to be- the potential client selected another firm.

2. The Schematic Design of a new custom residential house will stay just that, schematic design- the clients will possibly build in the future.

Not the information an architect wants to receive. However, before you start feeling sorry for me and sending pies, mountain dew, and skittles to cheer me up, know this- I’m okay with the news. My clients and potential clients informed me of their decision. While I’m not excited about it, they had the decency to inform me of such. I respect the fact that these clients/ potential clients trusted me and were comfortable having open honest communication. However, that’s not always the case.

As an architect I am constantly marketing and providing information in hopes of securing clients. Several times a week I receive emails like these:

“Hello,

We stumbled across your site on the Internet and hope to speak with you in detail about our farmhouse renovation project. My contact is 123-456-7891 and my husband, ‘Male Potential Client’, can be reached at 123-456-9876.

 

Thank you,

‘Female Potential Client’

Sent from my iPad”

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Or

 “I sent you a quick note via Houzz earlier today and we are interested in talking to you about our project.

I am looking for an architect to design a ‘garage’ attached or adjacent to our house. This garage will have some features of a ‘man cave’ including an area devoted to a ‘gumball arcade’. We would like to invite you to come to our property and look at the possibilities and discuss your ideas and fees for creating a drawing for us. Home is farmhouse style on 14 acres.  

 ‘Male & Female Potential Client’

Cell:  123-456-1234”

 

I respond to such inquires with a few questions to get the conversation started. I forward a Residential Design Guidebook that I have developed over the years- it’s a 20 page book outlining the process of working with an architect and the phases involved. I provide project cut sheets that are in sync with the client’s vision for the project. I research property tax records, applicable codes, and zoning requirements. In total this accounts for about 1-2 hours of my time, I consider it due diligence and it affords me the ability to talk realistically about the potential project. I keep the dialogue going via email and/or phone. If all goes well I meet the client, discuss the project, propose a fee/agreement, client is agreeable and we have a new client and new project… * air high fives and pistol gestures* whoo hoo! Sometimes clients say no. For a good read on when clients say no, see Lee Calisti’s post on think | architect when they say no.  However, my issue is when there is no response. What causes a potential client to be unresponsive? Nothing, nada, zip, the sound of chirping at dusk. Calls stop being returned, emails unanswered, no response.

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As a potential client, typically you initiate the conversation and request some sort of information. I am more than happy to respond and provide you with information to help you make an informed decision, but please let me know your decision. I don’t spend an enormous amount of time during the initial conversations or creating the information I provide. However, I do spend enough time that warrants a response. As an architect I deal with bad news regularly, it’s part of the profession and I can handle it. No news, well that just drives me crazy!

Is this just me venting due to losing some projects this week? Possibly. However, I’ve thought about this frequently, it’s an issue of common decency. When you are provided with information the least you can do is respond, even if it’s a no, just say “thanks, but I’m not interested.” I respected you by offering a bit of my time and expertise, afford me the same. Inform me, good or bad, such that I can focus my energies accordingly. As a potential client, you should know that it’s okay to say “no” to an architect- we don’t like it, but we can accept it and move on… on second thought, just say yes to your architect, it’ll make things easier for both of us!

 

Design On,

** cricket photo from Paul Albertella’s photostream on Flickr (used under the Creative Common License)  

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7 comments
  1. I have thought about this over and over with no real answer. I bet there is not a single answer apart from a reflection of our culture to be non-committal, non-responsive and at times…rude. I’d rather someone simply say “I chose Keith because his shirt was nicer than yours Lee.” I’d cry for a day or two, but I’d get over it and know how to move on.

    • I agree… although I would never be chosen because I wore a nicer shirt, shoes maybe, but not a shirt 😉

  2. Jeremiah said:

    This has to be pet peeve numero uno for every professional service provider on the planet. No response is the ultimate insult. It says that they care so little about your time, talent, expertise and business that even to craft the simple “no thanks” in an email is farther than they are willing to go. Hell, I’d even take a photo of their middle finger as sufficient response. At least it would be a RESPONSE (my email will now be filling up with photos of Lee’s and Keith’s middle fingers). And I think Lee is spot on that this is a reflection of our modern culture. The “nintendo generation” as it were. Ugh.

    • Agreed. Ha, send you a middle finger picture, that’s pretty funny. Maybe I should leave a handout with potential clients- two images, one the middle finger and the other the ‘a-okay’ sign. I will instruct clients to circle their response and provide a self addressed envelope with postage applied 😉

  3. matthew said:

    This is a timely post. I recently had two potential clients contact me and go through the process of meeting and putting together a proposal.

    One responded with “Wow, that is way more than we thought it would be.” So we met again, they told me what they were expecting, which was about 1/5 of my proposed fees. They also mentioned they had casually asked another architect and he gave them a ball park figure that was about 2/3 my fees. We finally settled on a fee that was palatable to them, and was not devastating to me, by reducing the services i would provide. All in all i think it worked out well enough for both of us.

    Client two vanished into the woodwork before i could even get the proposal to them. I had sent them several eMails with no response. I left several voice messages seeking a second meeting to go over the proposal with no response. So finally i stuck a hard copy of the proposal in the mail, again with no response. I know my proposal was about twice what they were anticipating, but like client one, had they responded, we could have worked something out.

    • That indeed sucketh, I’d rather hear a ‘no’ than nothing at all.

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