Be Available: stories of commissions in unlikely places.

With the current state of our economy, everyone is looking for work. Whether you are looking for a position or a project, strategic pursuit is paramount to success. As the owner of a small architectural practice there are a number of ways I can go about uncovering that next commission. I’ve come to find some are more beneficial than others.

Requests for proposals/qualifications are fairly easy to identify. They are widely published and represent some really exciting project opportunities. The problem is you are “throwing your hat in the ring”, sort of like shooting your CV out to every firm in town, even if it is very customized and tailored CV. I pursued this costly and intense route for some time, with limited success, until a wise practitioner was so kind as to tell me “If you’ve heard about a project through an RFP, you’re already too late”.

The majority of architectural commissions, it turns out, are based on personal relationships. Some of the most satisfied friends of mine who are “traditionally employed” have shared that their opportunities also came from some personal relationship. It may seem an obvious fact, but actually using this to your advantage can often seem like more luck than intention.

So here’s my simple idea, and it is contained in the title of this post: Be Available.

A few years back I was contacted by a young civil engineer who wanted to introduce his firm to us. Being that I’m trying to build my circle of opportunity I suggested a lunch. Although there were some around me that thought my time would be better spent simply getting their brochure and contact info, I decided to go ahead with the lunch anyway.

We grabbed a bite to eat together, and during our lunch the conversation centered on his firm, their services, and how they could assist us…for about 15 mins or so. After that he turned casually to how his family had been looking to do some development together.

“Oh really? What kind?” My interest piqued.

Turns out they were planning a small commercial project just a bit south of the city.

“Well, my new friend, let me tell you a bit about my firm, the services we provide, and how we might assist you.” I think I may have taken up the final half hour or so.

I use this story to illustrate the point that I had found that illusive creature which may turn into work, the personal relationship. And all it cost me was an enjoyable hour and the price of a lunch.

So there it is. Not earth shattering insight, but something that helped me open my eyes a bit more to this game we all play called landing work.

Now I look everywhere for that next unexpected relationship. It could be the guy who makes my morning latte (hey, looking to open a new location?) or from friends expecting a growing family (Can’t sell? Renovate!).

And after all, what is the worst that can happen? You waste an afternoon eating some good food, having some good conversation, maybe even playing some golf.

Could be worse.

2 thoughts on “Be Available: stories of commissions in unlikely places.

  1. I see this happen ALL the time – for job hunting, finding clients, or whatever. If you’re consistently putting the word out there, to lots of people, with a powerful message, then you’ll start finding that contacts start magically popping up. It’s even stronger when you’re out there giving yourself to help others.

    “Givers gain” – BNI core philosophy

    “Luck favors the prepared” – Edna Mode, The Incredibles

  2. you are ablsolutly right to work on building relationships to get new work, Don’t forget to treat your existing clients like king and queens and keep in touch with your past clients. this is alwasy the best–and the easiest marketing.

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