Starting or building a successful architecture firm with your spouse carries some risks, but offers many rewards.
As husband and wife architects who want to open a practice, brace yourselves for both possibilities.
Perhaps a constant question lingering in your household will be: ‘What if there’s another recession? We’re both in the same cyclical industry that can be impacted by the economy. Our client relationships are our bread and butter.’
Not sure if you want to put all your eggs in one basket? Consider the joys ahead.
You and your life partner will work side-by-side in a familiar environment. Yet as you embrace your togetherness, embrace each of your specialties, too.
The poet Kahlil Gibran puts it beautifully.
“Let there be spaces in your togetherness … Stand together, yet not too near together: For the pillars of the temple stand apart, And the oak tree and the cypress grow not in each other's shadow.”
Niche Saves Marriage And Promotes Successful Architecture Firm
The ultimate solution to ease anxiety and uplift satisfaction is to plant the seeds of your business in healthy soil.
These are the first steps:
- Differentiate yourselves. Specialize in different aspects of the practice. Those niches can grow and solidify your firms foundation.
- Set up a client attracting system for those times when you BOTH have to be away. After the birth of your baby, it’s important that you take some time off. You may not want to miss your kid’s ball game or ballet recital. Then there’s graduation. You can have a successful architecture firm AND family.
- Charge appropriately for your services. Just because you are working out of your spare bedroom doesn’t mean offering dirt cheap architectural services.
Niche Specialization Saves Marriage
Colleen and Richard are a married couple with a shared architecture practice. Niche specialization saved their marriage.
With AMI’s guidance, they decided to focus on designing and building distilleries. This focus brought them financial success, and also built upon the foundation of their marriage.
The couple moved their business out the house to separate their home from their work, overcoming one common struggle among married business partners.
‘We have been able to keep the doors open, hire an architect-in-training at a very good wage and benefits (which I am proud of), pay ourselves a very good wage and benefits, buy a building, pay for the total overhaul of the building, new equipment/furniture/resources/training,’ Colleen said. ‘… Moving the business out of the house into the new building … is going to save my architect husband's mind –– and at one point I would have said our marriage –– but now I would say it will make our marriage better.’
For Colleen, the move will make ‘home' more relaxing. ‘Work will always be crazy,’ she says, ‘but at least the crazy will be located two blocks away contained in its own box.’
United Front Faces Possible Recession
To face financial ups and downs, it's important to stick together and form a united front. Even the possibility of a recession isn't enough to negate the opportunity to grow a successful architecture firm.
Jane and Michael Frederick own Frederick + Frederick Architects in Beaufort, South Carolina. They have been married 34 years, and in business for 28 years.
During the recession, they faced their biggest challenge – lack of income diversity.
‘If one of us had been in a different field, our income would have been more stable,’ Jane says. ‘One advantage is as business partners we have the same goals.’
While they share the same goals, they specialize in different ways. This is their firm’s foundation – the healthy soil that helps their business withstand challenging times and continue to grow.
Michael is the lead designer, and Jane focuses on interiors and lighting design, client relationships and marketing.
‘Use your resources. When you focus, you can do it faster and better,’ Jane recommends.
They make the most of their time and enjoy the lifestyle they have built on their property, where their office is a separate building from their house.
They embrace their togetherness, but sit at opposite ends of the office. It’s important to carve out your own work space.
Family Spirit Infuses Architecture Firm
Jane and Michael say their firm is a family.
Because their six employees also feel a part of the family, Jane and Michael have been able to maintain flexible work schedules. They served as Girl Scout leaders and soccer coaches when their daughters were younger.
‘It is a family firm and our employees are part of our family,’ Jane says. ‘We also provide them with the benefits they we think everyone should have, full medical coverage and more.’
This sentiment radiates in their client relationships because couples love to have another husband and wife design their home. They enjoy traveling and exploring new buildings.
In the office, their dog has a special place where he sits and the cat peeks through the door and asks to come inside.
Jane’s mother used to stop in daily before she passed away. Their grandchildren continue to visit.
‘Our home life oozes into the office,’ Jane says.
Their views reveal a flower garden along the intracoastal waterway – a landscape that always inspires hope for growth and aesthetic beauty.
In the best sense, the business becomes an extension of the best of who you are together. As these couples show, you can turn your eggs from that one basket into omelets.
Getting the right coaching can help with the process of building a successful architecture firm. For more information on architect marketing, visit our post on the Diamond Strategy. We also offer an excellent guide on Understanding Client Motivation.