Like Archinect on Facebook.
Sign up to our mailing list.
I have 2 projects that I've brought into my firm based on my own personal contacts & efforts.
Does anyone know how your firms handle profit sharing for this? I would like to be compensated accordingly & fairly for this, and would like to be able to justify what I want if I feel my boss is not being fair to me. I've asked him to let me know how he would compensate me for bringing in projects, but he has yet to get back with me. I suspect he's not sure how to do it either.
This is one of the most difficult issues that come up in design firms. Naturally, you feel that you've done a good thing -- and you have -- and you feel the need to be compensated for your efforts. However, your firm is left with a dilemma. This dilemma is there because there's no assurance that the projects will, in fact, be profitable to the firm.
What I see most often is a flat up-front "finders fee" that is not tied to profitability one way or the other. These "finders fees" tend to be tied to the final fee negotiated with the client (generally a %) and - most importantly - tend not to be a huge amount of money. The % is usually determined both by the size of the fee, the perceived risk associated with the project and the "fit" of the project with the firm's primary business.
My primary advice to you is to try to take the long view in this situation -- don't just focus on your own potential short-term gain. The most certain way to a top position in a design firm is the proven ability to consistently bring profitable work to the firm. If you are able to continue doing this on a regular basis, the firm a) will recognize your contribution and promote you accordingly, or b) the firm will not recognize your contribution and you'll be well positioned to leave and start your own firm, with a proven ability to generate new business.
listen to quizzical on this one. couldn't have stated it better.
Don't be surprised if your boss -- or some of the people here -- try to help you understand that "your job" is to help the firm be successful. If you can do that by bringing in new work, then that's part of "your job" and it doesn't necessarily warrant a 'special payment'. However, unless you work for a real jerk, your next performance review should reflect that contribution - especially if you can repeat the behavior.
You probably don't realize this yet, but many bosses have a funny tendency to get annoyed at employees who stick their hand out for a 'special payment' every time they do something that may be out of the ordinary. Just a word to the wise.
But, kudos for doing something that many people find hard to do.
Thanks for the replies. To be clear, I'm not looking for an immediate payout, but would expect some form of compensation after the project has been completed if it has been profitable. In my last employee review, my boss noted that one way for me to make more money would be to bring in some projects. We didn't get in to the details of that then, but now that I've brought in these 2 projects, I'd like to have an idea what to expect.
I was thinking somewhere along the lines of 20% of the realized profit. I say that because that's what a previous firm I worked offered.
Another option is, depending on your current position within the firm (are you a designer? job captain? project manager?) to negotiate for an increased role. Say if you're a more junior to mid-level team member, ask to be the PM or lead designer on projects you bring in. This way you are able to get better experience, demonstrate that you deserve a promotion in an all-around way, and maintain the client relationship yourself so that if you ever leave you can take them with you.
so, projectnorth: let's run a couple of numbers to figure out what you may be talking about -
if you're talking a small commercial job, say 1M or so in construction costs, and if the total project fee for your firm is 5% (I'm being pretty generous), then the total fee of the project is 50k. if you're really disciplined with your time and make 15% as a profit, that's about $7,500. which is pretty good, but not crazy numbers. put a zero behind all those numbers and i think you've got a far more compelling case.
one other thought: would you be the one running the profit to ensure the project's overall profitability? if not, why not? i think that kind of package deal is the key if you're going to do that kind of profit sharing.
gregory, your saying a $1,500 bonus is too much to ask for (20% under your profit assumption)? or because it's a small project maybe it's not worth the principal's time to even consider such a request?
sometimes i think we've moved into a new age of conservatism where it's just assumed certain people exist to provide labor for the profit of other people. what that means is that promoting or offering additional compensation to ProjectNorth (quizzical's option "a") would be counterproductive towards the other people's profiting off his/her contribution. the other people just expect ProjectNorth to work harder and be more productive for their sake. there could come a point (quizzical's option "b") where ProjectNorth gives an ultimatum and requires the other people to consider his/her contribution, but until then i would have a pessimistic view about this firm offering consideration for his/her helping the company's profitability. unless you've actually seen them reward people for their contributions.
i suspect 30 years ago the people who make such decisions would look at the long term view of the profitability of their company, at which point it would be in their interest to reward people who help their company so they stick around and keep the company profitable. as it is, if those people are looking at their quick short term gain then i would think you have to do the same.
just to reiterate, people who think a 30 second sound byte on a radio show is equivalent to an education have redefined "capitalism" to mean ProjectNorth is not working for the benefit of ProjectNorth, rather it is his/her place to work for the benefit of the company and by "the company" i mean the investors/shareholder/or people who directly profit from it. not salary, but the "you get more money if the company makes more money" people.
if i were you, i wouldn't make any commitments based on what I say. however, i am always interested in seeing any example that would suggest i'm wrong. i want to believe there is a world where hard work or competence is valued and rewarded. i just can't reconcile it with my environment. maybe it's just the down economy and when i entered the profession. i'll keep an open mind and remain somewhat hopeful that things will change. however, for you specifically ProjectNorth, maybe i would look around at other people in your company in a simliar position and think about whether quizzical's and gregory's notion of a reward system fits what you see.
here's a chart:
curt - my view is that we don't do "piece work" - most of us are paid by salary and for that salary we are expected to make a contribution to the firm. Exemplary service generally results in a year-end bonus; persistent exemplary service results in promotion, pay increases and bigger bonuses.
Firms do get annoyed when employees want to start getting paid extra (immediately) for something specific they might have done. While it's perhaps ludicrous to consider, where do we draw the line - literally ? Do we start keeping track of how many lines each individual draws and pay them accordingly?
Also -- I doubt very seriously that your chart above has any relevance to the practice of architecture, particularly if "labor productivity" is measured as "fee dollars received / wages paid" -- that chart seems much more attuned to industries where technology has made a meaningful impact on the profitability of the enterprise. I've been around for a while and profitability across our industry has not increased meaningfully - if at all -- since the late 70s. Fee levels have declined and the amount of work we are required to accomplish has increased substantially.
Now, having said that, I do agree with you that if ProjectNorth's firm fails to recognize his "rainmaking" ability (either now or at year-end) in a proper manner -- and they continue to ignore his real contributions over time -- then he will (and should) leave to start his own firm.
To follow up, I will be the PM & designer on the projects. We're a small firm and this project will be a good filler for us.
If you want to run the numbers, here we go... They are both small projects for the city. The budget for one is $360,000, and the other is at $500,000. They are both renovations of existing buildings. Our fee will be in the 7-8% range. We typically shoot for a 20% profit on a project of this type.
$860,000 x .07 = $60,200 fee
$60,200 x .20 = $12,040 projected firm profit
$12,040 x .2 = $2400 my profit
My experience in life has been that if you don't ask, you won't receive. I'm not asking for money at every turn, I just want to know what I can expect. That's why I was asking if anyone's firm here has a company policy dealing with this. It could take 6 months or longer before profit is realized on these projects, and much longer on a more typical project. I don't want to sit around hoping for something that may or may not happen.
i'll repeat that noone should make any commitments based on what i'm saying here. i'll remain cautiously optimistic that at some point i'll see convincing evidence that my assumptions are wrong. the environment i'm operating in may be too limited to reach any meaningful conclusion. this isn't a hard-held belief, more like an idea i'm toying with
i can't make any claims to the accuracy of the chart above. it's really just a picture because architects like pictures. productivity is a ratio of production output to what is required to produce it. if i can work harder or do better work or whatever (input) to create a better product (CDs/building - output), whether technology is involved or not, I can't expect my income will be adjusted upward. evidence specific to architecture is hard to find, but if you see something i'd appreciate a link. relative perhaps to both our industry and the economy overall, if we agree to do more work for less money our productivity will have to rise while wages deflate. there is still someone profiting off that work, and it still means ProjectNorth will be expected to contribute more without the expectation of gaining additional income or other benefits from the company he/she works for. what's the motivation then for contributing more? you get the same salary either way. if there is an expectation that someday something is going to happen, i would want "someday" and "something" clarified, probaby in writing (which i would expect would be far more annoying then asking for a quick bonus), or at least some evidence that something actually happens and someday actually arrives.
i advocate evidence based reality rather than ideologically based reality. i'm sure, in your life, you've seen an environment where people are rewarded for putting in an effort and doing a good job. i question whether you've seen it in the last, let's say 15 years.
you're right that to expect immediate compensation like that would be annoying. however, if our compensation structure or reward system or something like that has fundamentally changed and people running these companies, including architecture firms, are making generally bad financial decisions, then people like ProjectNorth will have to adjust accordingly, right?
that is based on a handful of fairly significant assumptions, and i would like to hear different perspectives on those assumptions. to be clear though, i don't consider something that happened 20 years ago to be applicable in today's financial environment. maybe there is a "normal" that things will get back to, but i doubt it. evidence of what once was is not evidence of what will be.
@curtkram: the above is a long, and somewhat rambling, post so I'm not entirely sure I follow all that you're trying to convey. If I get it somewhat right, you are suspicious (cynical) that individual practitioners who accomplish individual productivity gains ever see any economic reward for such gains.
I can only speak to my own experience as a principal of a design firm and from the empirical evidence gleaned from many senior colleagues that I know in other design firms. To be truthful, we are very tuned in to matters of productivity and spend quite a lot of time trying to assess who within our firms actually makes a real contribution. Obviously, contribution is not directly tied to the number of hours that are worked or the volume of documentation that is produced each day.
Rather, contribution (and productivity) is actually much more related to how rapidly the project moves forward -- and stays forward -- in accomplishing the client's objectives. Too often we see individuals who dash through a certain portion of the documents (and are so proud of what they feel they have accomplished) only to find out days or weeks later that there are huge problems with the work, requiring a substantial amount of time to redo.
In the world in which I live, we know who is truly productive and who isn't. We cherish those in the former category and work very, very hard to keep them happy. Some of this translates into more money; however it always goes beyond money. We try to give them projects they find challenging or interesting. We provide them perks (say, in the form of conferences or special training) that may not be available to every other employee. And, of course, we promote them as rapidly as their skills and experience allow. Over time, these particular employees become well regarded professionals in the firm and do very well economically.
However, we also cherish those who aren't quite so successful and we work hard to help them understand what's required and we spend a lot of time training them to make a stronger contribution. Sometimes it works / sometimes it doesn't. Some people just don't quite get it - no matter how hard we (or they) try.
That may, or may not, address your skepticism. However, it's an honest appraisal of how it works in our firm and how it seems to work in many of the other firms in our surrounding area.
couldn't have said it better quizzical.
you retired a couple/few years ago right? if that's because your older, somewhere around pre-baby-boomer? (i think they call it the greatest generation), then my assumptions would be that you experienced a world that did try to accomplish what you've listed out. companies were loyal to employees, employees retired with gold watches, and rapid turnover was something to be avoided when possible. a long time ago people actually cared about more than just get rich quick crap. they were less selfish and less self-absorbed. that's less common now.
if you've seen new and younger people come in and fill your position, do you think they tried to learn management from you, or did they push their own agendas more? you didn't just wave your fist around and yell at the kids to get off your lawn i hope.
i would love to be in the middle of your firm for a while, or those you know of in your area, just to see how that looks from a lower-level or worker perspective. you did address the question i was asking and i appreciate that.
Ha! Well -- I"m not quite that old, but yes I did recently retire from active practice. I managed to do so about five years before "normal" retirement age - which was something I set out to accomplish many years ago - so you might say I'm a "sprightly retiree" who is enjoying other interests that I have in my life.
Since you asked, my successors in the firm are inquisitive, thoughtful, and intelligent people who work very hard at being both good architects and good stewards of the firm and its people. I am pleased to follow the high degree of success they are experiencing on all counts.
Curt -- I'm not convinced there are huge generational differences in these matters. Personally, I think it's got more to do with the part of the country where one works and the typical culture of professional practice in that part of the country. I've learned over the years that where I practice(d) we do seem to be somewhat more genteel in the ways we run our firms and we tend to take a long-term view of our relationships with our employees. For example, it's very rare in this area to ever encounter unpaid internships. Some of the crap I read about here on the forum would not be tolerated in the community in which I live.
Wow, perfect timing as I was about to post a very similar thread. I'm trying to determine exactly what the potential "finders fee" would be for bringing in work in new markets. It's extremely secretive for some reason so it's taking some time to work through the layers of MGMT to get an answer. I'm not expecting much (the work is likely to be SD, DD and CA only) but what matters is requiring that I be one of the main PMs on the projects. It's the experience that I'm really after at the moment.
agreeing with quizz on most everything said. i'll add that the long/ holistic view is so imortant in discussing profit.
a $7,500 profit on one project is meaningless unless that profit is consistent across ALL jobs. if, as is more likely, that $7,500 is offset by losses across other jobs, your 'finder's fee' is potentially not only a drag on profit but could bring the net to a negative, especially if all finders expected the same.
there are other rewards. we hope that - when other offices around us are laying off - stability is one.
not trying to be harsh but we're not skimming the fat off the top. in our case, partners re-capitalizing the firm has been necessary. should we propose debit sharing?
Rather than try to get a fee, why don't you try to get more responsibility for the project?
Seems like the obvious strategy to me. Leverage your position for more experience. This can pay off in ways too numerous to count.
Miles, perhaps you missed my post earlier, but I will already be the PM & designer on the project. In fact, I will be the lead on this project in all phases. I am currently active in all phases of the projects I work on, one of the blessings (and sometimes curse) of being at a small firm.
I am surprised how many people here seem to think that it's not appropriate to ask about additional compensation for bringing in work. It's work that will pay salaries, provide profit, help break the firm in to a new market with a client that could potentially provide more work in the future...
Additionally, it was my boss who suggested that I could make more money if I were to bring in more work to the firm. I'm just trying to get a feel for what other firms do.
project - i don't hear the 'inappropriate' message: what is being said, though, is to keep all these other variables in play if/when you have that conversation.
i think steven's question is worth answering: if you run it and it doesn't make a profit (for reasons that may be within or without your control), would you put the difference back in? because someone would (ie the owner of your firm). so, from one perspective (and it's not my personal one), what you're asking is to reap the reward if there is one but not take on the responsibility if it doesn't. by default, the firm owner will. which is why, as steven points out, profit pools have to have a much wider context than any single project.
also, please don't interpret the comments (again mostly) to mean that your actions are anything less than great. they are. for all the reasons you state.
let me maybe ask this another way: would you rather take a spot bonus for getting the contract signed or run the risk of getting 3x the spot bonus, but only if the project clears a 15% profit (actual)? honestly, if you answer yes to the 2nd one, why don't you just open your own firm?
Gregory, I never was asking for money up front. I stated earlier that I would only expect profit sharing if the project proved to be profitable. In this case, that's probably at least 6-months out. For a more typical project, that would be at least one to two years. If the project didn't make a profit, then I of course would not expect compensation.
Firm bonuses are already structured on percentage of firm profit. If the firm were not to make a profit, no one would get a bonus. If this project were to be the only profitable project, and all the other projects lost money, then I also probably wouldn't expect compensation.
And don't forget, I'm asking for a portion of the profit. The firm still retains the majority of the profit.
And I would take the % of profit over a marginal spot bonus all day long. My goal is to either be a partner in my current firm or go out on my own within the next 2-3 years.
so gregory, steve, will, and quizzical, you guys all have an ownership stake at your companies so your perspective is that of an employer. i think that's the same for miles. you guys all seem to be more hesitant to reward a finders fee, or think ProjectNorth should consider not going in that direction. instead, if ProjectNorth or LITS4FormZ invest in your businesses by bringing you clients, they should just know that you guys are watching and if appropriate it will lead to an improved position.
if i were the employee, i would be concerned that the profit i bring the company is going towards the boss's early retirement or the boss's kids' car collection. it's easy to believe that you are going to reward employees who should be rewarded, but it's harder when it means you actually have to take money out of your own pocket to reward them. if ProjectNorth and LITS4FormZ have been misled as often as I have, then they might think a one time payment is better than placing faith in someone else's ability to follow through.
obviously i don't know much about your various work environments, and i know that last statement was kind of mean, so i apologize for that and did not intend for it to sound like a personal attack even though it probably does. you guys have all advocated sound policy at your companies, so if that's true any employee in a similar position would be able to look around the office and say, "hey that person tried hard to be a good asset to the company and was rewarded." if ProjectNorth or LITS4FormZ can look at their offices and say people who have benefited their company are rewarded, then there is a fair chance they wouldn't be asking on here how to proceed.
i think there have been an number of threads on here about how a person has to quit to get ahead, or promotions are based on a 'good old boy' network, favoritism, nepotism, or office politics rather than accomplishment or merit. do you think it's possible such a thing could be happening without the owner knowing just because of bias or clouded judgement? sometimes people believe what they want to believe, no matter how much evidence is pushed in front of them (ref. obersvant's obsessiveness with calling zaha a water buffalo, or birthers and people who think obama is a muslim). i know i'm going to assume ndamukong suh stepped on a guys arm by accident rather than on purpose or a charging call should go towards KU because of my own confirmation bias.
sorry for rambling. i do that sometimes. learning to convey an idea in fewer words would be a good thing for me to work on. last note, quizz mentioned geography as a variable which may be true; office size may play an important part too.
This thread should have died after quizzical and stone gave the best answers right away. (thank you) Curtkram, if you were on a job that lost money, would you be ok with writing the company a check to help cover the expenses of keeping the business alive? How about if your job was contingent on bringing in work? As in, if you don't bring work in, you lose your job. It is important what those employers are telling you about how there is more to it, and thus long-term rewards are more reasonable for an employee that brings in a job.
In my very first post above I suggested that - in my view - this is one of the most difficult problems that firms confront with respect to compensation matters. The differing points of view expressed in this thread illustrate -- in spades -- why that observation is true.
Owners of firms have a valid perspective about risk and reward that is sometimes hard for younger professionals to understand - or accept. Younger professionals have their own valid perspective also -- but, having been there themselves, firm owners at least have some personal insight into those views.
In the end, the only real solution is for firm owners and younger professionals to sit down together and discuss these matters face-to-face. Hopefully, that discussion will take place in an environment of mutual trust and lead to a solution deemed fair to both parties. Regrettably, mutual trust is not always present and that makes amicable solutions hard to uncover.
there is no there, as quizzical says above "the only real solution is for firm owners and younger professionals to sit down together and discuss these matters..." and this is about all i have at the moment. while i may often disagree with quizzical i also know he has a perspective far different from what i can experience, and since i have only one life to live my population sample is incredibly limited. i know it doesn't seem so, but i'm very grateful for quizzical's and everyone else's comments as it gives me something to think about that i might not have otherwise had access to. to say 'there is more to it' and leave it at that doesn't help me, and it's not the direction an intelligent person would take. being intelligent, by definition (in my opinion) means you would ask 'what more is there?'
your 'what-ifs' are saying if i was offered partnership would i take it. depending on the firm and offer, sure i would. if you're asking if i would assume risk but give the reward to someone else, i would be less inclined to accept that deal. i'm also saying that the promise of long term rewards is different than actually getting long term rewards. i wouldn't accept someone's promise if i knew they rarely kept their promises.
ha. curt, i see what you did there with the bit about the boss’s car collection. (the ones that mostly came from his non-architect parents.) funny.
i came to this firm as just an employee with experience in project management. i did bring in projects. i was not compensated additionally for doing so.
but within 3yrs i was made a partner, despite having been here less time than others (albeit others with less experience). i was not required to buy in. it was part of a compensation/job description change.
i agree that all firms may not be as fair or self-aware in their dealing with employee reward issues. it’s also a good reason that this has to be an internal conversation that results in a policy, a way of working that is understood.
soon after i became a partner we created a series of landmarks in the form of detailed job descriptions. employees were all told what the criteria were for reaching the next job level, with ‘associate’ as the pre-partner position. those who were in a good position to get to associate soon were told that was the case and we let them know where they stood – what things they should focus on.
Curt, perhaps I am misunderstanding you. What I hear is that employers should give reward without risk and are selfish if they don't.
there is no there, i don't think i specified a specific course of action. let's go back to the original poster who is working within a specific context that is likely somehow different from any of our respective firms.
ProjectNorth suggested (s)he get paid after the completion of the project if it is profitable. (s)he believes the percentage of the end profit (s)he is asking for is small enough that the firm has enough of an upside to agree, and if the project end up not being profitable (s)he says it would be understandable that there would be no bonus. so, that should address your reward/risk question.
i don't think accepting a promise of a better future is a good deal if the person making the promise doesn't keep promises. ProjectNorth will have to look at his/her specific surroundings to see how that applies. steven, hypothetically if ProjectNorth's boss is buying cars and not paying his employees, that's something to take into consideration. i meant no offense even though it was kind of offensive. sorry.
the more general conversation, which i am enjoying the opportunity to learn from, is more along the lines of the structure of a firm and how they offer rewards. steven just mentioned above he was offered a partnership after 3 years. he didn't even have to buy in. i don't think there is even a remote chance of that being an option in my environment, so it's hard for me to understand that sort of situation. i would prefer to be in that environment; at least i could talk about a possible path towards improvement and might have some hope. the owners in my firm are alright people and they're accessible so i can talk about firm structure or whatever, but ultimately they don't want me quitting and they don't want to fire me and apparently they don't want to pay me more, so sometimes that leads to them just saying what they think i want to hear.
aside from that, personally i want to put myself in a position where i can improve my life and livelihood. i don't know how to do that. i was always taught hard work is a good avenue, but real-life experience suggests that this could be a dead end, or at the very least there is something else i'm missing. i believe learning about other people and other firms might help.
i hope that is a detailed enough explanation of not only why i think you misunderstand there is no there, but also why i appreciate having this conversation. any help is always appreciated.
Curt, I understand. And can relate, especially in the frustration that good things don't seem to come to those who work hard. From my experience, good work is only an avenue to success when combined with other events. It is frustrating that good work alone isn't enough. It IS great to hear stories of how firms operate, so that we know it does happen the way we feel it should.
OK, so here's the email text that my boss came back at me with:
Briefly, here is my recollection about how we’ve treated projects in the past brought in by staff:
• Staff architect is Project Designer, Project Manager and primary client contact.
• We generally review and oversee, but allow staff architect to be lead entity.
• Staff architect is responsible for organizing project schedule, etc, and sticking to it.
• After our scope of work is complete, we calculate the net profit on the project after all fixed and variable expenses, and split 50/50 between the firm & staff architect.
I must say I was surprised at the 50/50 split, but I'm not going to ague that.
This is a great thread, and definitely highlights some critical issues, flaws and opportunities within architecture practice and the business model...
@Project North: "I must say I was surprised at the 50/50 split"
I'm not just surprised - I'm somewhat stunned.
A question, please - how many owners are there at your firm? Is it a sole proprietorship?
50% of the profit sounds like a fair deal. Congrats on having a fair boss. Just make sure the firm does not lose money on the project!
What is concerning is that most of the posts on this thread sound like firm owners trying to say that you should NOT be compensated for bringing in work and should take the "long view". People who keep taking the long view get stuck in the same position till they are 50, and are then canned.
It is really not the responsibility of employees, unless they are partners to bring in work. If they do, then they need to be compensated accordingly. That would be good for the firm's business as well - it encourages people to bring in work.
I certainly agree with the idea of fair profit sharing for the new business that an employee brings in to the company. It motivates, and helps the employees to work more passionately, which will eventually help the company the most.
So, I would like all company owners to understand this simple logic, and help their employees to become financial more stable.
The firm I work for is small - only 5 of us, sole proprietorship.
Well -- in that context, I easily can conjure up a scenario where the deal offered makes more sense. I mostly come from an environment where there are multiple partners. Such a deal as you have been offered would be almost impossible (and likely to cause a mutiny) were there 4 or 5 owners - especially if their individual ownership % varied.
It's entirely possible that he's starting to contemplate whether you ought to be made a partner in the firm and, in that context, offering you 50% of any profit made on the projects would not be quite so unusual.
Good work -- and good luck with the projects.
so is it common for firms to have partnership positions like that? i assumed steven's situation was rare. if ProjectNorth's company is 1 owner and 4 people expected to help the owner be as profitable as possible, i don't see why anyone would assume the possibility of an equity stake is there.
in my experience, limited to one simple life as it is, i have found smaller architecture firms are often started by someone breaking away from a larger firm and taking a client or two with them. or nepatism/family situation of some sort. the people that break away started the firm for themselves, so sharing that ownership and a certain amount of control is not something they're interested in. partnerships are how law firms operate, not architects.
if my experience is not typical, what is typical for starting a firm? building relationships at your kid's school or the country club? not having steady relationships but instead just hoping new stuff keeps coming in?
Being a sole proprietor can be a lonely existence, especially as one ages. It's not at all uncommon for sole proprietors to feel, after some time, that they need one, or more, partners to help the firm grow and to bring complementary skills to bear on the firm's operations.
Of course, there are those personalities out there that cannot stand to share any decision making responsibility with others, but in my experience that's relatively rare.
in our case, curtkram, our president had been an intern in an older architect's office years ago. had moved on to another firm but, when that older architect was ready to retire after 40+ yrs in business (1995 or so), he contacted pres and said 'let's work out a transition plan'.
pres immediately came to work here and a couple of years later pres had purchased the 3 person firm and renamed it in 1997. refocused from retail/fast food to more institutional and community-oriented projects.
started hiring 1 person at a time. i joined a 7 person office in 2005.
became a 4-way partnership in 2008-09. now we're 10 people in the office.
pres feels like he was given a gift - an opportunity to own an operating firm with an established clientele. he has been able to put his own stamp on it, but he also felt that sharing in the good was part of his obligation (plus makes for a more stable firm), so structured the partnership.