Kind of been losing it on everyone lately...


Just sort of venting here--

Run a small design office, been a while since Ive had a real break. I'm getting the feeling Im going to start getting reputation for being difficult if I dont back down the intensity. Feeling ver defensive of our office, my employees, and the integrity of our work. Seems like lately clients and even other consultants are out for blood. Clients beating us down on our proposals then nickle and diming for extra work, other consultants being oddly territorial.

We've been busy for a while, but still very much a hustle to put enough billable work together every month. 

Feeling pretty exhausted. Anyone else out there with me?

Feb 17, 19 11:29 pm

Ask yourself if you feel perceived as a micromanager. If you do, are you? Are you a micromanager? 

If the answer to the above is yes, there are two possible reasons: 

1) You don't trust what your employee(s) or consultants do. 


2) You are operating on such thin margins that you are trying to accomplish more work in a smaller period of time so you can actually bill for it.

If the former from the above is true, ask yourself why you would hire employees and/or consultants you don't trust. Did you hire them because there you thought there was no one better? Why keep on working with them if you are dissatisfied? 

If the latter is true- every business needs cashflow. Do you have a line of credit so you can cover the slow periods? Also- do you have any "bread and butter" projects that won't necessarily make it to your porftolio but you would use to pay the bills? If not, you consider getting some.

Feb 18, 19 12:01 am

Anyone else thought this was a jla-x thread?

Feb 18, 19 1:13 am

When was the last time you took a break or holiday?

You probably need a reboot.

Feb 18, 19 3:02 am

Here's an idea..... don't start or run a firm as a sole-proprietorship. Have partners. The firm is too much for you to do by yourself as the sole leader of the practice. You need a business partner that is active that can run things when you need a break or vacation.

Employees need to be managed and overseen because they expect someone above them to be in leadership directing. If you have no employee in such a leadership position then you need to promote someone to partner level with leadership role and taking responsibility but that means you need to trust people. If you can't trust people then either you are not ready to run a business and need to close the doors and go back to working for someone else.

I'm not going to sugar coat it. The problem is YOU (at least a big part of it is). Employees aren't going to be expecting to run the show as they expect to do what their job description is and expect you the owner to be in charge.

Lets correlate this to a parable. A good shepherd and a flock and the difference between a good shepherd and a hired hand. A hired hand is like a sheep leading a sheep but that sheep doesn't hold ownership or care about the other. When a wolf comes, the sheeps scatters as with the hired hand who will run. Yet the good shepherd will lead the sheep. The sheep knows his (or her) voice and will follow. The hired hand is a stranger nor a voice they recognize for the role of leadership.

When you have someone who is just a hired hand leading and they don't know his role is to lead, they don't recognize him to be a leader. They will simply say, "why the f--- should we care about what you want, you are not our leader". When you alone are the shepherd they listen to you for leadership. They don't know to listen to another.

You either lead as the sole-leader and be ready for the role 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, every day of the year, every year OR you establish yourself in a teamwork model of leaders with a leadership TEAM. Then you have others join. Before you hire employees, you should build a TEAM whom will begin to be the joint leaders of employees. Then the TEAM leads. While, one of you maybe the team leader with a vice-team leader who will be your second in command who will coordinate with the other members of the team that in turn collectively leads the rest of the crew. The division of labor would them follow. 

You need to form a leadership team. That team maybe just two but then grow in time but you need employees to listen to not just your voice but the other leaders of the leadership team during a time of absence.... vacation or whatever. Leading employees without a trusted partner as your co-leader can be overwhelming. The co-leader will pick up the ball when you are on vacation or something and you would do likewise so it will always be lead properly.

As I see it, you are being overwhelmed and you don't have a partner co-leading with you. You are literally burning out and getting frustrated with it all. These are warning signs you are experiencing.

What are you going to do about it?

Feb 18, 19 3:28 am

great points

2nd that

liberty bell

I am there with you too, Larchinect. We have been so busy for so many months yet the profits don’t reflect how hard we are all working. Developers seem to enjoy beating me down on the fee, but I am frankly not the kind of person who feels comfortable beating down my own subs on their fees, so we eat the difference, typically. I also have not had time for a decent vacation in over 18 months So I haven’t had a real mental reset in a while.

I think part of your concern is that you’re afraid your employees will think badly of you? Transparency goes along way in helping them understand. If you haven’t done this already a brief sit down - maybe provide lunch! - with them in which you describe some of the realities of how hard it is to keep things running might help? Express appreciation for all of their hard work at the same time, and give them a feeling of “we are all in this together.” 

Hang in there. It’s a hard profession, seriously.

Feb 18, 19 5:58 am



Whoops hit enter too soon. You bring up a good point. Everyone is slammed yet everyone still seems to be operating at recession level fees and thus, recession level staff as well. I know a lot of the architects we work with are putting in CRAZY long hours but complain about fee. It seems we got beat down during the recession but have never felt comfortable enough to start saying we don’t need that job unless they want to pay us more. I’ve noticed it with contractors too when it comes to schedules, developers seem to think starting construction with 50% CD’s and no permit is now the norm and contractors won’t push back because “then you won’t win jobs.” Yet these contractors and subs are slammed too. When do our company leaders realize they are back on the good side of the negotiating table?


Post recession, traditionally bid projects went extinct in private sector. Addenda period no longer exists in traditional sense. Projects are priced as early as 50% DD, before elements are even designed. It's easy to miss scope early in the project, and if that happens you will have problems down stream. This fasttrack delivery method existed before, but it was intended for owners who are experienced in construction. Now everyone is doing it. Sales pitch is that fragmented pricing gives more control over costs compared to a single bid value for everything. But fragmented pricing exercise is going to miss scope, guaranteed. Sometimes intentionally so. "We priced the system yes, but it doesn't include any of the attachment hardware, is that a problem?"


The thing is, we really aren't in this together. As an employee, yes, I rely on the firm owners for a job. But beyond that, it's up to those owners to step up to the plate and provide the necessary leadership to make sure that nobody loses their job. If that means getting better at negotiating, so be it. That's your job, not mine. Suck it up. You decided to own your own business - not everything is going to be easy.

bowling ball, I don't disagree, but I need to point out that I'm not an owner currently, just a PM. I'm pointing out from an emploYEE's perspective that it helps to have some transparency. The firm I'm out now is really good about letting us know monthly goals and when we do or don't met them, and I see partners in here all hours, too.

And Rusty is right, this is a post-recession mindset that we need to say yes to everything because it could all go bad again quickly.


Donna, all good points. I was responding to liberty bell but I'm on mobile so I don't know if that's clear or not, sorry.

liberty bell

liberty bell = Donna Sink. For some reason my old anonymous screen name shows up when I post from my phone! No worries, bowling ball.


Well I learned something new today! And I've been around for like 12 years. Not sure how I missed (or forgot) that.


Has anyone actually sat down with a developer and did the hour calculations in front of him? Just curious...

Feb 18, 19 10:06 am

I haven't, and I've really wanted to on the current project I'm on, but as I said above I'm not an owner so it's not my info to share.

"Trickle down' is the idea that if you feed a pig enough, a few morsels will pass through undigested for the rats to eat. It is also the idea that when people at the top lie, cheat, steal (and doG knows what else) without consequence, those behaviors 'trickle down' through society.

What you're describing is what you get when criminals are in charge. I've found these behaviors (royalty-level entitlement based on wealth and blood sport competition between those serving them) increasingly prevalent throughout society. The higher the finance the worse it is. Having ethics often serves to make you an easy target. 

In other words, it's not you. Integrity is about the last thing you want to have in smash-and-grab culture where 'justice' is based on wealth. It's every man for himself, and fuck everyone else. This is not going to end well.

As my old man used to say, "If you're lucky you get a choice. You can eat or you can sleep."

Feb 18, 19 10:16 am

Many of the issues you are juggling are the exact same things most every architect deals with. Maybe you picked the wrong profession. You should seek a career change.

Feb 18, 19 10:31 am

It's not limited to architects. This is basic-level business ownership. Not everybody is cut out for it, and that's ok.


Agree, but its tougher for architects. Yes, not everybody is cut out for this business, but a lot of us have so much time and money invested in it so difficult to get out.


If you do quality work don't do it for less just to have the work. It becomes the new normal and will always bite you in the ass. I've seen good architects go down because they try to please developers/clients too much, who then simply don't return the favour for follow-up work and apply the same trick at another fool dangling that carrot of repeat commissions. It is totally okay to be an asshole when you are trying to reach a certain level of quality, don't count on repeat clients by jumping through their hoops. In the end it is the quality of your past work that brings in your future client.

Feb 18, 19 12:46 pm

Few know the difference in quality, everyone knows the difference in price.


You simply shouldn't want those cheapskates as clients, why compete in a race to the bottom?

Non Sequitur

I took off last week for an extended weekend away with the fam.  Left with a metric shit-tonne of work still on the table.  Going back in tomorrow and feeling pretty damn good about the break.  None of the work was touched in my absence and the project is not my client to service, so not sure what's waiting for me as I have other clients waiting.  Oh well. 

Feb 18, 19 12:49 pm

Happy Family Day!


I found out that if I'm gone, and the work stops, the entire world ends! I think it's very typical that if we are stressed, we automatically assume that the client is stressed about our absence. Usually, they just say "welcome back, how was your vacation" and we move on!

Non Sequitur

Thanks OneL


Yeah, lots of good thoughts and perspective here from employees and employers alike. It's good to hear both sides.

We do operate on thinner margins, I'd say. Its just the nature of our operation at this time, but we also do have some larger bread and butter projects that keep us going. It is nonetheless a serious hustle every month. Yes, I'm whining a little because Id rather whine here than in the office, lol.

I definitely dont think I'm cut out to be an 'employer/boss.' I'm a designer and I generally love what I do and take pride in it. My primary motivation for being an owner is wanting to contraol/manage/facilitate the whole process and do more interesting work on my terms. I see the business side as an extension of my design process--Finding projects, getting to know clients and the places we work, managing budgets and deliverables, and delivering value. It's all part of the design product in my view. Just doing drawings  is fairly easy. Just being a 'boss' doesnt necessarily interest me.

I think I mostly need a break.

Feb 18, 19 10:58 pm

It's great to have that insight. I've worked for bosses just like you (or how you describe yourself) and neither had that ability unfortunately. Take a break! The world will still turn in your absence.


I'm very exhausted too. The flow of projects coming in has been very heavy for the past 9+ years. I took a short vacation in December thinking that one of my employees could run things while I was gone. I was sooo wrong. We are still fixing things the person screwed up. Frankly, I am waiting for the economy to slow down before I ever try to take significant time off again.


Invest a little time in properly training your staff, it's your own fault you're exhausted if you need to always babysit them :)


Very true. The amount of training I'm having to provide staff has very much exceeded what I initially assumed. The tight labor market has forced us to hire people somewhat below the skill level I would ideally want.


In a tight market it is better to hire one good employee than two or more below the skill level you need. It might cost a little more but being able to take more time off is definetely worth it.


Ha. I've never heard the word training used in this industry. Just tell them what I get told, "You're smart, figure it out."


Yes, sink or swim sounds nice in theory but when it's your firm drowning maybe providing some inflatable armbands could help.


There’s a book called the E-Myth, why most small businesses fail. There’s a version specifically for architects. Essentially it lays out a few questions of Have you trained any of your employees? Do you offer training? Do you have specific performance guidelines and standards that your employees understand and can manage. Are these guidelines easily accessible and can they easily be used to train replacements. Until you do that you’ll be the one doing all the work and taking ownership on all the work. Architecture firms big and small that I’ve worked at have never implemented a solid performance guideline and training program and expect their employees to just know what’s expected from them. So it takes them months/years to figure out exactly what this manager/employer expects. I’d listen to the whole book when you can, it’s specificaly for your situation.

Feb 19, 19 10:52 am

Not taking vacations and then bitching and moaning about it but also proud of it is a patently American thing.

Feb 19, 19 3:18 pm

In those cases I don't even feel sorry, especially when they're the owner/in charge.


I feel sorry for anyone who runs a business.  I don't have it in me and consequently won't ever be rich, but it sounds like most owners are just treading water here.  Having worked with developers, all I can offer is to provide value that they can't themselves, meaning be more than a pencil that can get permits in a timely fashion.  Easier said than done I know, but best of luck and take a break.  It shouldn't be architorture.

Feb 19, 19 3:57 pm

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