Few Architects Have Position Statements and They All Need Them
Position Statement Part 1: Who you are
That sounds really, really easy right? You are your firm’s name, right? So your Position Statement would begin, “Mondo Architects is …” That’s okay if your name has the word “architects” or “architectural” in it. Firms that have names like Design Studio, Associates, Partners, or made-up names like Arkinetics or Archimaniacs, will need to begin by defining your field of play: architecture.
Position Statement Part 2: What we do
Not too hard, right? This is your services. Or is it? This is a place where I feel architects grossly underestimate what they do. Ask an architect what they do and they say things like planning, interior design, urban design, landscape design. Or they’ll talk about the kinds of projects they work, for example, “We do health care, government and parks facilities.”
Demure. Just way too demure. Architects don’t “do” health care buildings. That’s the outcome of an architect’s work. Architects are visionaries, they are future builders. They see in a way that other people can’t. They see a space when it’s invisible. They can think 3-dimensionally when things are only two dimensional.
They’re wicked smart. They ask just the right questions to find out what they need to know to help a client get the building or space they need. In fact, architects often during the course of their engagements end up helping clients to clarify their own business goals. I like to call this consultative architecture…but none of my clients buy that name.
What I mean by consultative architecture is that nothing happens from a design perspective until there’s a thorough understanding of the client’s needs, business goals, and personal goals. And getting to those answers requires intelligent and deep business questions that get to the heart of the project. It sets the foundation for every decision to be made during the design process.
That’s what I’d like to see architects own in their Position Statements. Yes, the services are important, but it’s much more important for you to understand clearly yourselves what you’re really doing: investigating, guiding, analyzing, suggesting, giving options, solving, anticipating, etc.
Position Statement Part 3: For whom
So Part 3 identifies who your clients are. If you’re currently a generalist firm, your list will be long, include everyone, and have a miscellaneous category. Let’s say you really only serve 3 markets, for example, healthcare, higher education, and financial institutions. You could just say that, “We provide (fill in the blank) to healthcare, higher education, and financial institutions.”
It would be okay, but not great. And certainly not a differentiator. What I’d be interested in exploring in this case is what these three market sectors have in common. For example, is it that they are all institutional? Or that they all have multi-layered management systems?
It’s really worth digging down to find the common denominator of the client base you serve. It can be a very revealing experience.
Position Statement Part 4: To what benefit
What benefit does a client receive from working with your firm? A first take on this question might result in answers such as, on time, on budget, a pleasant experience, first class design, no problems, or no unexpected surprises, etc.
Once again, this doesn’t really get at the heart of what architects do. These answers, actually, are benefits the client expects, and rightly so. A client should get a project that comes in on time, on budget, and so on.
Some deeper thinking here might help clients to better understand what architects are really doing for them. Aren’t architects really helping clients to grow their businesses? Aren’t you all influencing the way people work together, helping to encourage positive work environments, more efficiencies which translates into enhanced profitability. I’m not saying that residential architects should say their work can save marriages. But is it too far fetched to say that you help people to create spaces that help people thrive in their home environments from lifestyle to livelihood, from interests to safe haven?
Take a look at your clients. What are they able to do better because your firm was involved in creating new or renovated space for them? Those are the kinds of benefits to cite in a strong Position Statement.
A Note About Positioning
A Position Statement puts you in the strategic driver’s seat. But please understand that having a clearly defined position does NOT mean you say no to work that doesn’t fit the firm’s position. If your firm is slow, of course you’ll say yes to work, whether it supports your position or not. You just won’t be putting it up on the website. And you won’t automatically create a client development strategy to pursue more of that kind of work.