architecture blog

Modative Interview by Business of Architecture

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Apr 15, 2014 @ 06:04 AM

Last year we had the pleasure of having Enoch Sears from the Business of Architecture visit our office and conduct an on-camera interview. We've always really appreciated Enoch's approach of focusing on the business side of architecture, something that has been a vital part of our practice. So, last week, Enoch published the interview on his website and we are very happy with the results. It's an open and honest depiction of the critical issues we've faced in the last few years, which include (taken from Business of Architecture's website):

  • Promoting a hands-on approach for staff.

  • Creating a process to help your clients believe in your brand.

  • Learning to say “No” and staying focused on your firm’s goals.

  • The benefits of showing your clients an open and honest process.

  • A design-driven website vs. an informative website.


modative business architecture interview

If you're interested, you can see the interview (and a transcript) on the Business of Architecture site - THE SECRETS TO A SUCCESSFUL ARCHITECTURE FIRM: INSIDE THE MODERN ARCHITECTURE FIRM MODATIVE

Enjoy!

Tags: Marketing, Organization, Architectual Practice, architecture resources, modern architecture firm, employees, Project Strategy

How an Architecture Firm Stays Organized

Posted by Christian Navar on Wed, Feb 9, 2011 @ 07:02 AM

When we founded Modative we went through a lot of exercises to create a strategic plan for how to organize the business operations of our design firm. Business operations is a subject matter rarely touched on in Architecture School let alone in most design firms. In fact, most firms operate in the same chaotic manner in which an undergraduate architecture student operates when struggling to weave an endless amount of work into a cohesive final project. Bad decisions, unclear goals, and a lack of clear action items inevitability leads to mass consumption of caffeinated drinks, all-nighters, and mismanagement of time and energy. These bad habits, first developed at a young age, are very hard to break and continuously infect most firms’ culture, becoming an endless cycle of mismanaged projects, bad decisions, and bad ideas. All you have to do after interviewing most architects is drive by after hours and see if the lights are still on or call on the weekend and see if someone answers the phone.

At first, you may think this is the sign of a hard-working office, but most likely it is a sign of poor firm culture, bad project management, and burned-out project teams. At Modative, we are all for hard work, and I would be lying if I said we never work extra hours or on weekends, but there are a lot of firms that run their studios like sweat shops. Not because they have to, but because they have no other choice. The continued mismanagement of project operations and lack of prioritizing and internal communication means mass amounts of energy are spent on tasks that may seem urgent at the time, but really are just the result of poor decision making, over-promising to clients, and a clear lack of short and long-term objectives throughout each phase of a project.

“The Clothesline”

architects clothesline wall

The first book I purchased on my iPad was Making Ideas Happen, by Scott Belsky. After reading about various strategies and concepts regarding methods for implementing ideas and achieving results, I realized it was time to revisit Modative’s strategic plan. It was time for our business operations to evolve into something even better. There is a section in the book that discusses using “progress as a motivational force.” So we modified some concepts found within the book and developed our own strategy to clearly identify action items by “surround[ing] ourselves with progress”. We start every Monday morning by sitting, not in the conference room, but in front of our “clothesline”: a wall made up of a series of horizontal steel cables from which 11X17 sheets of paper are hung from clips, clearly identifying projects, their schedules, and crucial action items that prioritize every project’s goals.

architecture firm organizationSome of this week's goals

We intentionally didn’t make each project sheet overly complicated. Each page has a project logo, a color, and a title. Each item gets assigned by the project manager to a team member, along with a due-date and a check box to show when each item has been completed.  The system allows for very little mis-communication and prioritizes each item so there is never any confusion about what should be worked on when. Our goal at the start of every week is to ensure that we are focusing our energy on things that truly matter that week, will make our projects better, and make our clients even happier. Through “visual organization,” we have been able to develop a system that has become integral to our office’s creative process, keeping us focused and even more engaged then ever before.

architects organization trench

No matter how creative the team, mismanaged office operations lead to the loss of a project’s full potential. A project may seem great in the end, but let’s start thinking about how much better things could have been if a project’s full potential was realized by a team that wasn’t dragged through the trenches along the way. Even award-winning firms suffer from disastrous mismanagement of project operations. Often, long after the AIA award is on the wall, the client and the office are still in recovery mode. The financial ramification brought on by a lack of a clear strategic planning to balance the creative excellence within a firm, can kill morale and ultimately affect everyone’s productivity let alone everyone’s bottom line. In Scott Belsky’s book he explains, “that everything in life is a project, and every project must be broken down into Action Steps...” Well, at Modative, everything really is a project. I’m just glad we are able to rely on our “clothesline” to clearly organize and prioritize our ideas and actions. This way, our clients can be confident that we will inject all of our energy successfully towards reaching their project’s goals.

Being organized allows us ample time to do what we love most: designing and being creative, while still having plenty of time to enjoy life and walk Bella, Modative's office dog.

architects office dog architecture Firms with Dogs
Bella- The early years (before lots of walks)     
Bella- after more organization (& after lots of walks)

 

Contributors to this post include Krystal Návar, Derek Leavitt and Michael Scott .

Tags: Business, Communication, Organization, Architectual Practice, architecture resorces, Project Strategy

4 Goals for Our Architecture Firm in 2010

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Tue, Jan 12, 2010 @ 09:01 AM

Instead of publishing my personal resolutions for 2010, I thought I'd fill you in on what Modative has in store for 2010.

1. Integrated Project Delivery

Here at Modative, we're never mistaken for traditionalists. I'm not just talking about our architectural style, but the way we do everything. This is why we are committed to further moving away from the traditional design-bid-build process into integrated project delivery. We feel that this new way of delivering projects to our clients not only distinguishes us from the competition, but makes the process easier on our clients, contractors and even us.

 

problem design bid build

 

And since we're not looking to procrastinate on our 2010 resolutions, we've already added a section on Integrated Project Delivery to our website so you can see what it's all about.

2. Beyond Architecture

In more and more of our projects, clients have been asking us to go beyond our core architecture services to provide them with many of the other things that go into getting a project built.

Why? Because coordinating with one person (Modative) is much easier than coordinating with ten different consultants. We also prefer this one-stop-shop service because it further enables us to deliver the finished project as envisioned.

A glimpse of what we can provide can be found on our  services beyond architecture page.

architecture services

3. Modative Build

When we founded Modative, one of our primary company goals was so important to us that we put it on our business cards. Instead of "Architecture", we used the tag line "Design, Develop, Build." And while we have assisted with development decisions on the Venice Boulevard Urban Dwellings and Fay Avenue Art District Dwellings, we haven't yet acted as the contractor on one of our projects. That will soon change as I'm proud to announce that Modative Build will be launching this year.


 

 

 

 

 

 

design develop build


4. Small Lot Subdivision

When I tell people I'm an architect, they often ask, "So, do you do houses or (commercial) buildings". "Both" I answer.

Our firm has always kept our project types diverse: a fairly even split between residential and commercial. And within the residential category, there has been a healthy mix of single-family and multi-family projects. However, if there's one project type that we've done more than any other, it's clearly Small Lot Subdivision, which is really a hybrid between homes and condos. We've continued to pursue and take on these Small Lot Projects because we believe in them as the future of residential development in Los Angeles (and a lot of other places).

Small Lot Subdivision Blog Los Angeles

To show our further commitment to this unique project type,  we've expanded our Small Lot Subdivision online presence with a new Small Lot Subdivision Blog and a free guide on the basics of developing Small Lot Subdivision Projects in Los Angeles.

 

small lot development guide

 

Sample diagram from the Small Lot Subdivision Guide

Tags: Announcements, Innovation, Business, Architectual Practice, contractor, Project Strategy, construction