architecture blog

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm - Tip 06: Stay Flexible

Posted by Derek Leavitt on Mon, Apr 5, 2010 @ 08:04 AM

This post is part of the How to Start an Architecture Firm series.

In February 2006, Christian, Michael and I went to work on forming our own architecture firm. The following is tip number six of seven in our start-up strategy.

Tip 06: Stay Flexible

flexible architecture firm

photo credit

Starting your own architecture firm is not a settling experience. It's not glamorous.

There are many implications to being a flexible company, but I'm going to focus on our flexibility with regard to physically moving our office.

Office 01

As mentioned back in Tip 01, we started our firm in Michael's basement. We didn't have money for fancy furniture. We could only afford IKEA. This turned out to be a blessing.

Our IKEA desks are simple. The $20 laminate table top is sold separate from the $4 metal legs. After a few minutes mounting the leg brackets with a drill, the legs screw right into the table top. Equally important, the legs unscrew, without tools, in about 30 seconds. A genius design, especially considering that we moved into our fourth office space by the time our company was 40 months old.

architects simple desk

IKEA Vika Amon table top and Vika Curry legs

Office 02

After a few months in Michael's basement doing start-up stuff and completing our first few jobs, we had enough money for a real office. Well, not a real office, but a small office suite in a tower by the airport. The conference room was shared with other businesses on our floor. Our office suite looked right out on the 405 freeway (see picture 02 below).

los angeles architects offices

Our four offices in 40 months overlaid on a map of Los Angeles.

Office 03

Our third office space, as touched upon in Tip 02, was a converted old house located on a commercial property. The property was the future site of a project we were designing, the Venice Boulevard Urban Dwellings. We worked out free rent as part of our design fee.

Office 04

When that project was put on hold as a result of the housing market collapse, we had to move next door into a commercial building. Rent wasn't free anymore. The space required some upgrading, but nothing like what we went through with the old house. We're still here and it's working well for us.

One way we maintained consistency was to get a mailbox in our first month of operation. We opted for a UPS mailbox near where I live. We still have the mailbox, which is a small price to pay for staying flexible. One less obstacle to moving the office quickly.

While I never expected to be moving so much, we always had a positive mindset. Each move was not only a physical upgrade, but  an opportunity to rethink our internal organization. Keeping things fresh.

Stay tuned as we fill in the final tip of our 7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm.

los angeles modern architecture firm

7 Tips for Starting an Architecture Firm

00  architect firm

00 Bootstrapping

Not a tip, but a critical theme in our start-up adventure.

posted 12.03.09

01  architect firm

01 Be Cheap

posted 12.08.09

02  architect firm

02 DIY (Do It Yourself)

posted 12.18.09 

03  architect firm

03 Get Advice

posted 12.22.09

04  architect firm

04 Learn from the Bad

posted 01.22.10 

05  architect firm

05 Start and Stay Small

posted 03.03.10 

06  architect firm

06 Stay Flexible

posted 04.05.10

07  architect firm

07 Plan It Out

posted 03.13.12

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Tags: Los Angeles, Architectual Practice, Starting an architecture firm