Architects aren’t the best when it comes to business.

No fault of their own. When we’re in school, every aspect of what we’re doing is focused on design and understanding how buildings go together. Some schools are better at one than the other. But that’s the general idea of what they’re hoping to instill in us before we venture off into the world.

Consequently, one of my biggest pushes when talking with students is for them to take at least one business course. Just to understand the basics. Even if they don’t plan on owning their own practice or even being a principal. Not everyone has that goal. Yet having some idea of how a business operates can be helpful when working on contracts or figuring out how to optimize teams for the best project and profit outcome.

However, as I was standing on the corner of Cedar Springs and Wycliff Avenue this morning having more marketing photos taken, I realized anyone wanting to own a practice needs much more than just a straight up business course. They need an entrepreneur course to prep them for all the things they will need to do, even when they don’t want to.

Like having a publicist. And having one that insists on having photos taken of you by someone who is a professional. Not selfies. Not Glamour Shots. (I’m dating myself here.) Actual photos with a real photographer, desperately trying to get you to smile. At least for a moment or two. I seem to recall when I was a kid there was a stuffed bunny involved. Maybe I need to try that again.

Or even worse than photos (and video) – actually talking to other people to grow your business. Also known as networking.

When we started the last practice in 2008, the standard was to get a client, do good work, hopefully have them spread the word, and then repeat the process. If you were lucky, you might get published or get an award from one of the AIA components (or both) to help spread how fabulous you were. But that model flew right out the window when the economy ground to a halt. Then we had to talk to people.

That’s not something they teach you while you’re up at 2 a.m. trying to finish a model for crit the next day. They don’t teach that at all, and at 2 a.m., if you’re lucky enough you’ll still remember your own name. For us, we had to figure out the networking thing for ourselves.

Luckily one of my partners at the time was much more outgoing than I was, and we were able to jump into that without too much trauma. And as it turned out, I wasn’t as introverted as I thought. A friend once mentioned he’d never seen someone work a room the way I did. No idea where that skill came from but happy it did.

And then along came social media. Facebook. Twitter. LinkedIn. Instagram. Tik Tok. Which takes me back to my publicist. And how grateful I am to have one to take care of those things for me.

It also takes me back to photographs. (Pardon me while I shudder a bit.) Because 1) social media needs content; and 2)…Well I guess there really isn’t a 2. It really is about content, including video. And if you follow the blog, you know how I feel about that.

But all this falls outside of the basic business course. Or what I imagine is the basic business course. So for those who are thinking being a firm owner sounds fun – buyer beware. Because at some point you’ll find yourself on a street corner, and hopefully just taking pictures.