opinion

Hello Friend: An Introduction

Here’s a typical day—in the life of an architect, anyway.

I head to the Chelsea waterfront to meet with a passionate entrepreneur who has his finger on the pulse of the social media world. We go over the approvals for the company’s new offices in a collaborative meeting area that doubles as the firm’s pantry. A serious discussion takes place while an employee heats up an Amy’s breakfast burrito. Nobody blinks an eye.

That afternoon, I head uptown to assist a hedge fund client in the site selection process, and I’m in a glass-and-anigre-wood conference room with all the required trappings. While these two clients are as different as night and day, there is a common thread that binds them together: they’ve become my friends.

In this day and age, when the term “friend” is thrown around loosely—you’ve been sent a friend request!—its meaning has been somewhat diluted, especially at the point where personal and business relationships intersect. So, what does it really mean to be someone’s friend in the business world? For me, it’s always been about trust.

When a landlord or a tenant depends on me and my design team to weigh in on a tough transition or guide them into the next phase of their design decisions, they are placing a vote of confidence in us. It’s a responsibility I take seriously. After all, you don’t have the same client for decades without a genuine bond, and in order to thrive in today’s competitive economic climate, referrals and repeat business are musts.

While I love the more technical side of my job (yes, I relish discussing day lighting, site logistics and the latest innovations in green design with anyone who will listen—and plan to do so in this column in the coming weeks), I realize that having business skills without people skills is like having a stellar basketball team without a point guard. The combination of the two is a slam dunk!

However, it hasn’t been just fun and games. The architecture industry has undergone some dramatic changes over the past few decades. Shifts in the economy and the real estate market, the launch of social networking as a business tool and a new crop of hip young entrepreneurs have shaped the industry as we know it today.

Architecture professionals are, more than ever, asked to be beside a client, not just to celebrate groundbreakings and topping offs, but to advise honestly on critical work force decisions. This requires business savvy and the ability to be, yes, a good friend.

Follow Scott Spector via RSS. sespector@spectorgroup.com