How to get a competitive edge for your architecture practice (part 1)

By January 10, 2018September 19th, 2018Architecture Practices, Business Planning & Strategy


In this first of three articles on giving your architecture practice a competitive edge we take a look at how to give your practice a strong point of difference. Having a strong point of difference is imporant – architecture’s a crowded industry, with over 13,000 businesses in Australia. How will your practice stand out from among the crowd? With more and more architecture graduates being produced each year, there’s no end of competition in this growing field.

Customers need to know who you are and what you do best so that they have a way to differentiate you from other architects. Traditionally, there are a few ways of doing this:

  • Industry specialisation. Developing an industry niche in which you can concentrate and deliver more and more specialised services helps build up your expertise. Over time, it should also allow you to charge a premium for your services. Sectors like health care, education, retail, government, sport and aged care have all proven useful concentrations for architecture companies.
  • Service specialisation. Developing a specialised service that more generalist architectural firms haven’t got has also helped some companies create a profile for themselves. Some specialise in environmental architecture, heritage, access and so forth.
  • Process specialisation. A little harder, because to many consumers, the processes architects undertake seem more or less the same. However, some have developed detailed methodologies for engaging with client needs or engaging communities which help to distinguish them from the pack. And developing a reputation for sticking to time and budget, and knowing how to navigate through building regulations can be very handy,
  • Locality specialisation. Being the company that knows a particular territory and how to get new developments approved and built in that territory can be useful for building a patch.

Working out your position in the market – the sort of work your going to specialise in, who’s your competition, whether you offer a premium or an accessible service – is a good strategic process for any architect. It helps in the marketing process to be able to talk about your business specialties so that potential customers remember you and understand quickly what your skillset is. Being a generalist architect in a sea of other architects makes the job of winning business harder.

Here are a few other ways you might seek to build a unique profile for your company:

  • The introduction of BIM systems revolutionised architectural work in recent years. What will be next? Using technology to improve processes – but also integrating technology into building design – could be an effective way of differentiating your services.
  • Adding services. Additional technical services such as interior design, surveying and mapping, and urban planning may present opportunities for growth.
  • Can you design buildings using materials others are yet to cotton on to? Can you specialise in connected houses with NBN linkages? What about houses that have a positive net environmental impact?

Think about what you need to develop or to emphasise your specialisation. Additional training? Specific qualifications? Or maybe just more jobs of a certain type? Nut out what will help you stake your place in the market and work that into your business plans for the next few years. Build your business around that point of difference.

This article is an extract from our new eBook packed full of profitability tips for architecture practices – you can grab your copy here:

Here at Generate we work with a huge range of creative businesses – including architecture practices – each year, helping them with everything from managing their accounts, tax advice, business coaching, strategic planning … you name it, we’ve probably done it! If you’d like to have a chat about your business, why not drop us a line? We’d love to help.