Your practice vision: attract clients you want to work with

How do you attract clients you want to work with and projects that allow you to do your best work? Few architects are prepared for running a business by the training that gives them their industry-specific skills. For many those skills are achieved by working with clients, making mistakes, and trying to evolve. In this post, the first in a series that I’m going to write, I’m going to show you some of the most crucial things you can work on to make your business a success, help you avoid some of the hidden pitfalls, and tell you about some approaches that can really make a difference to the way clients appreciate you and your work.

What is your vision for your practice? What is your intention? What do you do that is different from what other architects do? If you don’t know where you’re headed, then it’s going to be a lot harder to get there. If you’re not clear on these things, it makes it difficult for clients to choose you – because it’s not obvious what they are choosing. Your vision statement forms a key part of your marketing.

If you don’t know where you’re headed, then it’s going to be a lot harder to get there.

Management and Leadership guru Peter Drucker offered up five important questions around assessing this for your business, to give you a strategic business vision with a plan. However, you could apply it equally to your team, to your day-to-day interactions at work, or even in your home:

  1. What is your vision? (Drucker said it should fit on a T-shirt). It’s so easy to get lost and forget what you’re here to do when you get wrapped up in the minutiae of work/life; when we get stressed out – we forget what – and who- we’re there for.
  2. Who is your customer (prioritise – who is your ideal client – what sort of work would you be doing for them?)? What projects are meaningful for you? What types of project do you want to attract for your practice as an architect?
  3. What does your customer value? (What are they paying you for? Note: it may not be what you think) How does your work serve your clients? What do they want and value? This means considering not just what you consider to be valuable about what you do but responding to what the client (or your ‘ideal’ client) considers to be valuable (again, this may not be what you think). What does each of you want to get out of your relationship?
  4. What are your results? (Qualitative and quantitative measures – how are you delivering on what the client values and is paying for?)
  5. What’s the plan? (How are you going to get there? Does everyone who works with you know it and can they say it simply – ‘sing it’ Drucker said?).


The WHY not the HOW

An effective vision statement says why you do what you do, not what you do or how you do. People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. It is the design for your business, the big picture for the ideal future, it defines the result you are going for; where you want to be, what success looks like. It’s like a North Star that guides you towards your long-term achievements and dreams.

Try brainstorming the answers to these questions and answering each one in six words – this isn’t as easy as it sounds! Be creative, use contractions:

  • Where do we want to be in the future?
  • Where does our excitement and motivation come from?
  • What is the long-term effect we want for customers, the industry, the economy, environment, or world?
  • What does our ultimate success look like?
  • What core values drive us forward?
  • How will people describe us in 10 years?

This is a great exercise in using powerful language and getting to the heart of your ideas. You can use a synonym finder or an app such as to help you.

Now, write your vision statement in one or two sentences. The shorter it is the more memorable it will be to you and to potential clients. Think about how it sounds when it’s said aloud. Does it sound like your business – is that the type of language you use – are you comfortable saying it? Does it sound exciting – to potential clients and to you? It should come from the heart, and must not sound trite or use buzzwords that will be out of fashion in a few months’ time. Use the present tense with aspirational, active words rather than passive words.

Don’t throw anything away; hang on to it because the next stage is to share it with friends, colleagues, family and maybe some friendly clients to get their feedback. Take their feedback on the chin because, if it doesn’t resonate with them, you need to rework it or your time will have been wasted.


Some inspiration

American Express: ‘We work hard every day to make American Express the world’s most respected service brand’

eBay: “To provide a global trading platform where practically anyone can trade practically anything.”

Oxfam: To create lasting solutions to poverty, hunger, and social injustice

WWF: We seek to save a planet, a world of life. Reconciling the needs of human beings and the needs of others that share the Earth

TED: Spreading Ideas (Two words!)

Save the Children: To inspire breakthroughs in the way the world treats children and to achieve immediate and lasting change in their lives.

The Rotary Foundation: To enable Rotarians to advance world understanding, goodwill, and peace through the improvement of health, the support of education, and the alleviation of poverty

Vai Architects: To succeed in business through our professionalism, collaborative spirit, emphasis on client service, and passion for design excellence.

Skanska: To be the world leader — the client´s first choice — in construction-related services and project development.

It doesn’t matter how long you’ve been in business: start the conversation with yourself about the business you’re trying to create. It should inspire you and those you seek to work with. It should be your guiding light; it can help you stay on track and avoid procrastination, attract clients, employees and potential collaborators. It will also help you market your business and distinguish you from other practices and businesses. It doesn’t have to be perfect – it can always be reviewed in the future – but it signals that you know what you’re about.

If you found this post useful, please sign up to get future posts from Architect Business Solutions

Leave a Comment: