Much like the culinary world or the art industry, the world of architecture and design lends itself to stardom and a highly influential internal celebrity culture. Starchitects as they are colloquially known are the primary, if not singular source of business for their firms and are often in the headlines for the latest, most eye-catching new development. What happens when that person gets sick, takes an unexpected leave, or even retires? What happens when a studio places so much emphasis on the singular but ignores the many?
We understand that in our business, building trust-based relationships is critical to the success of a studio. It allows a practice to weather any storm, caused by an economic slowdown or any other force impacting project delivery. It impacts how a business grows based on a network of robust relationships at all levels, all studio members feel empowered and encouraged to grow their professional network as ambassadors to the practice.
Caption: BDP Quadrangle’s Emerging Leaders Network (ELN) helps to foster the talent in our studio by giving team members the chance to build and expand their network, champion ideas they care about and engage with stakeholders outside of the studio.
One of the most vivid memories I have from architecture school is when a first year professor asked us to look around at our peers in the lecture hall. After a moment, the professor said “there is an overwhelming likelihood that the people in this room will be your coworkers, bosses, or clients one day. Be kind”. Over my 15 years in this industry, those words have rung true time and time again. This is a small industry and we all find ourselves working with the same people in varying capacities over and over again.
BDP Quadrangle gets this. Our practice is built on the understanding that relationships come first. We are not only in the business of architecture and design. We are a collective of urbanists, planners and placemakers who affect the built environment at scales ranging from city master plans to bespoke lighting and acoustic installations. The broad nature of our expertise fosters open and democratic decision making, where the experiences and contributions of the entire team guide our next steps and priorities. We don’t focus exclusively on a bid or contract or rely on one person’s relationships – we see our people, across all levels and areas of the organization, as being in the perfect seat to build long-lasting relationships; empowering everyone in our studio to build our practice.
Caption: We regularly bring the industry into our studio, hosting a variety of networking events that provide our team members with an opportunity to meet and build relationships with clients, colleagues and collaborators.
In our industry, most projects take several years to complete, some decades. Projects involve the cooperation of people across disciplines and life experience which requires strong empathy, inter-personal and communication skills. Businesses that do not foster these skills can breed a lack of trust and subsequently lead to cost overruns, project delays and continuous outflow of talent. Conversely, organizations that form bonds based on the human values of compassion and transparency tend to enjoy higher client satisfaction, a better bottom line, and boosted shareholder returns (1). In the business of place-making, we also believe that strong relationships result in better, human-centered design.
Caption: The firm enables our people to follow individual passions and interests in our industry. We get involved in the industry, network with other like-minded professionals, discover and incorporate individual passions and interests into our professional self-practice. In this way we grow our collective knowledge base as a business and establish long-standing relationships with industry peers.
Relationships are at the centre of business. They drive profits, create brands and are the heart of recruitment and business development processes, attracting both new talent and new clients. At BDP Quadrangle, we encourage people to build and maintain connections with people beyond the studio. This enhances their profile internally and enables senior leadership to promote from within because of the relationships people bring to the table. ”She doesn’t have that relationship because she’s a Principal, she’s a Principal because she has that relationship”. That’s what our founder Les Klein said about one of our studio members managing some of our biggest projects and how they realized their current role.
Businesses are made up of people that are connected and interdependent. To create a resilient business, we must understand and deepen these interconnections, amplify our diversity, empower new voices, so that if one link breaks, it is barely felt by the whole. Relying on a single person to build reputation and drive business makes it difficult to navigate the unexpected. Contracts get cancelled, financing gets cut and events halfway around the world can affect the bottom line. When that happens, the diversity of your people can be your greatest strength. We believe in investing in people and encouraging them to deepen their bonds with their peers inside and outside the studio and that this is at the heart of creating a vibrant, resilient design practice.
1 - The Power of Healthy Relationships at Work (hbr.org)
2 - Prescription for Cutting Costs (bain.com)