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The online time management and project control service we currently use is called Everhour. We chose it after trying out classic solutions like cross-referenced general and personal Excel files and other online alternatives like Asana and T-metric. Apart from being crucial for improving efficiency, studio metrics and time tracking per project and employee have become a great means of raising our awareness (especially at individual level) about the things that take up so much of our time.

Your Favourite Manager’s Favourite Manager

Bringing Specialised Management Skills into Architecture Bureaus.

Frank Lloyd Wright counting up his working hours. Unauthenticated document.

A few months ago, talking about our efforts to “be profitable”, an acclaimed architect assured us that when a team has more than four people in it, another person is needed to coordinate all their activity.

It’s taken us years to finally decide to employ someone whose job isn’t to complete projects – to bill customers! -but to work full-time managing our business, as an extra employee. One reason for this was the economic and conceptual commitment involved in bringing in someone who would “never even touch Autocad”. We’re talking about taking on a new member of staff with full rights, dedicated exclusively to team management, to relieving us of tasks that up until now we’ve done ourselves but for which we were never trained: a person whose creativity is engaged exclusively in ensuring the sustainability of the bureau as an economic undertaking (which, after all, it is).

Entrepreneurial culture on the move.

It might be hard to believe that a team like ours, founded 18 years ago, has only been making project lists for four years, has only been using a paid online time management service for two years1, has only known its own number of annual working hours for a few months, and has now, for the first time, decided to create a work projection for the whole year: a document which will forecast how much we need to invoice to get a decent wage. But it’s true.

We’re convinced that our lack of entrepreneurial culture is endemic in our profession. At Zuloark, we’ve learnt our trade as we go, by trial and error, and this has often led to the dragging out of critical situations. We’ve come to the conclusion that the only way to continue our journey and stave off this centripetal precarity is by increasing our efficiency.

At present there are 8.75 people in our team:

  • (Ideal) annual working hours per person: 1,600 hours.
  • Of those hours, each person devotes 300 hours to “non-billable” tasksin the following three areas: Governance, Economics and Communication.
  • To fulfil our least ambitious objective, which is for each person in the team to receive 14 payments of 1,200€ per year (including expenses), each one of us needs to invoice around 34,000€/year.
  • If each person can stop spending approximately 100 hours per year on “non-billable” tasks and devote that time to “billable” activity, the new team manager’s salary would therefore quickly be recovered.

These simple, albeit mind-blowing, figures lead us to support the incorporation of management specialists as key elements for the survival of young architecture bureaus. The ideal candidate would be a person whose training was in a field other than this endogamous profession. Someone unaffected by the internal roles and prejudices that have developed between the architects in the team. A new actor who can and must exercise control over the different work teams and the progress of each project, becoming involved in their coordination and efficiency but not in their definition.

Such supervisory management tasks, while essential for the efficient functioning of the bureau, are, however, extremely unpleasant when carried out between colleagues with similar status within the company.

Together with other tasks like time monitoring, communication with customers and suppliers and searching for invitations to tender, competitions, grants, etc., they need to be placed in expert hands, allowing the rest of the team to devote crucial time to “billable” activity.

There isn’t much glamour in counting hours! It seems that we who set out aiming to revolutionise architecture have now ended up moving in directions we never even suspected existed! And yet all that time spent on self-learning things that are “obvious” to any entrepreneur wasn’t wasted: it served to help us make our business fit in with our lives, instead of the other way round.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor
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The online time management and project control service we currently use is called Everhour. We chose it after trying out classic solutions like cross-referenced general and personal Excel files and other online alternatives like Asana and T-metric. Apart from being crucial for improving efficiency, studio metrics and time tracking per project and employee have become a great means of raising our awareness (especially at individual level) about the things that take up so much of our time.

Autor:
Zuloark es un colectivo interdisciplinar dedicado a la Arquitectura, el Urbanismo y la investigación.

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