“We used to brag that our firm was recession-proof because of the nature of our work and our client base. Things must be bad out there, because we now have jobs being put on hold. Even if our clients can still afford to build, they want to wait and see what happens. Our advice to young firms is to do whatever you need to do to stay in business without compromising your integrity. Look for jobs in or out of architecture that don't require you to make bad buildings. Our theory of how to build a successful practice is to stay in one place and to do good work long enough for it to catch up with you.”
—Stuart Cohen, FAIA, and Julie Hacker, AIA, Stuart Cohen & Julie Hacker Architects, Evanston, Ill.
“Get venerable as quickly as you can—not by age, but by having a history of happy clients for whom you have given your best. When times get tough, they will still be there—for small renovations, their office, or a weekend house. For life. Put whatever downtime you have back into improving the work. It will pay off in the short and long term—and in getting it seen through awards and publications. Stay small, in good times and bad. No firm does better work by being larger, and staying lean helps weather the storms.”
—Mark McInturff, FAIA, McInturff Architects, Bethesda, Md.
“I've been through three downturns and probably wouldn't have known they were happening except by listening to the news. This one I'm calling the 'Bergdorf Goodman recession' because, for the first time, high-end stores are reporting downturns, and it scares me! Fortunately, I've been fairly conservative and have the cash reserves to keep my team together, which is most important to me—but it comes down to a matter of time. How long can you stay alive on the respirator? Every time the phone rings, I get nervous, but for now, most of our clients are going ahead. I would tell young firms to build up an emergency fund that can carry your office for four or five months. As soon as your intuition warns you things might change, listen to it. We're talking about retracting to the second floor and trying to rent out the first floor of our building. We definitely have kicked up our marketing. You have to keep your face and name fresh in people's minds.”
—Wayne L. Good, FAIA, Good Architecture, Annapolis, Md.