State of Work5hop: Year 2
2016 was a great year. We built on the successes we had last year, had a few (great) surprises along the way, and ended on a high note.
One of the watershed measures for small businesses is the two-year mark. 80% of businesses survive the first year, but that figure drops quite a bit by Year 2. The two-year timeframe is also particularly important for a business like ours, which depends to a certain extent on people knowing that we exist: word-of-mouth is a significant part of how we get new work. Well, we're blowing right past that mark and not looking back. While there aren't any metrics out there for how small architecture firms typically grow, there's no doubt that we're way ahead of the curve.
But every year is a chance to look again at what we do and whether it's right for where we want to go, so this is our second annual year in review. Most design firms don't assess progress on any kind of regular basis. Those which do certainly don't share it. We do. Why? We believe that trust is the very core of your relationship with us, whether you're our client, a consultant who works with us, or merely someone who is interested in who we are and what we're up to. Communicating openly about status and intentions is important in any relationship. So that's what we're doing.
We've developed a specialty: historic homes. We've had successful projects in a number of the city's residential historic districts (and kept our streak of passing through HDRC on the consent agenda unbroken!) over the past year, and we've had referrals specifically because of the work we've done in those neighborhoods.
One of the most exciting new developments has been in furniture and artwork selections and procurement. This was new for us in 2016, and it promises to be an even bigger part of the business going forward. We designed and fabricated the tables for NOLA Brunch & Beignets, a new brunch restaurant by the Cookhouse folks that just opened. We also created a gorgeous custom steel-and-marble for a private client.
We are increasing our work in the public sector. We were selected for our first project with Bexar County in 2016. We just wrapped up work on Brackenridge Park, and Stinson Field (both city of San Antonio projects) breaks ground later this month. We've got a new project on the Texas A&M campus, and our ongoing work in Galveston at the University of Texas Medical Branch (UTMB) has spun off several new projects, too.
Accomplishments and Publicity
Our tours application
(which you've checked out, right? Right?) was re-spun into an entry in the BYO Broadway competition sponsored by the Rivard Report and Centro San Antonio.
We made some cool stuff. New business cards, several light fixtures, a partial full-scale mockup (including working color-changing LED lighting!) of part of a Stinson wing, reupholstered Steelcase 454s, and our holiday cards.
We were certified as a state historically underutilized business and locally as a woman-owned emerging small business.
We participated in the City of San Antonio / Alamo Colleges Business Empowerment Program, and were lucky to have Pugh Constructors
act as our mentor firm.
What Didn't Work?
We're big believers that failing is success. That is, we try lots of stuff, and we're constantly refining what we do to get rid of what didn't work and build on what did. So where did we fall short, and how will that change going forward?
Product design. We didn't make as much progress as we were hoping, in part because we've been so busy on professional services. But we've had some success (see above), so we are continuing to work towards making this a more integral part of what we do.
Moving into a new office didn't work out in 2016. We just weren't ready, and our current home is still working fine. The move will be triggered by need and opportunity rather than an arbitrary timeline.
So What's Next?
Expanding our retail presence in the form of an online store is next up in 2017. Some of it will be items we have designed, and some will be curated selections from our favorite manufacturers.
We will continue to do good work and to build client relationships. Always. Also, we will work to improve our work and relationships. Always.
We're hopeful that we add at least one more person. For small firms like ours, growth is very project-dependent -- whether we add people depends on whether a couple of projects come through as well as whatever else develops this year. That person will trigger a move to a new office, so it's a big deal.
We've got some very interesting projects out there that are in the planning stages. Not everything works out, of course, but if it does, you'll be seeing some pretty cool things out of us in the coming months.
Thanks for supporting us. Thanks for working with us. Thanks for reading our website articles, trusting us with your projects, and challenging and inspiring us. We're grateful for the opportunities we've had and for the relationships we've built. We hope you feel the same.