business plans for architects

Architecture firm business plans: must-have elements and best practices

There are all kinds of business plan templates and downloads online, but most of them are just basic documents with watermarks and social media links.

We will take a different approach here, and you can format your business plan in any way that’s comfortable for you.

Instead of giving you a blank architectural business plan template to fill in, we will go over the major sections of a good business plan, so you can build your own custom one.

Here’s the list:

Your vision, mission, and goals.

Contrary to your first thought, these are not just buzzwords – and yes, it’s never too early to think about your mission as an architect. Check this post on what these are and how to formulate them.

Setting clear goals and objectives in your architecture business plan is a crucial step in turning your vision into reality. Define what you want to achieve, and preferably in specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound (SMART) terms.

Start with long-term goals. These are the broad outcomes you want your architecture firm to achieve in the future. They could be related to revenue, market share, or reputation in the industry. Remember, these goals should align with your firm’s mission and vision.

Once you’ve defined your long-term goals, break them down into short-term objectives.

Ensure that your goals and objectives are realistic and achievable. This involves assessing your firm’s resources, capabilities, and the market environment. Setting unrealistic goals may demoralize you (though it can backfire and motivate you as well!).

Set a timeline for achieving your goals and objectives. This provides a sense of urgency and helps to monitor progress. Regularly review and adjust your goals and objectives based on your firm’s performance and changes in the market environment.

Your target market & competition.

This part defines how fast you will get to the real revenue as an architect.

Targeting the right market can make your business – you need to spot trends and ride them.

Clearly state the geography, industry, demographics of your market, and their main goals as well as how you address them.

Picking a market to focus on means identifying your potential clients, understanding their needs, and determining how your services can meet these needs. This process also involves identifying your competitors, understanding their strengths and weaknesses, and determining how you can differentiate your services.

Your market of choice could be residential homeowners, commercial property owners, or government entities, among others. Residential homeowners may prioritize aesthetics and functionality, while commercial property owners may prioritize cost-effectiveness and durability. 

Understanding these needs will help you tailor your services to meet them.

Your competition analysis does not need to be complicated at first. Identify your competitors and understand their strengths and weaknesses. You can do this by researching their services, pricing, reputation, and customer reviews – and that will give you ideas on gaps and opportunities for your positioning.

Your competitive advantages.

This section of your business plan is your chance to start thinking about your unique selling proposition. What do you bring to the table that others don’t? An extra line of services, a network of co-consultants, carefully vetted contractor connections?

Here’s a fun twist – don’t just focus on the advantages that your clients will experience. 

List your strengths in comparison to your competition – any internal know-how and expertise that you think will help you survive and outperform them.

You might need to adjust your strategy later, but you need to start with a crystal-clear idea of the strongest points of your brand.

Logistics and management style

This is the “how” of your operations. Write what exactly you plan to do in-house, and what can be outsourced to co-consultants.

We’ve worked with hundreds of architects to develop one of the top UK architectural project management software products and we can say with certainty: your internal processes make the world of a difference for your business growth.

Consider learning the basics of project management eventually and adopting the agile methodology in general.

Your pricing structure and politics

Think ahead and tie this to your target market and your competitive advantage.

Please remember that trying to stand out with your low prices is probably not a good idea. Check out an article on pricing your work right and fee schedules, as well as this post on your hourly rates philosophy.

Master profit planning and see what makes the most sense for your goals.

Growth strategies

These need to focus on your go-to-market strategies, as well as your marketing and sales.

Try to predict your #1 marketing channel, how you will grow it, and whether you will be adding another channel to it, and at what point. Ideally you need to have a marketing channel before starting your architecture business, be it referrals, social media, website traffic, or anything else.

Consider your marketing mix – the combination of marketing strategies and tactics you will use to reach your target market. This could include a mix of traditional marketing methods like print advertising and direct mail, and digital marketing methods like social media, email marketing, and search engine optimization. The right mix will depend on your target market and your resources.

Your sales plan, on the other hand, outlines how you will convert potential clients into actual clients. This could involve strategies like offering free consultations, providing detailed proposals, or showcasing your previous work. It’s important to have a clear sales process in place to guide potential clients from initial contact to contract signing.

Check out this post on growth ideas and remember to stay creative and plan ahead, as your reputation will be extremely important.

Optional: milestones & KPIs

If you are only starting your business, these are bound to be semi-fictional. No matter what goals you set will have to be adjusted later based on real-world data, – so you might as well add truly ambitious goals.

Take a look at our post on architecture KPIs to track.

Risk management & SWOT

Overall, building resilience in an architecture firm involves a combination of effective risk management and strategic use of SWOT analysis. 

By identifying and mitigating risks, and by understanding and responding to its strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats, a firm can develop a robust business plan that positions it for success in a competitive and ever-changing industry.

Considering that, some sort of a section on risk absolutely needs to be in your content plan.

However, as for SWOT analysis (strength, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) – conventional marketers are used to thinking with that framework, but it may not be right for you. We’d say SWOT framework can be an overkill for your business plan, as long as you address risk in some way.

As an architect, you have a way better idea about your business than any marketer would, so you can list all of the above parts of your business plan in free form.

Remember this: your business plan should not be intimidating! 

Draft it on the level you’re comfortable with – it should be your mothership, not anyone else’s.

As you progress to start and grow your own architecture business, make sure you sign up for PlanMan to take care of your project management the right way from the start.