Each entrepreneur’s journey in business is filled with the highs and lows of the triumphs, trials, and transformative lessons that go with going out on your own. Alexander Bitterman, founder of Sydney-based architecture firm B. Architects, has been building his business with the same boldness and creativity that he taps into when working with homeowners and developers to create innovative architectural simple solutions for complex problems, writes Annette Densham.
With wisdom born of experience, Alexander reflects on his first few years in business and shares five invaluable lessons he’s learned as a successful director who’s built a highly-successful firm from the ground up.
Not every opportunity is the right fit
The allure of a new project — including the financial reward — is tempting as a startup. But Alexander learned early in his journey how crucial it is to be discerning with clients you work with. “The relationships we build with our clients are the cornerstones of our success,” he said.
“Early on, I learned that not every opportunity is the right fit. Connecting with your clients goes beyond a business transaction; it fosters trust, understanding, and open communication. This approach makes the workflow smooth and straightforward, and turns clients into collaborators.”
The lesson? It’s better to pass on a project or potential client that doesn’t resonate with your approach than to compromise your values and vision.
You can’t please everyone
In the competitive world of architecture, Alexander emphasises the value of embracing this hard truth. “I had to learn that we can’t please everyone,” he said. “Architecture is a blend of vision, functionality and aesthetic, and opinions can differ. Staying true to our design philosophy while acknowledging the subjective nature of art has been liberating.”
As a business owner, striving to exceed clients’ expectations is natural. While it’s often a highly valued trait, it’s equally as vital to understand your limitations. Alexander acknowledges that not every client or customer will align with your offerings, and that’s okay.
“Accepting this reality frees you to focus your energy on delivering excellence to those who value your products or services. This strengthens your brand’s identity and attracts more ideal clients,” he said.
You have to balance the fun stuff with the mundane
As a creative visionary who starts their own business to do what they love, it can be hard to apply yourself to the mundane jobs that come with heading up a bespoke architecture firm. Alexander explains that the less glamorous jobs and the more technical tasks are what allow him and his team to focus on innovation.
“Administration may not be as exhilarating as design, but it’s the backbone of our operations,” he says. “The need to operate more efficiently is what drives innovation in both the administration and the design processes. Time saved through efficient administration processes is time we can use working on the design tasks we love and liaising with our clients.”
Recognising that as a new business, sacrifices need to be made, Alexander maps his business goals and growth appropriately. “The ultimate goal is to outsource these tasks as the business grows, but until then, it’s about striking a balance and getting on with it,” he said.
Fast growth is great but sustainable growth is better
Without growth, a business won’t survive. Rapid growth can be both exciting and challenging. Alexander anticipated growth to unfold gradually, but the reality surprised him. He learned that overcommitting can stretch your resources and compromise the quality of your work.
“One moment, I’d be dealing with a handful of projects comfortably; the next, I’d have so much work I wouldn’t know how I was going to get it all done,” he said.
Instead, Alexander advises approaching growth with a strategic mindset. “Adapt your capacity, resources, and team to make sure each project receives the attention it deserves,” he said. “Implement consistent systems and processes to ensure that even during rapid expansion, every client receives the high level of experience you’re committed to delivering,” he advises.
You are the heart and soul of your business
Finding staff who are truly as invested as you are in your business can be hard to do. Alexander has learnt to fully embrace the inherent responsibility of entrepreneurship.
“Running a business places substantial weight on your shoulders,” he acknowledges. “You’re the engine of your business, and the buck stops with you. That can feel scary, but it’s also the most exciting part,” he said. With this outlook, challenges become catalysts for growth and success.
Alexander always aims to take care of his staff — nurturing their career and showing them the appreciation they deserve. “Good employees can be hard to find, so when you find someone great, hold on to them and show them how much you value them,” he said.
Alexander relishes the freedom of running his own business and doesn’t take the opportunity for granted. “Shaping the trajectory of your venture, leading a team, and translating ideas into reality is a remarkable privilege,” he said.
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