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'Architects don't really understand the concept of profit,' says Chris Andrews, organiser of a series of business-management training courses for architects. 'They tend to think in terms of turnover rather than profit. They don't think about targeting so many chargeable hours a year.'
Neither, she says, are the majority, 'naturally good people people'. 'In the architectural profession, unlike others, there is an assumption that people are an expendable commodity. Very little effort is made to encourage staff to develop their careers.'
For these reasons she believes that architects are desperately in need of management training. They must become more effective before the next recession or downturn bites. 'They can't cut any more corners,' she says. 'If they do there will be enormous negligence claims.'
Andrews is an experienced management consultant but her experience with architects is relatively recent. For the past few years she has worked most closely with the legal profession. She says: 'The longer architects spend telling me how different they are to lawyers, the more they seem the same.'
Members of both professions, she says, share 'a feeling that management can be passed to somebody else.' Often, she says, 'architects don't relate to clients - they don't find it easy to get on informally with them.'
Andrews started her career in personnel with Coopers & Lybrand before setting up on her own, working largely with solicitors and barristers. She says: 'Moving from Coopers' sophisticated management thinking to the legal profession was quite a culture shock. But moving from solicitors to barristers was like going from the stone age to the ice age! Some architects' skills and attitudes are equally in the dark age in terms of management practices.'
She first became involved with architecture when asked to give consultancy advice to a firm of architects which wanted to do more marketing, but had no overall strategy. She drew up an outline plan and took it to Caroline Cole who manages the Clients' Advisory Service and the Competitions Office.
Andrews could not believe that no practice management guidelines, like those she wrote for the bar, exist for architecture. 'It was unbelievable to find a profession even further behind than the bar'. Yet she is looking forward to the courses. 'I get a huge kick out of having people convince themselves of the importance of what I teach.'