Architects' inadequate management skills are undermining profitability. This is the rather dispiriting verdict reached at the AJ's 'Making Practice Pay'seminar, where architects were advised that they ought to be putting twice as much effort into non-chargeable work (see page 20). Not surprisingly, practices with a reputation for a business-like approach score well in this year's AJ100 survey (page 47). US-based practices are on the up, reinforcing the popular perception that they are commercially shrewd, and Foster and Partners - the undisputed king of streamlined efficiency - has earned more fee income than any other practice this year.
The amount of time architects spend on administration may be too low to keep business buoyant, but it is also too high to make the job seem any fun. Administration was most frequently cited as the worst thing about being an architect in this year's survey, and the evidence suggests that you still admire the spirit of chaotic genius. Foster and Partners consistently tops the 'most admired architect' league, this year scoring half of all votes cast, and a massive 30 per cent more of the vote than Allies and Morrison, its closest rival. But according to this year's survey, there is one architect who has had a greater influence on your work - Frank Lloyd Wright; an all-round bounder whose approach to personal and professional life could, at best, be described as cavalier. In economic terms, Wright's modus operandi could not be more at odds with the super-efficient operations associated with his modern-day compatriots. Much of his life was spent in a state which can most accurately be described as financial bedlam.
If the performance of the financial giants seems like an impossible pipe dream, it probably does not help that much to be reminded that money worries now need not stand in the way of the respect of future generations. But if you do have difficulty in balancing the books, comfort yourself with the thought that if Frank Lloyd Wright had attended an AJ 'Making Practice Pay' seminar, he would never have made it to the coffee break.