[Dragon by Laura Chatterton, knight by Cartoon Stock]

The last 18 months have been a challenging time in the design and construction industry. We’ve seen an alarming number of colleagues get laid off from the larger firms, we’ve seen a few smaller firms close up shop all together, and we’ve seen everyone struggle. BUILD struggled too.

Things seem to be picking up now, and the proverbial phone is ringing again.   Probably needless to say, we feel very honored to have our desks full of good work from exceptional clients.  Before our minds successfully erase the bittersweet effects of the last year and a half, and we still have the ability to reflect on the recent past, we thought we’d lay out our key tactics that we used during the recession. These items helped us not only brave the storm, but we felt that these items would put us in a better position once the storm was over. And, given the last few months meeting some great new clients, it looks like they’re working.

Maintain your routine. Show up in the morning and work until you go home that evening. Just because you don’t have enough client work doesn’t mean that there isn’t extremely valuable work to be doing. We focused on our digital presence (updating the BUILD website, the SPD website and constantly posting information to the BUILDblog).

Keep doing what you love. Whether there were customers for it or not we kept designing and building furniture, heck we even designed an urn of all things. The small projects kept our design abilities sharp and pushed our learning curve of materials and methods. Now that there’s less time for experimenting in the shop, we’ve got a portfolio full of furniture.

Don’t use shenanigans to get work. Nothing replaces hard work and honesty.  And you can’t buy your soul back once you start earning fees again.

Seek out inspiration. In the digital information age you have access to phenomenal, inspiring, amazing people at your fingertips. Stay tuned in with talks like TED and keep a list of people/vids that give you that extra kick in the ass when you need it, like Kevin Spacey’s conversation on the Actors Studio below.

Be scrappy. We took on basement and kitchen remodels for those close to us. It was smaller work than we would typically take on but it kept us busy, we got to serve our tribe, and it’s work that we’re proud of.

Be resourceful. It was a great time to learn some of those programs that have slipped by, like the digital modeling software that the kids coming out of school seem to know instinctually. It’s a good bit of knowledge to have now, and in a bind we can always dive into a digital model and move that wall 2 feet north.

Be humble. We got our hands dirty in the SPD shop doing everything from sweeping the floors to helping build cabinets. It was hard, unglamorous work and it was awesome. We’re actually itching to get back in there.

Stay involved. As professional architects and builders we see it as part of our duty to participate. Sitting in on academic juries is great synergy – we learn just as much from the students as they learn from us. We also contribute to Arcade Magazine here in Seattle, which is a stellar organization and a super-fun group of people doing good work.

Stay lean. We keep a small staff of generalists. Everybody wears a lot of hats and no one got laid off during the recession.

Don’t lose your sense of humor. Clients like working with fun people. Get an office bar, it helps.

Cheers from team BUILD