Build Your Business Like an Architect

Beautiful Architecture

Building your business requires a balance between creativity and pragmatic planning. Architects can serve as a useful metaphor for the skills and techniques required to build a bold and innovative business.

At some point in our careers we’re all responsible for growing our business in some fashion. Whether it’s driving revenue growth, building your team’s capabilities, expanding facilities, or any other techniques for growing your business, we’ll all do it at some point.

When you face the task of growing your business, tackle the challenge like an architect. You know, those people who design buildings, draw blueprints, and use all sorts of sciency-looking devices to make sure their right angles are precisely 90 degrees.

I’ll bet the majority of folks reading this post are thinking “but architects are so boring. All they do is draw straight lines on two-dimensional blue paper. What can they possibly teach me about growth?” A lot.

The Creative Side

Have you ever looked at a building and thought “Wow! That thing is freakin’ cool! How did they come up with that awesome design and actually build it?” Answer: a creative architect.

It’s easy to get sucked into seeing architects as boring, rigid blueprint designers. The thing is, they have to be creative and dream up their designs in the first place. I’d venture to guess that when they’re building something bold and innovative, they start with concept drawings that push the boundaries of the possible. For example, check out this one from Singapore:

Marina Bay Sands Hotel

In case you’re wondering, yes, that’s a boat that spans those three towers! Can you imagine that meeting?

“Hey guys! I have an awesome idea for a hotel! Let’s make three towers!”

“Cool idea Artie!”

“And then let’s put a big-assed BOAT across the top of them!”


See? Artie is a pretty creative guy. I’m sure his initial idea didn’t care at all about feasibility. It was all about creating something bold and interesting. Having seen Artie’s work in person, I’ll tell you it is indeed bold and interesting!

If Artie had started pragmatically with “what are we capable of building” and worked his way up those towers using conventional thinking about the possible and designing based on engineering principles, I doubt he would have capped that bad boy off with a giant boat. Instead, Artie started with a vision then figured out how to make it real.

Think about your business like Artie thought about this building. Set aside practical constraints. Let yourself dream and imagine beautiful possibilities. Create something inspiring that people will be awed by if you’re able to build it. Be audacious. Challenge the nay-sayers by rebutting all their objections by asking “Why not? What would it take to do that?” Push beyond the accepted norms if you want to create something great.

The Pragmatic Side

Architects can’t only sit around drawing beautiful concept buildings. They have to translate those buildings into plans that can be built in the real world. Their buildings have to embody the aesthetic beauty of their designs while at the same time being structurally sound, economically viable, functional, and safe.

“Artie, we can easily build three towers but how the heck are we gonna get a giant boat up there?”

Artie had to think long and hard about how big that boat could be, the structural integrity of the supporting towers, how to get all the boat infrastructure build, and how to build it using materials and techniques that wouldn’t bankrupt the company building it. He had to translate his bold vision into a set of plans. Those plans accounted for the building’s structure, building materials, fire and other safety codes, and practical realities like having enough elevators to get all the tourists to the top to check out the awesome view from the deck of that boat.

I’m sure Artie’s design changed as he layered on these realities. The boat design may have gotten shorter and lighter. The towers may have been widened to bear the load of the boat above. Artie made tradeoffs between the “wow” design beauty and the reality of what it would take to manifest his vision in the real world.

When you go to take your bold, creative vision and convert it to an operating plan, sharpen your pencil and pull out your compass and protractor. Factor in the realities of your business. What’s your budget? What is your organization capable of building and executing well? What resources do you have available? What constraints do you face?

When you can superimpose reality and constraints over your bold vision and still walk away with an innovative, creative plan that your team can execute, you’ve found the sweet spot of building your business like an architect would.

If you’re not creative like Artie, surround yourself with people who are. Find free thinkers who are unencumbered by realities around them. Have them push your thinking to create the grand plan. If you’re creative but lack pragmatic planning skills, add people to your team who know how to translate dreams into real-world plans. You have to get both sides of this equation right. If you do, you’ll build something that’s both breathtaking to behold as well as structurally sound enough to withstand all the challenges and pressures you’ll face in the real world.

Mike Figliuolo at thoughtLEADERS, LLC

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Photo: IMG_20131016_082616 by Mathilde Rozelot Ortuno

Photo: Marina Bay Sands Singapore by Lenny K Photography

One Response to “Build Your Business Like an Architect”

  1. That is actually a good advice. Architects are visionaries which is a trait that should be adopted by business owners to be more versatile and innovative.

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