Continuing education should be renamed. I’m not sure what to yet, but something offensively long and boring.
There are definitely good speakers and worthwhile lectures thrown in the mix, but in large measure it’s a yearly marketing exercise meant to sell ego or products. Very little is dedicated to providing knowledge on the issues facing our profession right now.
One of the speakers at an upcoming conference wrote his own biography, in which he states that all of his peers believe him to be a Polymath. Another titled his discussion “One Landscape”. I’ve heard the same green roof lecture four years in a row. And I’m starting to get angry about it.
A colleague of mine runs a design/build company that is also one of the larger landscape contractors in town. They do great work, and everybody knows it. What they don’t know is that this friend also does design work, and is just as qualified as I am to do it.
One of the problems, aside from everyone knowing his organization as a great landscape contractor (with a maintenance side), is that the organization is named that way as well. It very clearly communicates landscape construction and maintenance – not design.
So, when we discuss new projects and who’s doing what, there’s the inevitable topic of why he hasn’t been able to land certain design commissions. I always chalk it up to another firm’s longstanding tenure in the community, my firm’s connections from past work, or some combination of the two, never saying the real reason – that nobody thinks his company is capable of design, because of the way they’re named.
Unfortunately, it is something that can’t be changed at this point – there’s too much equity in their name to just change it. But, if you’re starting from scratch, think about what you want your organization to do while you’re thinking of the name. There’s a lot at stake.
As Seth Godin describes in the Startup School podcast series, “it’s not about finding more customers for your products, it’s about finding more products for your customers”.
Ask your clients what they need help doing and what they are currently outsourcing. Then try to offer a solution – either you take care of it for them (becoming a “one stop shop”), or find an innovative, exciting way for them to more efficiently solve their problem.
Having a bank of beautiful images of your designs is a big benefit. The higher the number of press quality angles, views, detail shots, concept sketches, etc of a project you have, the better off you’ll be.
When you’re developing marketing packages to sell your new service, images people haven’t seen before are a great sales tool. They don’t have to be new or different projects, they just have to be fresh images.
If the detail or view you show can relate to the new service you’re selling or the new market you’re trying to crack, even better.
One way to inform your current and future clients of what you do (see yesterday’s post) is to offer them new services. It’s a chance to explain what that new service is (e.g. landscape art brokerage), and an opportunity to let them better understand your view on the world and what you’re capable of in the other aspects of your work.
Fringe benefits include educating yourself on the new service (learning something new), practicing your marketing, client engagement, and keeping yourself excited about your work.
If your downside is having too many services or “pokers” in the fire, pick one that is performing the worst or is the least interesting to you and drop it from the list.
I practice landscape architecture. Please raise your hand if you know what landscape architecture is, and what a landscape architect does.
I imagine the response would be similar if we were to substitute architecture, but the general public could understand the construction of buildings angle.
But, the construction of buildings, much like the final form of a park, civic space, or private garden, isn’t nearly as important as what those things represent, how they fit into a city or neighborhood, and how they increase real quality of life. These are the most important aspects of what we do, yet the least recognized.
But, how should they know? Who should tell them, and how should you do it?
Most of the decisions – personal, professional, or otherwise – we make concerning our surroundings are based on price, and possibly, functionality. This goes for shopping centers, restaurants, automobiles, home fixtures, you name it.
Try to make one decision this week based on how something is designed. Visit a store for no other reason than how it makes you feel. Look at the texture of an item or the way an item accomplishes it’s function, rather than simply that it does. Try to see things as a series of relationships, rather than a mash-up of disparate individuals.
There should be value in good design, but you have to practice how to recognize it. Look everywhere around you for evidence of the alternative.
Life and design are interesting at the edges. The more linear feet of edges the better, to a certain point. Find that point and you win.