How To Thrive In The Business of Architecture

How To Thrive In The Business of Architecture
January 31, 2018 AD&V
business of architecture

Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz shares his keys to success through entrepreneurship

 Throughout two interviews with Enoch Sears, from The Business of Architecture podcast, our firm’s Principal and Co-founder, Ricardo Álvarez-Díaz shared his path to success as an entrepreneur, his celebrated business model, and other keys to success that he has picked up over the years.

Considering that architecture is currently the career path with the highest overall incidence of unemployment in the United States, the conversation touched on insights and guidance for aspiring entrepreneurs in the field of architecture.

Breaking With Tradition

Long gone are the days when holding a successful business in architecture relied exclusively on networking, word-of-mouth and waiting for opportunities to come.

Álvarez-Díaz reminisced how, back in 2001, he was able to receive numerous job requests with minimal effort. However, that all changed after the financial crisis of 2008, after which opportunities were seldom available and he felt compelled to accept any and all offers that would arrive at his doorstep. This would eventually take an emotional toll on the architect.


It was during this personal and professional hardship that Álvarez-Díaz reflected on the now-irrelevant business model he was accustomed to. Then, in an epiphanic moment, he embraced entrepreneurship, finally concluding that, rather than accepting all offers, he would become much more selective, by identifying an ideal target audience and approaching them instead.

Not only has this proven to be a highly successful strategy, but it also led to the development and application of what he calls the “Three I’s Business Model”.

Three I’s Business Model

This model was created through a melting pot of ideas that catered to both the business and creative sides of the business of architecture.

1. Introspection

Introspection consists of establishing a vision for yourself and your company by analyzing who you are, why do you do what you do, how do you achieve it, and what are your goals based on that self-analysis.

“Develop a clear mission and after you go through that process of analyzing who you are, who you want to become and what level of aspiration do you want to achieve, then you move to instruction,”

2. Instruction

Instruction refers to seeking mentorship in order to stay sharp and assume a position of leadership. Álvarez-Díaz recommends seeking guidance from outside the realm of architecture because that type of networking will expose you to other leaders in need of your services.

3. Implementation

Implementation is enacted once you have performed a thorough analysis of what kind of business you wish to become and therefore, which clients you want to reach. The latter is achieved with a combination of:

  • Branding
  • Networking
  • Marketing
  • Social Media
  • Public Speaking 

The Importance of Identifying the Right Clients

The best thing you can do for your business is finding clients who can serve as ambassadors, willing to provide positive reviews and recommendations for your product and service. Because of this, decisiveness is key when it comes to selecting clients.

“Most of the mistakes I’ve made in the last 16 years, if not all of them, were decisions I made out of fear,”

When uncertain about the profitability of an offer, it is best to politely decline on the spot while referring them to another resource, so you may maintain the possibility of being approached by them for future endeavors. The worst mistake is to leave them waiting for a response, only to decline their project later, as this would convert them into “negative ambassadors.” Identify your clients according to your vision.

The AD&V vision sees the business of architecture as a way to create places of purpose. “As soon as we are able to clarify our vision, our mission is to enable the vision itself.”

Listen to the complete interviews below, and feel free to comment or ask questions!


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