The journey to being an architectural entrepreneur
The journey as entrepreneur is a tough one. Even more so within fiercely competitive and saturated Design and Architectural sectors.
Professionals within the sector tend to rather opt for the security of employment. Gerrit Jordaan, urban design frameworks and sustainable design specialist, took the road-less travelled and started his own small business decades ago which has since grown to a respected multi-city firm with twenty-five employees and five co-directors. He shares tips from his journey.
What is the secret to developing a profitable business model as Architectural entrepreneur?
The key is to have passion and to strive to prosper in all areas. One needs to be solution-driven and not just focused on the actual profession. The most important aspect to remember while trying to develop a profitable business, is to not let the definition of your profession determine you overall plan.
What made you decide to become an entrepreneur and not just earn a stable salary at a big firm?
As an entrepreneur, there are many positives. You are not dependent on something or someone else and are able to make decisions quicker. Subsequently, your business is more agile and adaptable. Working for a smaller organisation also means that there’s less waste – essentially an environment that’s easier to manage and control.
Do you have any advice for up-and-coming entrepreneurs within the Architectural market?
Put in the work! Nothing works like work. Don’t always think out-of-the-box. Create your own box. In other words, be creative with your ideas and think bigger. Being an entrepreneur really means being passionate about what you are trying to communicate and doing it effectively and efficiently. Remember to work as if you work for yourself, even if you are working for a client.
What do you look for when you appoint staff within the sector?
Prospective staff should have the right attitude and passion. Being an entrepreneur is being an initiator. They need to have the creative independence to be able to later compete in the market. They need to, for instance, be able to compete against my business.
What is the biggest reward for being an entrepreneur within your sector?
My offering of sustainable design – especially in a world where sustainability in all areas is key – I have the creative freedom to explore more possibilities in the sector and pursue my passion. It allows me the time and money to also explore more of what I want to do.
What is the biggest challenge?
Being an entrepreneur in any sector is challenging, so as a business owner you must keep your energy going, to keep your business going. Always striving to keep the vision alive is crucial to keeping the business alive. The biggest challenge is trying to get people to buy into your vision and building a great team that have the same passion and drive to make a success of the business.
Is there a specific piece of advice that inspired you to get to where you are today?
I have always been advised that you as an entrepreneur must make things happen, because they won’t happen by themselves. Taking risks to ensure the success of the business and making use of all opportunities that are at your disposal.
Towards the end of your career, what would you have liked to have achieved to regard the risk you took to become an entrepreneur as worth-it/successful?
There is no end to my career. I must keep reinventing, changing and adapting to the ever- changing world and environment. It is the price you pay for survival in this sector and as an entrepreneur.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges for entrepreneurs within your sector?
I have found in my more than 30 years in private practice in urban design, architecture and environmental management, that entrepreneurs tend to limit themselves, which could be to their detriment.
What are the biggest opportunities?
The biggest opportunity is having a holistic approach when building appropriately in Africa, based on responsible and resilient urban principals that we have learnt through all the years. As part of our business model we believe in research for each project to ensure that ideas not only work but are on par with international best practice contextualised for Africa.
Caption: Gerrit Jordaan is a Director at New Urban and founder of Holm & Jordaan, which amalgamated with GWA Studio in 2018 to form New urban.