2 – 1 – 1 : : DesignPlan : :

2 – 1 : : DesignSpeak : :

Because, I was ‘seeing red’ at that point…..

He had been frighteningly rude and impolite. And not a word about the ‘good news’ about the pricing.

In my gut – way down deep, I knew what the deal was. I knew, I was being screwed out of the deal.
Not that, to that point, I had all that much at risk……but it all felt so bizarre, so un-businesslike.

Well – I’m going to stop here…..there’s one last installment which I’ll issue in next week’s post.

So – here we are, now…..last installment.

The biggest abrasion, I felt, was the contention that an architect would undertake to do all this work –
including project supervision for the lowly fee of 4%.

Come on now! I remember in the 60’s that some architectural firms would commit
to  significant projects for such a fee. But 7% was generally the bottom base for fees….and that was
almost 50years ago! What utter nonsense. But, one has to be thorough in one’s research and defense
of such things.

I checked with RAIC – the Canadian body of architects that govern the practise, sets fee guidelines,
arbitrates (to some degree) and generally manages the profession.

In short, their guidelines, for hospitality projects, under $1 million is a minimum of 8 – 9% PLUS
supervision fees if provided.

But – I knew this to be the case…. I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend this attitude.

I continued with my double-checking – I pored over time projections, analysed the ‘what-ifs’ in
the work-up scenario. And I came to the exact same numbers.

I did nothing for a few days. I had to gain some distance on this. After all – it was Christmas week….
I had a few days before I had to re-submit.

Upon patient reflection, I decided to make a few monetary concessions…… it doesn’t matter what they
were. They were clever, mind you. Certain fee reductions would kick in, after I had the greenlight to
continue with the project. I made some other concessions – erred more on the side of optimism than
hard experience, and arbitrarily cut out some of the hours projections.

Fact is – I arrived at the same number of hours, overall. Fact is – I know, after 35+ years, what I’m doing.
I have had clients who have, in their innocence, doubted that. I have had clients to whom I have raised
the red flag about certain conditions, aspects. And, in their greater wisdom, they decided to ignore my
advice. Sadly, they ended up paying a much greater price. Fact is – when pressed by an anxious client – I can’t
provide ‘chapter and verse’ specifics….I can’t see the future. But, simply – my experience, which is a fair
base upon which to calculate my fees, is incontrevertible……and has a value to which a dollar figure cannot
be ascribed. It just is……

However, I kept my cool. I did, wanted this project. There were some really interesting knotty problems
to grapple with – some really interesting solution paths to explore. But, I didn’t want it at the expense of having
to settle for fifty cents on the dollar – or worse.

I spent three or four days, cogitating – reflecting – on all the various aspects of the undertaking.

Finally, I  wrote a comprehensive letter and summary – which included a very detailed breakdown
of time, costs, process, project flow. I prepared two documents. One was a time/effort projection (as he had
requested), the other was a general summary – a Project Plan if you will.

In my covering letter to him, one of the paragraphs was –

I have attached a few points of reference regarding fees as outlined by RAIC (Royal Architectural Institute of Canada)
In part, as Hotels fall under Classification 4, the recommended fee range for projects under $1 million is 8% – 9%.
This information is contained on Page 11 of the ‘Guide to Determining Appropriate Fees for the Services of an Architect’,
and the full PDF file may be viewed at:
http://www.arch.mcgill.ca/prof/covo/arch674/winter2009/docs/RAIC New Guide-architects_service_fee.pdf

This was Saturday January 1st, 2011.
New Year’s Day.

But, I had promised it would be on his desk by the following Monday.

So, on Sunday, I reviewed it all once again, and hit SEND.

And that’s the end!

Quoi? What! What do you mean, you’re asking…

Yes – simply, that was, the end.

I never heard from him – again. Not a reply, not an acknowledgement….not a bitch, complaint, gripe – nada, zilch, nothing.

I waited…..I figured, well who knows? Maybe flights were delayed. Maybe he didn’t get back to the  office on Monday as he
stated. Maybe it was actually Tuesday.

But, Tuesday – nothing….

Nor Wednesday

Also same for Thursday and Friday…..

I’m sure there are many viable and logical reasons, why a senior executive – who sits on some pretty prestigious
boards of Canadian industry, couldn’t find it within himself, to say something……anything.

Nada – zilch, nothing. Rude doesn’t begin to describe such behaviour.

By late Friday, I had had enough….I composed, and sent the following:


As per our conversation of Thursday December 23rd,  and as per your stated request, I prepared and
submitted a more detailed analysis of the project,
it’s timing parameters,  attendant fees and other
considerations. This was sent this to you on Sunday January 2nd in order that, upon your return to office,
it would be available for your scrutiny and consideration.

In the absence of any acknowledgement of, or reply to that submission, the apparent conclusion is
that the recommendations
do not meet your current business requirements. If that is the case, I will
transfer the file to ‘inactive’  status  so that I can
concentrate on other current projects.

Should circumstances change in the near future I welcome the opportunity to re-visit this project with you.


Was I rude? Was I, in any way distasteful? Maybe obnoxious?

NOT!  Was I upset? You betcha!  And did I have reason to be? Some might say, ‘No’.

I won’t bother to address that group……all I know is this. I conducted myself in the utmost professional
manner. I dug hard, dug deep – demonstrated an ability to find solutions quickly – solutions that were
totally fiscally responsible. I anticipated a collaboration – a partnership, in principle, at least – wherein
my skills would provide a meaningful process for successful completion.

That was 5 weeks ago.

Have I heard a word – ever? Nope.

Some would say, ‘You shoulda called….you should have made some effort. It’s just the right
‘business’ thing to do.’ And, they would probably be right. And, I have never been shy to
confront uncomfortable situations before. In fact, in all my work, I am a communicator .
That comes in part, from determined documentation – to err on the side of  too much rather
than too little when it comes to thoroughness of design documentation and detailing.
But – this just all felt wrong –  a message had been sent, by the client…..simply stated,
‘Not interested.’ No – in fact it wasn’t I who might have exercised some prudent ‘business sense’,
it was the client. But, in order for him to benefit, he would have had to have confirmed,
my benefits, as a paid professional.

Here’s the deal….and here’s the ‘lesson learned’.

So many, many years that I’ve worked with so many clients – have never let any of them down! Not ever.
And in most all those cases, as I stated earlier, my relationship was based on trust – nary a contract
signed, or necessary in most cases.

Conclusion? This guy was pre-disposed to ‘screwing’ me……but, because I presented my Letter of Agreement
as a fundamental building block in the process, he must have realised I couldn’t be had so easily……
and he, bailed.

He’s probably been interviewing other designer candidates for the last month. Good luck to him.
good luck to them. Wish I could send up some kinda flare…..maybe I have. Maybe this is it.

Discretion needs to be respected and maintained – so, clearly, as much as I’d like to publicly embarass
such action  – I can’t, and won’t.

But, to any/all of you designers out there reading this, stand fast, stand firm – get the contract in place,
get it signed – get that retainer….and conduct a rigorous due diligence on the flow of your work and
the degree of your exposure.

That’s it. This has all been about a ‘lesson  learned’ after way too many years in private practise –
as a professional designer.

One last thing….it’s this:

‘A wise man learns by his mistakes – a fool, however, repeats them.’

2 Responses to “2 – 1 – 1 : : DesignPlan : :”
  1. Rita Edwards says:

    You ain’t no fool….

  2. Patti says:

    It’s a pity that after all the time and effort you put into getting this project presented during the timeframe required that this so-called senior executive doesn’t have enough class to at least provide some sort of response and/or acknowledgment to your hard work!

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