Looking Forward to Monday Morning
A series of essays on business, architecture, and the business of architecture.
The Bubble Chart
by Daniel Frisch
Posted June 6th, 2018

Since 1991, we have steadily built a business, brick-by-brick, or in our case, bubble-by-bubble.

The “Great Recession” of 2008-2012 dramatically impacted our business. New commissions were few and far between, and project budgets were scaled back. Our revenue fell as a result and still, we fared better than most.  We had not over-expanded during the preceding boom, and we were able to weather the storm.  In spite of the many challenges, the recession did come with the silver lining of having time for reflection and self-assessment, the benefits of which have carried forward.

During those dark days, we started two analytic projects.  The first was the creation of a database construction costs for completed projects (on a price-per-square-foot basis).  We also collected data on change orders – cost accretions based upon scope additions and site conditions discovered after construction commencement.  Taken together, this information as distilled and updated over time, has positively influenced every aspect of the firm; improving budgeting, project delivery, and even helping us to refine our business model.

Our second analytic endeavor was to create a genealogy chart of sorts, visually documenting the historical connectedness of our projects and clients.  What we might learn if we went back to 1991 and diagrammed which projects came from which?  The task was meaningfully more cumbersome than intended, but after a few false starts and software swaps, we developed our ‘Bubble Chart,’ a graphic constellation documenting each referral and ‘connecting the dots.’

We’ve learned many things from our chart:

  1. Malcolm Gladwell is right. “Connectors” really do exist.
  2. Relationships matter. 90% of our projects result from direct referrals or are undertaken for repeat clients.
  3. Sharing the Bubble Chart burnishes our reputation and gives new clients great security. A report of a lesser experience bouncing back to a referring client would have damaging consequences.
  4. Small town economics work in the largest city in America. Word-of-mouth and community are as valuable in New York as anywhere, maybe more so.

Most importantly, we recognize that our Bubble Chart is our greatest asset.  It is a daily reminder of who we are and how we got here.  It inspires us to stay in touch with our friends and former clients and to shine in our new endeavors.  Building a business, bubble-by-bubble.