Financial Management in Architecture

I was delighted to be invited to guest lecture at Birmingham School of Architecture at BCU recently. Ruth Reed, Programme Director of the Prost-grad Diploma in Architectural Practice needed someone to talk to Part 3 students about Financial Management in professional practice. I have over 10 years of experience working at management level in small practices, a large proportion of which was spent managing finances – so of course I agreed.

The content of the module seemed straightforward enough: invoicing, payment of fees, cashflow forecasting, business planning, resource management, taxation, and so on. But I knew I was going to be faced with a room full of people who I could be fairly sure didn’t study architecture because they find tax issues and spreadsheets fascinating.

I had 2.5 hours to cover this enormous topic but together we worked our way through it, and finished off with 5 group exercises which I hoped demonstrated that financial management is simple. I’m delighted to report that no-one fell asleep and I definitely heard someone utter the words “I love spreadsheets” (no joke!). It might have helped that I approached the subject matter from the perspective of a fictitious small (micro) practice with a modest turnover and who employed just 4 members of staff. Scaling financial management right down to this level seems to be an effective way of understanding the basics.

A few points from the lecture (and I would welcome feedback on these points from practitioners):

  • keeping accurate accounting records and updating them regularly will avoid any nasty surprises.
  • a cashflow forecast and a budget are two different things.
  • a traditional invoicing schedule (ie. invoicing on completion of a workstage) isn’t always the best invoicing schedule.
  • setting goals in a financial business plan and regularly reviewing them as a team means that aims are more likely to be achieved.
  • financial management isn’t a science, you don’t need to be an expert or necessarily even have an interest in accounting – if you can manage your own bank account you can manage the finances of a SME.
  • keep it simple!

We finished off with some thoughts about other industries, particularly new emerging industries such as web development, and how they can be applied to our own industry. The message I was sharing was that the old ways aren’t always the best. I’m always looking for new ways to liven up financial management or make life easier. In fact one of the examples I cited was Angry Productive Birds. It’s a bit of fun and possibly a bit silly, but hey, why can’t time management and project resourcing be fun?

I’m pleased to say that the students seems to enjoy the lecture. They went away looking less worried and the feedback I’ve received so far is very positive. I hope to be able to deliver this lecture again in the future.

Comments from those who attended the lecture, along with comments from practitioners about managing finances would be most welcome.


Twentieth Century Architect – John Madin

I went along with my video camera to the launch of Alan Clawley’s book dedicated to the work of Birmingham Architect John Madin. I also live blogged some of the event via MADE’s website.

To see a room of 150 people gather together to celebrate his life’s work is testament to the respect and admiration he has gathered over the years from his peers and those beyond the industry.

The book is available for purchase through RIBA Bookshop and Amazon

Twentieth Century Architects – John Madin from lorna parsons on Vimeo.


Live Blog: Talking Cities

This Thursday (15th April), I’ll be live blogging on behalf of MADE from the next lecture in the Talking Cities Series held at Birmingham Conservatoire at 6.15pm.

Obviously we’d love you to come to the Conservatoire in person and enjoy some networking opportunities with other likeminded folk, but if you can’t make it, then be sure to follow the live blog which will appear here just as soon as we go live (or if, like me, you are particularly forgetful, you can sign up for a reminder). If you have a question, either send it via MADE’s twitter account, or comment directly via the blog.

Talking Cities: Learning Cities
Prof John Worthington, Building Futures
Co-founder of DEGW, chair of CABE’s Building Futures, Deputy Chair for Regeneration
John Worthington will speak on Learning Cities and will refer to his pioneering methods of adapting urban and space planning techniques to meet the needs of the emerging knowledge economy. John is also Visiting Professor at both University of Sheffield and Chalmers University of Technology in Gothenburg, and co-author of the forthcoming new edition of Managing the Brief for Better Design.

This event is led by MADE and CUDOS, and is supported by RIBA West Midlands, CABE, Arts Council England and Birmingham Architectural Association.

Full details of the event can be found on the events page of MADE’s website.


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