Overtime

Dallas not sleeping during a snowstorm - 2001-ish

Dallas not sleeping during a snowstorm – 2001-ish

Overtime has always been kind of a hot topic in the architecture world.  Over my (erch) 17 year career, I have worked three places that paid overtime – two big firms, which just paid straight time; and one which paid time and a half.  That latter one ended up folding.  I did, however, buy my first road bike, a 1999 Cannondale R300, exclusively with overtime money.

It seems from my personal experience that most firms call all of their employees “decision makers,” and therefore pay them a salary.  That is all.  There is some consensus that an employee should be paid overtime as an intern, meaning that once you are registered, you are no longer eligible (however supposedly one would be paid more).

So this article in Entrepreneur Magazine caught my eye this morning.  It talked about how a new move in Washington would force more people to be paid overtime.  This, according to Entrepreneur, would stifle new entrepreneurs, and would in effect make employers restrict employee’s hours.  So, that employee who wants to put forth the extra effort won’t be allowed to… which not only stifles upward mobility, but also innovation.

Because everything stifles innovation.

Anyway, the first thought I had was: wow, this could have serious ramifications on our industry!  On my old bosses, on startups, on me!  Oh no!  And if everyone got paid time and a half as an intern, who on earth would want to become a registered architect?  The marketplace already shows that there is, if any, a negligible bump in compensation once someone becomes a registered architect.  This would, in fact, keep people from progressing in their careers!

Then, I started to think about my experience.  The architecture industry in particular has always reveled in working a ridiculous amount of hours.  It is a badge of honor.  From reading The Fountainhead to overnighters in studio to the workplace, putting in the hours has been what was most important.  I worked for a group who particularly pushed such a mantra: if you’re not here working at 8:00 PM and later every night, you are not working hard enough.

That is where I worked when I decided to start going back to school (they had known this when I signed on).  I had tons of papers to write, and I had definite cutoffs on some days when I had to go to class.  Class was at 6:00PM which means (gasp) I had to leave AT FIVE O’CLOCK.

I still had to get my stuff done.  I was at a (then) startup company, and had already worked many nights into the 2:00AM range.  I couldn’t do it anymore.  There are only 24 hours in each day that we all have, and I had made the commitment to myself that I was going to get a degree.

So something quite odd happened.  After only 6 months or so of this (leaving on time, having to seriously cut back my hours, etc.), I was approached by a partner.  He took me aside and said: “we’ve all been noticing you’ve been stepping it up lately.”  I suppose I had been.  I was figuring out how to do my work much more efficiently because I literally did not have the time to do it, and I was actually getting better in the process.  I was actually making an impression by forcing myself to work less hours.

I hate the cliché work smarter not harder, but there is some truth in it to me: its not the number of hours you put into a job, but simply what your output is.  Sometimes we all have to work late.  However, I like to say that if someone can’t get their work done within a reasonable amount of hours in the day, it is because of either:

  • Poor individual time management (who is writing a blog post at 9:40 this morning?  Yes I will be working late today)
  • Poor management (how long sir, have you been sitting on this, until you finally gave it to me to do?); or
  • unreasonable expectations by a client, or some other outside uncontrollable force.

Everybody makes mistakes, that’s OK and normal, and sometimes you have to work late.  But it shouldn’t be a badge of honor and it should most certainly not be a business model.  If the real response to this new legislation really is to cut back hours, I would challenge business owners and overzealous employees to get more out of the time you have.  And those who want to work long hours to excel?  Do it on your own time if you think it is THAT important.  Hours can be important, especially when starting out – because there are things that will take a young person four hours to do that a senior person can do in twenty minutes (in theory, that is why senior people get paid more.  In theory).  I see that as an investment in yourself, but the rest of your life also needs some time!  For instance, at my last “real job,” I was working alone on the weekends in the office – because I chose to go to the gym in the middle of the day, cutting down my usable hours in the week.  I feel like no one can keep someone from working; however, I don’t think sheer hours of work is what should get you ahead – it is the quality and quantity of your output.

Advertisements

What is in a domain name?

whatthehell

Hmmm… If I paid $2000, I COULD get “whatthehell.org”

A tiny bit of back story:

As any designer knows, a hard bid project will keep you on your toes.

When a project goes out to bid, hundreds of subcontractors crawl all over your drawings, trying to find the sticking points.  It’s easy to understand why: in a hard bid project, everyone has to give a stipulated sum which is based solely on the information they are given – that means as a subcontractor in particular, you have to cover yourself, as general contractors hold you liable for your price to the penny “based on drawings and specifications.”

So there were a few things I learned from my recent experience.  One had to do with publishing logistics, the other with referencing – I’m moving a lot of project specific information to the specifications (if you don’t’ know what I mean, it doesn’t really matter for this post, anyway).  Basically, if you have a small hang up, you will get dozens of calls about it.  Next time around, it won’t happen.  However, an unexpected one was my domain name.

I have dealt with this before.  With my old setup, I was an architect inside a construction company.  For insurance reasons, we had to have a completely differently named LLC.  The name wasn’t supposed to see the light of day, but with a big project, it came to light.  Then, it needed a domain name.  Nobody thought it would be so difficult, but… The name was 18 characters long, contained three Ls, a V, a “gng,” and included a Nordic word that no one knew how to spell.

Never again, I thought.

So, off with the new name.  Greenlight was a placeholder during my business plan development, but I decided I liked it more and more – so I finally committed to it.  When it came to coming up with a domain name, I wanted something short and to the point.  The term “Greenlight” shows up in a lot of domain names, and is kind of long – I wasn’t going to go with something like greenlightdevelopmentandarchitecture.com.  I wanted something short and simple.  So, I went with the shortest thing I could come up with – gldevco.com .  I had seen “devco” used repeatedly with development companies, so I thought this would be pretty self-explanatory.  When I pitched it to others, they weren’t so sure… and I didn’t listen.

Gldevco.  Makes sense to me, should make sense to others, right?

Ah, the idiotic words of an architect.

Fast forward to my new company’s first project which had literally hundreds of eyes on it.   As an experiment, information which only a subcontractor would be interested in was posted on my website.  The link and information was in a section called “instruction to bidders.”  Although the information is there, I got a bagillion calls (something I was trying to avoid).  So:

Lesson 1: put my website ALL OVER THE PLACE.  Easy enough.

Lesson 2: MY DOMAIN LOGIC MAKES SENSE TO NO ONE.

Call after call was bogged down with “now, what again? Can you repeat that?”  Describing my logic didn’t help.  If I said what it was all short for, they would ask: “so the website is greenlighdevelopmentcompany?”

Maybe the longer one would have been better, I don’t know.  I just didn’t want anyone (me) to have to write that out.  Pair that with talking to people on their cell phones with the letters D, E, V, and C adjacent to one another.  They all sound like EEE  EEE EEE and EEE!  Something else I didn’t see coming.

So after all of that was over, I turned to looking for other domains.  Something simple.  Oh, yes, please – simple.  And a word that I could say without spelling it out.

I didn’t really want to, but I resorted to an alternate top level domain (yes, you have to learn crap terms like that as an entrepreneur), meaning giving up on .com (although I will keep my current one).  I kind of like it, though, and at least my CURRENT logic tells me that I can call this one out over the phone and people will understand me:

GREENLIGHT.COMPANY

I kind of feel like I overpaid for it, but 50 calls with the same frustration will do that to you.  I figure I can yell that over cell phone interference in a crowded airport with the PA blaring and the recipient will be able to understand.  Will it work?  The only thing I can do is try it out.  Fortunately it’s easy to make these adjustments now, versus after some significant growth.  An old employer of mine had a .biz, which I didn’t like, but the 14 character domain before the .biz was a lot harder to cope with.  This new one simply forwards to my current .com website, but I figure I’ll do a full rollover soon – after some “in the field” experience with it.

An update, since the world is waiting on me

I think most of these blog posts have to do with me continuing to want to add to the site, but then I never get around to it.  So then a few months go by, and then I decided to write another blog post about how I would like to continue to write blog posts.  I suppose it is some vicious cycle that I just can’t seem to get out of.

Figure 1.  The Blogging Cycle.

Figure 1. The Blogging Cycle.

Actually, I have written a few things, but it has been for my company’s website.  However, I have still decided to hold off on publishing those, because… Well, it’s hard to show anything on my website!  Everything is either in design, in for permitting, or under construction.  As interesting as underground plumbing rough-in is, images of select fill and PVC pipe don’t really state my mission.  But, I guess one sign of me not writing here is: things are actually still going well on the company front.  One of my “career maker” projects is well underway, and maybe I can pay myself (meaning my credit card) back for all of these company expenses.  Although starting an architecture firm is relatively cheap compared to other businesses, it seems like it slowly creeps up on you, especially when bankrolling it without a partner.  Throw on top of that – the decision to do this was right after I made a decision to acquire my first income real estate with a good friend of mine, so say goodbye to tens of thousands of dollars that maybe… I could have used on the business!  I guess by the end of this year, I might add up all of the costs associated with this venture.

c234e7a8699811e3a21e12236aa403aa_8

Here is my lease property. It has since been painted, and it is nicer and cooler than my own house.  It is also fully leased.  Yay.

I may have written this here before, I’m not sure, and this Saturday morning, over a nice cup of coffee, or eight of them, I’m not interested in researching it – but the reason I wanted to start this was frankly because a mentor of mine told me:

“if you want to do something in this world, and no one else is doing it, go do it yourself.”

So here I am.  Right now I don’t really look like I’m doing anything differently – I have a small architecture firm with a good team of consultants and contract labor, trying to stay lean through the start-up times, but I plan on truly building it.  However, that’s just the start.  I began the company to eventually develop real estate, which has also been done, and the architecture is a means to help start that venture.  I’m starting my first two development projects, so the business is slowly getting off of the ground, but the deal cycle on those is extremely long…  and the design side keeps growing, so I can’t complain.  The ultimate goal here is to have a design-oriented real estate development company. Honestly I don’t know many successful ones, and none in the area.  So here I am!  Just a chick getting out of the shell, but riding a little wave of success on my way out.  Even though there is nothing on the company’s website, I’m pleased to say that ever since I started this, I have been slowly putting myself into a position to make a real impact on our industry and our city, and I’ll be excited to move expand to the next one (I have a city in my long-range sites).

I took a trip to Marfa in September to write out business plans and get a lot of stuff down on paper.  And take a handful of photos.  I’ll be coming up on six months of that trip, and it will soon be time to revisit and revise it. I looked it over during the New Year, and I know there is a lot that will already need to be changed.  Yes, I’m actually living the advice of writing a business plan, and treating it as a “living document!’  Right now, I guess it is for my benefit only.

View of the Rio Grande as I wrote the first draft of my business plan.  Click the image for my shots of Marfa.

View of the Rio Grande as I wrote the first draft of my business plan. Click the image for my shots of Marfa on Flickr.

So more boring stuff coming your way:

  • Want to start an architecture firm?  This is what it cost me… This will be late in December.
  • I have an upcoming trip, late in the summer, which will include the Philippines and a good portion of China.  This trip will include visiting my sister, who has not left just yet, but has set up her blog here.  I’m also planning on making connections in China, both for development and another little business I want to explore.
  • I’m trying to upload “everyday photos” which aren’t posted every day, but I need some activity on the site!
  • I’ll probably write about my experience on my first half marathon.  Running Sucks.

That’s all I have on the docket right now, other than maybe some shop talk here and there… But for whatever reason, writing and publishing this garbage information is therapeutic to me, so just bear in mind… It’s all about me here.