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Building a Client Base

Everyone wants their business to be successful and a good client base is a definite place to start. This year ADNZ are delighted to announce Ian Cumberpatch of Ian Cumberpatch Architects will be one of the key speakers at the 2014 ADNZ National Conference. An architect with one of the highest held reputations in the industry, Ian will be speaking on the importance of establishing a solid client base and how this can be achieved and maintained.

A recipient of many ADNZ and NZIA design awards, Ian Cumberpatch is a respected and well recognised architect in the New Zealand design industry. With a career spanning 45 years, Ian is a Life Member of ADNZ and a Fellow of the NZIA. He has also held leadership positions within both organisations - including Chair of the ADNZ board.

This week, Defign spoke to Ian about a few of the ways he manages and looks after his clients.

First and foremost says Ian, creating a good business plan will set your business up for success and will put you on the right track to defining and finding the clients you want to work with.

"When I started my practice Brocherie and Cumberpatch Design in 1987, my business partner and I decided to create a business plan in order to determine why we were going into business and to define the type of projects we wanted to work on and ultimately who we wanted our clients to be. This can be a time consuming exercise but on reflection it was a very good thing to do. We spent several weekends working on the plan and over the years it really helped us to review our progress, to remind us of our goals and to have a strategy for our business," says Ian.

A business plan is not always a top priority for many new business owners, but Ian says they might be missing an important step along their way to success.

"One of the most important things to come from our business plan was our mission statement. I committed it to writing and memory and reflect on it regularly. It is my constant guide for how I want to work. It is a much undervalued tool for many businesses," says Ian.

Once your business plan is confirmed - establishing and maintaining a good client base is the next hurdle. Ian believes a good balanced client base is essential for a successful business.

"A solid client base is important as it helps to build your business. It keeps staff employed because there is greater certainty over continued work and income and it helps grow your business, both in terms of referrals and in giving you the confidence to take your business to the next level," says Ian.

If your client base is narrow or too small and if a major client does not need any more work from you it can leave a huge hole in your work load says Ian.

"You need to focus on attracting and working with clients that you can build a good trusted working relationship with. Repeat business is so important. It can take many years to build a sustainable client base but once you have achieved this it is very satisfying and worthwhile. I still do work for clients that I met when I first started in practice - that is how valuable those relationships can be," says Ian.

So how do you build a solid client base that you can rely on for repeat business and referrals? Ian says the key is to listen to your clients and deliver on your promises. They have come to you for your professional help and guidance to realise their project.

"Respect and treat every client as if they are the only one you have. A small job can lead to a big job and so every client should feel valued and respected. Be discerning about the clients you take on. Only take on clients you think you can work with and you are happy to work with - then you should be able to achieve and manage their expectations. Ultimately you need to think of every job as a time for you to deliver your best work. For example if you specialise in alterations and additions and you really want to move into new build design you need to deliver every alteration and addition job well and to the best of your ability. You never know what referral will come from a job well done and a satisfied client."