- Article by Julia Cambage
Recently appointed Australian Institute of Architects CEO Julia Cambage is no stranger to what she sees as some commonly-faced challenges for small businesses. With extensive commercial experience derived from managing multimillion-dollar contracts at the helm of Australia’s largest private procurement company to managing the world’s oldest youth mentoring program, Cambage is keen to position the Institute as a partner for its 11,000-strong membership.
Most people who are moving into a business of their own find it a transition that is both exciting and terrifying in equal measure. On the one hand, you’re becoming your own boss and taking charge of your future – an exhilarating prospect.
On the other hand, suddenly you must contest with a horde of things that you may not be familiar with. Without the right support structure in place, that can be very daunting. Managing a practice means taking on new responsibilities and obligations, ones that require a different skill set from the one you’ve honed for your work as an architect. But there are also parallels. For example, architecture has long been a highly regulated profession.
So while you may be extremely proficient at ensuring compliance with things like the National Construction Code and Architects Act, running a successful studio means contending with a whole new regulatory realm.
From managing GST and other taxation requirements to grappling with the complexities of the industrial relations system, you will need to build and expand your skills and also know when to seek specialist support.
I’d strongly encourage new business operators to seek further leadership skills training. Because that’s how you grow and protect your team. Providing great leadership to loyal employees, who are valued and looked after, means they will always go the extra mile for you.
My ambition, coming to the Institute, is to elevate even further the value we offer members. I want our members to see the Institute as a partner in their practice. Somewhere they can turn to easily access everything from peer- reviewed design notes to important regulatory updates.
I see our role as one of bringing architects together and championing the profession. Our mission is to develop and promote a strong architectural profession and be the public voice for architecture. Achieving this means not only helping our members build their capability, but also enhancing our own.
I aim to ensure that everyone has access to the right tools and resources they need to perform at their peak. I’ve always believed that to achieve growth you need to pick your market and speciality area. For me, a good business is one that has a defensible market position.
You’ve got to be strong in the market and able to diversify your product range and services. Above all else, make sure your vision and values are at the forefront of your business. Ultimately, there’s only one secret to success in most businesses and that is to surround yourself with good people.
People are the most valuable currency; it’s just that not everyone realises it.