How to ensure your business has staying power

I co-founded an architecture firm in the midst of The Great Recession — when the construction industry was among the hardest hit. As the economy waxed and waned, BBCO, like so many others, faced critical challenges. And yet, our team and business grew. Then, just over a decade later, the pandemic gave us more to overcome, both individually and collectively.
But as we navigated the obstacles brought on by COVID, I was encouraged. BBCO once again proved it could endure — and even thrive — under pressure.

We made many intentional decisions to instill our business with perseverance. Those decisions were put to the test, and they passed. The hardships we faced were validating experiences.

Now, as we continue growing while navigating the ups and downs that are inherent to business ownership, I am confident these key strategies will ensure our — and anyone’s — stability.

We double down on culture

Since the beginning of BBCO, we’ve hired slowly and thoughtfully. But as we ready ourselves for bold growth over the next three to five years, we don’t want that growth to come at the cost of our culture. We wanted to know: What is true about us now, as a team of 15, that will also be true about us as a team of 25 or more?
To answer that question, we leaned on the strategists at TENFOLD. Through a culture study, they helped us understand our secret sauce and where we could improve. And, critically, they helped us put language around the ecosystem of BBCO. Now, new hires and seasoned team members alike have a clear picture of who we are and what we stand for.

We put our team first

In some ways, we started BBCO to fill a hole we saw in our industry, which often expects its people to work nights, weekends and overtime — a practice that can deplete team members’ creative energy and prevent them from doing their best work. We built a culture that is not only inclusive and creatively stimulating but that also protects its talent from burnout and encourages outside passions. We had flexible hours long before the pandemic. And if our team is at capacity, we will readily turn client work down. Quality is something we won’t compromise, and our style creates a place where top talent wants to stay.

We also skipped traditional industry titles. I, for example, am CEO instead of Principal. Bharat Baste — my husband, co-founder and BBCO minority owner—is COO. And so on. Architecture can be an ego-driven profession, and this is our way of committing to a more corporate structure, where collaboration is paramount.

We maintain a diverse client base

We decided early on that we didn’t want our client base to be single-market focused. We had observed many of our peers who had clients in one industry grow with that industry and then have to let people go when it performed poorly.

To avoid that, we pursued clients in three key sectors: housing, retail and civic. This was especially helpful during the pandemic, as the private sector contracted. Our public sector work remained steady, and as the other categories rebounded, we were able to hit the ground running as we didn’t have to lay off and then rebuild our entire team.

I truly believe these decisions, which are easily applied to other industries and markets, have made us who we are: a strong, sustainable firm with a bright future ahead. ●

Bhakti Bania is Co-founder and CEO of BBCO

Bhakti Bania

Co-founder and CEO
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