Gaines Group Architects

The biggest competition in the architectural profession is “no design.”

The architectural industry is an interesting one (and the only one I really know, so probably not unlike any others) in that as architects we compete for a very small pool of projects against each other, but we all rely on each other to promote the industry as a whole. The biggest competition for an architect is “no design” and boy does that happen a lot! Many don’t know what we (architects) do, don’t understand our value, or simply think they cannot afford to hire an architect.


I spend a lot of time promoting the idea of design. I know it brings me opportunities, because my clients have told me they want good design. I know it benefits our industry because it brings awareness to the idea of design and therefore it helps other architects. It is important to me that everyone understand the value added to having good design for the built environment as it impacts our community, our daily life, and our future. Here are some folks in our industry that are doing way more than I could ever do and having a tremendous impact on our world.

Studio MM promotes good design by promoting other architects. Marica posts a different architect’s work on her social media pages every week showing off design that she loves that is done by others. This is an incredibly generous gift to give that other architect, but also a wonderful way to share her love of design with her potential clients.


I am forever grateful to Cherise Schacter for her constant and overwhelming support of our industry on social media. Cherise is an incredible person / professional / Kraken that tirelessly promotes excellence in the design industry. I am not sure how she manages to keep up with all of the relationships she has built on SM and in person, but she does it with passion. Her work to promote the design industry is helping us all.


Joshua Lloyd works hard to teach others about sustainable residential design. This is a huge help to those of us focused on green design. First his work helps me know better the right solutions for my clients and second he is promoting a similar message so potential clients hear it from multiple sources. I have heard from many other design firms that don’t believe SM is important for our industry, I think Joshua is showing that it is very important.


Bob Borson created a series that is geared to show what we do as architects. The #ArchiTalks series includes some of the best architectural thinkers of our time! I know I have learned from these posts and it is certainly promoting our industry in a positive manner. Bob specifically brings the profession down to a human scale by showing the life of an architect from Christmas lists, to moving into a new office, to helping the next generation understand the industry.His approach to outreach is informal, fun, and inviting. This is how you promote an industry in a positive manner.


A team approach leads to successful construction projects.

Buildings are more complicated now than they have ever been in history. Your home is the most complex and interconnected machine that you own. In order to achieve a high performance home (healthy, energy-efficient, and durable) you need a team working together towards a common goal.

 So, is there really friction between the architect and builder as presented in this article?


An Architect is trained to plan and design buildings, and oversees their construction. At least that is what architects used to do before giving up many of their duties in the process to other experts.  At one time the Architect was the Master Builder that handled everything including structural design, aesthetics, function, and construction. Today the modern iteration of the architect is often relegated to code compliance and aesthetic solutions. In general, I don’t believe this is a bad thing for the client, although I would add building science, product selection, indoor air quality, and function of the space to the architect’s role.


Again, Buildings are more complicated now than they have ever been in history. It takes an integrated team to pull all the pieces together in a comprehensive, comfortable, user-friendly, efficient, and functional whole. We often work with builders during the design process that can consult on best practices, costs, schedule, and material availability in order to produce the best design solution for a client. In turn, the builder often prefers the architect be involved during construction to keep an eye on design intent and code compliance issues. While I would love to be the Master Builder again, I don’t think it is possible to deliver the highest possible quality solution to a client without having experts on the team from both the design and execution side of the process. Creating a balanced approach such as this and having a team mentality will eliminate tension and lead to successful projects. As our friends at BuilderFish always remind us: “planning from a collaborative approach saves money and time as all the primary players know and understand the process. This eliminates excuses like “I wish I had known.” Good planning on the front end with the entire team more than pays for itself and makes the construction process glide smoothly instead of bumping along.”

For more thoughts on saving money, protecting the environment, and on architectural design visit my websites:

Leaders, Entrepreneur or Both? 17 lessons learned to become an effective leader and entrepreneur

The Gaines Group is thrilled to have so many great friends in the local community that are industry leaders in their respective fields. In an effort to share some of our fortune with those that follow our blog, we will periodically invite guest bloggers to share some of their knowledge with you. Speaking of leaders, what more appropriate way to launch our guest blog series than to have one of the industry leaders in coaching and leadership share with all of us 17 Lessons learned to become an effective leader and entrepreneur.
Guest Post by Michelle Braden of MSBCoach
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Do you realize that according to Gallup Business Journal (Sept. 2012), much of the success of the global economy for the past half century is attributed to entrepreneurs?  In the U.S. alone, nearly half of all jobs are in the small business sector, and small business accounted for 65% of the net new jobs created between 1993 and 2009.  Yet most entrepreneurs are not sure how to be leaders, nor do they understand the importance of being a leader.   If you are an entrepreneur, you are also a leader.  The question is, are you a poor leader or a great leader?

 What does it take to be an entrepreneur and a leader, especially in a small business?  Below are 17 lessons I have personally learned in my years as an entrepreneur and a leader:

  1. Build strong relationships
    1. Ask, Listen, then Act (balance the advice you receive with your own “gut”).
  2. Relationships should be with people who are:
    1. Smarter than you in such fields as:  budgeting, strategy, marketing, sales, relationship building, technical skills, structure, vision, etc.
    2. Encouraging, supporting, challenging, and effective at holding you accountable.
  3. Network, both socially and professionally.
  4. Give to others, because it is the right thing to do.
  5. It is not enough to have a vision. You must have a plan to execute it.
  6. Be flexible
    1. Re-evaluate
    2. Re-work
    3. Scrap it when necessary
  7. Keep one eye on the horizon, and the other on the bottom line.
  8. Have focus – you cannot and should not do/sell/provide everything
    1. If everything is important, then nothing is important.
  9. Know how and when to work on the business and in the business
  10. Know your positions of strength. Build alliances and hire partners that compliment you in the areas where you are deficient. Practice excellence, not perfection.
  11. Know when to move – even if it is not perfect.
    1. If you wait too long you can miss the boat.
    2. Apple Incorporated is a good example of creating interest and getting it out there before all the “bugs” are worked out.
  12. Know yourself.
    1. Values – what will you sacrifice and compromise, and what will you keep?
    2. What are your strengths and weaknesses?
    3. What are your fears and where are you confident?
    4. What are the potential pitfalls that you learned from past experience?
    5. Share all this information with your team.
  13. Have a plan to self-manage with accountability partners.
  14. Have executive presence – confident  – not cocky.
  15. Fake it till you make it – if you don’t believe in yourself, neither will anyone else.
  16. Hire people to work with you that have an “owner” mentality – a small business does not have room for employees.

Do you have additional lessons learned on how to be both an entrepreneur and a leader?  If so, I hope you will share them so we can all continue to learn and grow together.  If you are an entrepreneur and interested in becoming a better leader, I invite you to contact us today.  At MSBCoach we understand what it means to be a small business, and we also understand what it means to be a great leader!  Entrepreneurship and leadership are a journey.  Jim Clifton, CEO of Gallup said, “Entrepreneurship is the scariest, rarest, hardest energy and talent in the world to find”.  Let us partner with you to change your business from good to great!

About Michelle Braden
Michelle is the CEO of MSBCoach, an executive and leadership coaching firm located in central Virginia.  She has coached and trained leaders and teams for more than 18 years.  In 2011 Michelle served as a panelist for the World Coaching Conference She is the founder of the Emerging Executive Leadership Program, the Authentic Leadership Summit, serves on the leadership board of the Building Goodness Foundation and the VA Chamber Small Business Advisory Board.  Her areas of expertise include Executive and High Potential Coaching.
Prior to founding MSBCoach, Michelle’s experiences extended to working in school administration and juvenile rehabilitation centers. In Michelle’s first year of teaching, she received the Teacher of Excellence Award in Bedford, PA.  Michelle was an executive leader  with Robert Haff International, Retirement Unlimited incorporated , the Church of God International, and the non-profit  On Time Leadership.

I found the key to success: ask lots of questions.

I have been searching this year for answers. Is there a better way to serve my clients? Is there a better way to serve my community? Am I doing everything I can to be a good father? Can I find another way?

I attended a Leadership Summit in Charlottesville recently (I was actually presenting and just attended one session). The speaker told his life story about all the failures that he has run into in his life that got him to “success.” He failed at every turn and through that failure he found opportunity by asking more questions. He learned from his mistakes, he did not take no for an answer, he opened the shut doors. As I continue to struggle with how to make it in this economy, this community, this world, I have finally seen the key to success. I need to ask questions. I need to ask for help. I need to find better solutions. I need to open shut doors and shut minds.

The most important thing in life you can do and that you can teach your children to do is ask lots of questions.

Never say yes, but.

Always say, yes, and.

Harrisonburg Green Architect

Construction Specifications Institute

Leaders Growing Leaders

Clay Nelson gave a presentation on Leaders Growing Leaders at Construct 2009 CSI Show in Indianapolis. His position is you have to train your employees to do what you do. This give you the ability to stay on the cutting edge and continue to be the visionary.

Construction Specifications Institute

So this concept, of growing leaders to advance your vision, grows the diversity and depth of your business. If you constantly answer questions and tell people what to do, you will have no time to do visioning. Clay says as a leader your job is to know what you don’t know. So if you set your goal to be right all the time then you have stopped learning.

Hence you should look for things you don’t know and focus on learning those things. Let your employees do all the things you already know. If they can’t, then you have not done your job of giving them the power. This is the only way to be one of the leaders growing leaders. Your staff will do what you let them do through your actions. If you always give them the answer, or if you tell them they are wrong when they bring you an answer, then you have given them no power to learn and grow themselves. Therefore, as a leader you have to stop telling and start asking questions.

Write down all the things you do for two weeks. As a result this will give you a job description of what you do now. What on the list can you have someone else do? Figure this out and you can start doing things you don’t already know how to do and you can grow.

A leader is only as great as the weakest part of his team. Don’t worry about making mistakes, mistakes = growth. Set an example, be what you want other to be. This will give you the leaders that you need in your firm.

This was a great seminar with a tremendous speaker.

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