Seattle Community

Charles Waugh
Structural Engineer
Bellingham, Washington
Extraordinarily helpful
out of 10
4 votes

Don't Just Stand There, Do Something

A true story of two people and how they reacted to the severe downturn in architectural profession. One sat and waited. The other did whatever he needed to keep fed. Guess who got a plum job?
Written Nov 12, 2010, read 949 times since then.


People are too often frozen by fear that their plans are not “good enough” in some way.  Even the most avid Biznik members may fall prey to that mindset from time to time.  It is a dangerous trap.

While we must always strive to do our very best in everything – our marketing, our work, our family and personal relationships, all aspects of life – we know that we cannot be perfect.  Yet, how many times have we let our marketing attempts or business contacts lapse because we have some amorphous fear that we won’t be seen as measuring up to our competitors?  Do we let these fears keep us glued to our chairs, not getting out and marketing?

This is a true story about two architects (who shall remain nameless) that I have worked with many times in the past.  Each is very, very skilled.  Each is very charming and easy to get along with.  However, the contrast in how they have reacted to the severe downturn in their profession could not be more stark.

Bill, as I will call him, closed his small office and moved his practice to a small office in his house.  Last time that I spoke to him, he had not had a commission in over a year.  This is what has become of a person who has done fine design work for 20 years, including custom homes, commercial buildings, and schools.

Ken (another pseudonym) also suffered badly after the real estate bubble burst.  He already worked out of his home as a sole practitioner, undaunted after having been let go by one of the larger firms in town.  When he could not find enough work this last summer, he worked as a Census enumerator, going door to door. 

Who do you think just got a commission to design a $600,000 new residence?  If you guessed Ken, you are right. 

Perhaps it was just luck, but as Samuel Goldwyn (of MGM fame) said, “The harder I work, the luckier I get.”  Ken was certainly the harder worker.

It may not seem like working for the Census would help an architect find work.  Still, the work that Ken got had more benefits than income.  The work had benefits for his personality that carried over to his architectural marketing.

Ken kept his people skills polished though his Census work.  Can you imagine being a Census enumerator, getting doors slammed in your face, dealing with all sorts of people, day in and day out?  He got hundreds of hours of practice in dealing with people of all sorts.  That skill in personal contact helped him close the deal on his architectural commission – you need face-to-face people skills for that.

Don’t wait until you think that you have the perfect presentation.  If you wait for perfection, you will never get out of your chair.  A Russian General was quoted as saying that "better is the enemy of good enough."  As Ken found out, practice made good enough better!

So, get out there and just do it (to steal a marketing slogan!  :-)  

Learn more about the author, Charles Waugh.

Comment on this article

  • Biznik Director of Community 
Seattle, Washington 
Matt Lawrence
    Posted by Matt Lawrence, Seattle, Washington | Nov 12, 2010

    Great stuff Charles. I have a genetic disorder which compels me to work a lot, I got it from both my mom and my dad!

    Congrats on your first article.

  • Structural Engineer 
Bellingham, Washington 
Charles Waugh
    Posted by Charles Waugh, Bellingham, Washington | Nov 12, 2010

    Thanks, Matt! Your comment means a lot!

  • Can-Do-Ologist 
Ossian, Indiana 
Marissa Bracke
    Posted by Marissa Bracke, Ossian, Indiana | Nov 13, 2010

    Love the comparison of your clients, and the observation that "practice made good enough better." I wrestle with perfectionism only about eight times a day (on a good day!), so that's a reminder I need.

    Thanks for some great points, and congratulations on your first article!

  • Structural Engineer 
Bellingham, Washington 
Charles Waugh
    Posted by Charles Waugh, Bellingham, Washington | Nov 13, 2010

    Thanks, Marissa -- I enjoyed your recent article too!

  • Entrepreneur 
Seattle, Washington 
Michael Hartzell
    Posted by Michael Hartzell, Seattle, Washington | Nov 13, 2010

    Progress vs. Perfection is one of my favorites.


  • Real Estate Consultant and Wedding Officiant 
Bellingham, Washington 
Rev. Meredith Ann Murray
    Posted by Rev. Meredith Ann Murray, Bellingham, Washington | Nov 14, 2010

    Great example. Yes, keep on keeping on is my motto. I haven't let "unemployment" slow me down - in fact I am busier that ever while awaiting my next great gig! Thanks, Charles.