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Typical Day

Aretha the architect gets into the office at 8. There are no big demands to "live on Euro time" and rarely any emergency screams in crowded theaters, "Is there an architect in the house!?" Aretha pulls out plans that are due to be done next week for a new warehouse her firm is designing. Two hours fly by, and at 10 she is interrupted by Izzy the Intern asking for stuff to do. Izzy has been at the firm a long time and is ready to do some real work (after getting two sugars and one cream), and she hands him the warehouse drawings to finish. His job: the lobby plant selection.

The ceiling was shorter the first time we measured….

Aretha deals with a call from a structural engineer on another project and has to talk to him about the soil elasticity of the plot. They thought they were building on granite—new core soil samples indicate loamy soil which heaves and shrinks with heat and rain and cold, so she knows there will be a whole series of problems now. The site will need fatter foundations, more support, maybe thicker plumbing pipe, all of which will cost more. It was a for-bid job and the contractors thought it would cost $3.5M to build—now it looks like it'll be $3.8M and they have to ask the client for more money. She curses the soil engineer who gave her low quality information at the beginning of the project. If they lose this one, it will cost the firm almost $50,000 in fees. So…stress. Then she remembers that they designed three other homes in the area. She has to check on the progress on another one of her homes which is almost at the roofing stage, so she zips over in her leased Lexus to check it out, thinking that maybe its soil situation will give her some clues as to how to proceed with the warehouse plans.

Her back is sore after being patted and slapped so many times with "good job" from her clients who love her. They have referred three others who meet her there. Aretha walks through the open construction with them and talks about what might be doable on their budget for each of their homes. They love the concepts and contracts get signed. Since this is "Aretha's deal"—that is, she won the client—she'll do the work and manage the process. Inside the firm, she will be paid well and get a relatively large part of the revenues associated with these three new deals. From the firm's perspective, they defend taking their large cut (maybe they keep half) because Aretha wouldn't have gotten any business were she not associated with this well-respected firm. Aretha vows to herself to some day test that theory, start her own firm, and keep 100% of the money. She has this conversation in her head as she swings by a construction site where another of her buildings is starting. She doesn't remember there being a revolving door at the front of this 7-11. She will have to report to the project manager on this one. Welcome to the bungle.