Small Business Trends

Meet the Architect Using Software to Create a New Blueprint for Success

Published by in Small Business Trends

When architect Catherine Traynor’s business strategy crumbled in the face of the pandemic, she leapt to action, adopting software solutions that allow her to meet her clients where they are: in the very houses they want to improve and expand.

Perhaps nothing is more personal to someone than their home. It’s where they live, share moments with loved ones, and—for many—now work.

Catherine Traynor is an architect and director of House Architects, a small practice that specializes in home improvement and extensions. As a residential domestic architect, she recognizes that the decision to modify one’s house is a big one, making it important to establish connections with clients.

Before the pandemic, Traynor’s business strategy revolved around in-person consultations and meetings. She would meet with clients, look around their house, talk about their vision, and discuss next steps, which included at least one more in-person visit to conduct a design workshop. During this workshop, she would sketch design options by hand for the clients to consider.

This process allowed her to establish trust with clients and really understand their vision for their home. A week after the pandemic-induced lockdown, Traynor knew this process was in trouble.

She leapt to action and implemented a pivot strategy centered on investing in new software and technologies to help her connect with clients. She also invested in herself by learning completely new skills, including how to use software to create 3D sketches.

  Catherine Traynor

  “Without the pandemic forcing me to think outside the box, I doubt whether I would have taken the use of technology in my business to the next level.”

As a result, her architecture business is not only surviving but thriving. It’s expanding in ways it wasn’t before, receiving 15% more inquiries than she received before she started using these technologies.

Software as a solution: 3 ways software can help you pivot your business strategy

Here are three things Traynor did to pivot her business’ strategy and how you can apply them to your own, regardless of industry.

Solution #1: Use technology to simulate in-person interactions

Visiting houses for in-person consultations was no longer possible and put a significant barrier between Traynor and clients. Her business and revenue hinged on her ability to find new ways to attract and connect with new clients if she wanted to survive.

“I was pushed to use technology to innovate and change my business to continue providing my service—it was born out of necessity.”

Traynor was able to overcome the communication barriers presented by social distancing by using web conferencing software, appointment scheduling software, and integration software to connect with clients and schedule calls.

Traynor used Zoom to simulate the experience of a face-to-face interaction, Calendly to help her schedule calls, and Zapier to integrate the apps she used and automate routine tasks.

 What you can do:  Something as simple as offering video conferencing can help you connect with clients remotely.

Here are some resources to get you started:

Solution #2: Digitize deliverables to help customers visualize your offerings

Once Traynor transitioned to online consultations, she had time to focus on her next major challenge: sharing her designs and drawings digitally.

Before, she would conduct a design workshop where she would hand sketch design options on-site and give those drawings to the homeowner. But with the lockdown in place, she had to completely rethink how she creates and shares deliverables with clients.

She replaced this process with a digitally enhanced one that uses 3D software (Traynor chose Revit) to visualize her concept plans instead of hand drawn sketches. She then shares these 3D visuals with clients by sharing her screen on video calls.

By using building information modeling software to create concept designs, Traynor can more easily share plans with her clients digitally.

Traynor didn’t have experience doing this before the pandemic. Although it was intimidating at first, Traynor said she was able to learn these new skills and apply them to her business, empowering herself and company.

 What you can do:  Think about the specific challenges you have and what kind of solution you might need.

For example, if you’re:

  • An architect, you could use BIM software to create digital images of your designs
  • A restaurant owner, you could take quality photos of your menu items to entice more people to order to-go or delivery, and use food delivery software for a more efficient delivery service.
  • A company that uses contracts, you could use digital signature software so that clients can sign contracts digitally and send them through email.

By pinpointing specific problems, you can find specific solutions.

Solution #3: Don’t be intimidated by emerging technologies to take your business to the next level

Traynor probably could have stopped with the first two solutions; Video conferencing allowed her to connect with clients, and 3D CAD software let her share her designs with clients digitally. But Traynor wanted to do more than simply survive.

She realized that offering a virtual reality (VR) experience could not only help her practice stand out but also give clients a better experience. “Sometimes it’s difficult for homeowners to visualize their house in 3D just from a plan,” Traynor said.

Her inspiration to use VR actually came from BBC’s “Your Home Made Perfect,” a show that features two architects competing for a client that uses virtual reality to show homeowners what their homes would look like and “sell” their vision for the house.

“I wanted to look into doing something similar for residential clients in an affordable way. It was sort of new for me … I didn’t actually know at all how to get from the point of having a 3D model to being able to view it in a VR headset.”

Traynor did research, talked to people with experience rendering virtual reality experiences, and tested out headsets and programs before deciding what she would use moving forward.

After testing different programs out, she decided to use Revit and 3DS Max to create realistic virtual reality experiences of her designs and share with clients.

“The pandemic made me realize that if I want to stay afloat in the predicted upcoming recession, I need to up my game and provide services that others aren’t offering.”

 What you can do:  Emerging technology might seem out of reach or just plain intimidating, but innovative technology is for small businesses too!

Even after your challenges have solutions, don’t let the innovation stop there. Consider your customers’ experience going through the buyer’s journey with your business. How could it be improved?

Your small business may be able to benefit from using emerging technologies like:

Software is here to stay

Traynor adopted these new technologies because of the circumstances surrounding COVID-19, but said she will likely keep them for the future after noticing a 15% uptick in inquiries from potential clients and enjoying the flexibility these software solutions offer.

As a result of these changes, she recently accepted her first job in Glasgow, Scotland, an eight-hour drive away from where she is currently based. She attributes this opportunity to software.

“If someone had gotten in touch with me from Glasgow before, I probably would have passed it on to another architect I know in Glasgow. But because I figured out how to do things remotely, it opens up new realms of possibility.”

Small businesses around the world have thought of creative ways to pivot their business and use software to solve their most pressing challenges. We’d like to help you do the same.

Check out our resource center with updates and tips designed with you in mind as you recover, rebuild, and digitize your business.

Note: The software applications referenced in this article were cited by the interviewee in context and are not intended as endorsements or recommendations.

Looking for Web Conferencing software? Check out Capterra's list of the best Web Conferencing software solutions.

About the Author

Toby Cox

Toby Cox

Senior Content Writer @ Capterra covering software trends and stories of small business resilience. B.A. in Foreign Affairs and Middle Eastern Languages from the University of Virginia. Beekeeper and bookworm. Virginia native. I love yoga, getting lost in new places, and being outside.


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