BoSP – A Series Profile
The ACA’s BoSP, or Business of Small Practice Forum, was created in Western Australia in 2018, providing the opportunity for small practice owners to meet up, listen to experts, share knowledge and learn from each other. BoSP founder Kate Fitzgerald shares her insights about the series genesis, motivations and plans for the future.
1. What is BoSP and when and why was it developed?
The first BoSP, or Business of Small Practice, was held in 2018 in Fremantle. I had been having conversations with colleagues about the need for a forum dedicated to people who were starting and/or growing their architectural practices. The BoSP initiative emerged from these conversations and we developed the concept to connect people in small practice.
I led our first event with fellow WA Committee member Michael Gay and WA Executive Officer Emma Brain. It was ambitious in that we flew young and entrepreneurial small practice director, Monique Woodward over from Melbourne to present, and asked our audience to take an entire afternoon off work to attend. See the event recap.
2. What makes this event series different?
BoSP is by small practice directors, and for small practice directors. Typically, business education in architecture has been delivered by an expert without the critical information on implementation, which can be a barrier to small practice business development. It’s great to learn about best practice, but also how do you develop a marketing strategy, better HR policy or better cashflow management when you’re already running a small and busy team? How are other directors working less and running more sustainable ethical businesses and what can we learn from them?
Radical transparency! Business topics are always presented by an expert, and we’ve always said to our speakers that they need to dive deep and give us the truth of their practice – the data, the results, what did and didn’t work rather than the glossy images of their projects. Our events offer a safe space where people can talk about their successes and failures, and we can all learn from each other as business owners who are all striving to be better.
We hold the events in places where you might want to spend a Friday night! Showrooms are banned! Think inner-city warehouses, natural wines, pizza etc. Personal connection has always been very important to the BoSP. We need to be in a space where we feel comfortable sharing things we’ve learnt about starting, running and growing a practice.
3. What are the key topics, challenges and concerns of the BoSP series?
We deal with issues and approaches unique to small practice, and we tackle everything from marketing to HR, fees, finance and governance with a focus on sustainable, ethical businesses and alternative models that are different to traditional fee-for-service practices. We are led by the needs of our members, and we ask them what they would like us to focus on.
Like everyone and everything, COVID forced us to re-evaluate our approach and shift to an online offering. This worked well, and if anything it’s been harder than we expected to get people back in the rhythm of attending face-to-face events. This is our new challenge. It’s great to see Adelaide is holding a BoSP soon, in a great location with an awesome lineup of speakers!
You also can’t presume to know your audience. Our last face-to-face BoSP in Perth explored the concept of meaningful marketing and the audience primarily consisted of mature-aged men. This came as a surprise and has encouraged us to reconsider our target audience; it’s still great that we’re getting a diverse group of small practice directors in the room together, even if they’re a different crowd to our audience five years ago!
Practices are busy, and for the BoSP to succeed we need to stay connected to our audience base. New practices are emerging all the time and the BoSP is a great way to introduce them to the ACA and make sure they feel connected and supported as they grow and develop.
4. Can you tell us a bit about the events you’ve already run?
Sure, the best way is to send you to the BoSP portal on the ACA webpage. Here, you’ll find an overview of all the events that we’ve held around the country.
5. The BoSP series is currently being rolled out nationally for the ACA. How is this progressing and what are the future plans?
We’ve already started a national series of webinars, some of which can be accessed through our CPD on Demand portal.
The SA branch has been an enthusiastic adopter of the BoSP model and have held a couple of events, including one with Dave Sharp on marketing on 18 May. We’re chuffed that NSW will soon host their first BoSP too! It’s great to see each state express a desire to build their own communities of small practice directors. Key to the success is that the program must be led by small practice directors in each state; the plan is for it to grow organically by the small practice communities that need it.