Barbara Campagna, FAIA, on how her firm is staying open for business

Barbara Campagna

AIA Voices of COVID-19 highlights how firms and firm leaders are dealing with this unprecedented crisis. This is the second in a series.

Ahead of New York State’s quarantine for workers, Barbara Campagna, FAIA, migrated most of her work home four weeks ago, a move that she admits has helped her focus on her deadlines. Campagna co-founded and led the National Trust for Historic Preservation's Sustainability Program, and from 2006-2011, was the Chief Architect for 27 sites the Trust operates. Campagna launched her eponymous firm in 2011, and lives and works in downtown Buffalo, which, she says, has become “a very eerie place.”

I work with a lot of sole proprietors and small business owners, and I often hire them as consultants, so we have formed a kind of coalition.  

What concerns me most about this public health crisis, since I have my own small business, is that I have amazing projects and amazing clients, but they don’t pay consistently, and I have a bunch of invoices that are between five and eight months overdue. I’m worried this stop in the economy will make those invoices stay out even longer. I’m super busy and I’m happy to have this weird time to be forced to sit at my computer and write, and that can be more exhausting than drafting and drawing.

Besides the economy falling apart, I am also concerned about immediately having to figure out technology. Today, I had to set up a Zoom account. I have a WebEx call over the next few days, then a Microsoft Teams call. All require new accounts. Do I need the paid account? Can I use the free account? It’s great for everyone to stay connected, but a few of these are big job interviews for big projects and I am scrambling to make this work.

And, I think that’s been the hardest part is all of these super intense stresses happening at once. It’s not just me, though. It’s my clients, too. A big project I was getting ready to start two weeks ago—a project I’ve been working on for three years and we were going into design/development—and the client emailed us the day before and said that they were going to pause the project for a year. I arranged my whole schedule over the year about this project, and so I had to reset just as this virus was spreading.

And,I just got a call from a client who is freaked-out and halted their capital campaign, and so therefore they are halting their project. I did have a long conversation with a client yesterday and we went over what needed to get done and when, and what we could do until quarantine ends for us in New York.

Most of my clients are friends of mine on social media, and social media has been great for me. I have several accounts for different reasons, business and personal, and I would say that I have gotten projects from clients through Facebook and Instagram in the past. Just the other day, a colleague of mine from ten years ago messaged me and said, “We’re going after this big project, and I saw something you talked about on Instagram, and we want you on our team.” So, yes, I have found social media to be helpful, especially to remind people that I’m open for business.

Image credits

Barbara Campagna

Joseph M. Cascio

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