24 dicembre 2012

The Kai-Uwe method

By Abitare, December-January, n. 528

Bjarke’s social ties are hyper-productive for BIG. The way he goes around the planet making connections and strengthening the ones that already exist is vital to the company. But he rides on a wave of enthusiasm that is only occasionally selective and he likes to put his faith in chance. Kai-Uwe Bergmann is there to tune up the motor of business development. 

Accumulate business cards
When Bjarke dumps the heap of business cards that he has collected on his travels in the studio, it's Kai-Uwe who sorts them out. What for Bjarke is a confused muddle is for him an inestimable resource. When Kai-Uwe joined BIG, in 2006, his trawl through Bjarke's memories and the traces of his chaotic "in-boxes" unearthed 200 good contacts: in the space of six years he has extended BIG’s list of useful addresses to 20,000.

Be friendly
Sometimes he feels like a marine, the first on the scene and the last to leave it. Often he's the one who makes the first contact with the client, and then who looks after him, making sure that he's listened to and kept an eye on, even at a personal level. He sends greetings on the appropriate, and also, and above all, e-mails that he might not be expecting. He keeps him informed about the movements of Bjarke and the BIGsters in case they come anywhere near the city in which he lives or works and keeps him up to speed on the group's latest exploits: in short, he does everything he can to make sure the clients don't jump ship.

While at the most he can get in direct touch with ten people over the course of 24, Kai-Uwe has to make sure that there is an effective network of communication to spread BIG's message: "There's a role for the clients who praise you, for friends who pass the word on, but also for all the ex-BIGsters scattered around the world (around 300 at this pooint) who are familiar with the studio's culture and pass it on". He stays in contact with them all, keeping a wide-ranging group alive, while he uses social networks to the communicate with all those who are not part of the family in the strict sense.

Fly first class
For Whenever possible Kai-Uwe flies in business. He knows that this section of the plane houses the part of society that makes decisions, where potential clients can be found. He observes people, is as sociable as always, and if he can't find anyone to chat with, seeks inspiration in the magazines printed for this group of elite travellers: and considers ways for BIG projects to be included within their pages by the next issue ...

Never go to a trade fair alone
"There's a lot of confusion at a trade fair. The environment is exhausting in itself. Generally no one knows who you are, nor will they make any effort to find out. You have to arrange to be accompanied and introduced by other people: if you were to go around trying to sell yourself on your own, it would be a complete flop".

Capitalize on the lecture
A lecture gives Kai-Uwe, Bjarke or one of the other BIGsters the chance to win over 100 or 200 people at a time. "There's no better time or place than after a talk to meet potential clients".

Be selective 
Taking part in a competition is an excellent way of procuring work, but Kai-Uwe doesn't mince his words: "When they hear of a new competition architects often behave Like dogs in heat, becoming completely stupefied and ready to hump any leg they come across, without carrying out any research ... ". At BIG he tries to curb this animal-Like reaction. If the others don't do it, he'll be the one to make sure that a competition is worth considering and not just a waste of time and money.

Show off your awards
Many clients pay attention to the number of prizes won by the studio. If it were not for this fact, official marks of recognition, which often entail a waste of time and money, would not be of much interest to Kai-Uwe: "But we have to bear in mind the fact that BIG has so far built very Little: when competing with studios that have been around for years and have the construction of entire cities under their belt, even the glitter of the odd medal has a part to play".