This month marks the one-year anniversary of my return to private practice in architecture. After twenty-four years of being a client, my one year of transition back to a consulting role is complete. The reality is, this is a journey and not a destination.
I have learned a lot about the world of senior living from the consulting perspective and more importantly, I’ve learned a lot about myself. Here are my take aways from this transition year.
I have much less influence on project schedules. As a client, I had the opportunity, and responsibility, to set the pace of our projects. This pace was driven by our operation team’s ability to execute the changes we were developing. I also had the luxury of answering to a private owner, rather than a board. This reality impacted the decision-making process. As a consultant, many factors influence the rhythm of a project and most of them are out of my control. The pressure of “speed to market” is much more prevalent, especially in the rental world of senior living. This pace is exciting and challenging...all at the same time.
As a client in a provider organization, I had experts in finance, operations, clinical services, dietary and marketing at my finger tips...all under one roof. Immediate feedback was available with a similar mindset. In the consulting world, I have had the opportunity to work side by side with some of the best experts in our senior living field. This collaboration looks much different from my client days and I have found these interactions to be thought-provoking and inspirational.
As a client, I was one of the decision-makers, along with other subject matter experts in our organization. I worked for an owner who had the attitude, “if it ain’t broke, then let’s break it”. In reality, I probably “stirred the pot” in keeping that approach alive and well. As a consultant, I have the opportunity to work with the decision-makers. I have been exposed to many different processes with unique organizations, especially in the non-profit world. Fortunately, many of these organizations have a similar passion for quality of that from which I came. At the end of the day, my role as a consultant is to guide and recommend...not to decide for anyone. This has required some adjustment on my part.
My hope is that my twenty-four years of sitting on the client side of the table will give me a greater depth of empathetic listening and a unique understanding of our client needs. I know that as design consultants we can disrupt conventional thinking and ageism as we work with owners who have a passion for making a difference in the lives of older adults. No matter which side of the table we sit, I trust that empathy and understanding will prevail.