On Duty

In this month of presidents, I’m reminded of a man who had the gravest of responsibilities thrust upon him, and never shrank from them.  The fate of an entire country depended on his unwavering commitment.

For me, Lincoln is a good reminder of our own serious responsibilities if we play a management role in our firms.  Last week, I promised to elaborate on my belief that we also have an inherent obligation to manage our firms well.

The fate of a country may not be at stake, but nevertheless, we are called to meet this obligation.

Well, naturally, you might say.  Of course we are.  We knew responsibility came with the role when we accepted it.

Agreed.  We shouldn’t hold the position if we’re not willing to give it our best shot.  We should relinquish it to someone else if we can’t or won’t do it well.

But I’ll take it for granted that you strive to do your best.  I find that most people do.

What I mean by obligation goes deeper than this.

There are four aspects of this obligation to manage our firms well.

1.  We must ensure that our firm appropriately compensates our partners and our staff.  Making the never-ending decisions about salaries, stock, retirement accounts, insurance benefits, and other critical elements of compensation can create great stress, disagreement, and sleepless nights.  But do it we must.  Of course, strong firm financial management can make all of this much easier.

2.  Our staff and their families are depending on us for their livelihoods.  Careers are also at stake.  If the firm were to fail, many people’s lives would be affected.  Spouses and children included.  The job that a breadwinner holds at the firm may mean everything to that family.

3.  We must safeguard financial integrity within the firm.  Someone must mind the store, at all times.  Carelessness or neglect can create opportunity for self-serving or even theft.  Financial misdealings can become disasters, threatening the very existence of the firm.  We cannot permit the opportunity.

4.  Whether we realize it or not, the AIA Code of Ethics obligates architects.  In so many words, the 5th Canon says that we must provide our employees with decent pay, a decent place to work, and an opportunity to grow.  You can look it up.  And while not nearly as specific, the ASID’s and ASLA’s respective codes of ethics confer a high level of professional obligation on interior designers and landscape architects.

Yes, serious business, all this.

And there’s no shrinking from it.



  • Eurico R. Francisco

    Enlightening how this and the previous posts connect sound firm management to quality of life, to positive culture and to other social aspects. What becomes obvious but often goes unsaid is that management goes beyond financial aspects to encompass topics that are not so easy to evaluate or quantify. Well done.

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