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Coffee Talk
Business Observer Friday, Jun. 21, 2019 2 years ago

Area architect redesigns industry's pay model

Barron Schimberg founded his firm, the Schimberg Group, in 2004.

One of Barron Schimberg’s business mottos is to never get too comfortable — even though the longtime Sarasota architect is all about making clients comfortable in their space, home or work.

Schimberg’s latest move to break the contentedness is to flip his firm’ payment model, from a project-by-project basis to a retainer model, more akin to concierge medicine. Schimberg, who founded his firm, Schimberg Group, in 2004 after a decade working for another architect, says he’s the only architecture firm he knows of nationwide shifting to a retainer-style pay model.

The idea, Schimberg tells Coffee Talk, has been floating around for a few years. He tested it on a few clients, including The Chiles Group, which owns three area waterfront restaurants, and a Miami-based hardware store firm that Schimberg has worked with on designing new locations nationwide. With the Chiles Group, Schimberg realized he was doing so much work, over a long period of time on all the locations, that a a set rate would benefit both sides. The clients agreed to the shift, also seeing the benefits — as long as they have work.

“This gives me stability and gives clients a comfort level of being able to call me anytime,” says Schimberg. “Clients can call me to ask questions about anything and everything,” he adds, without worrying about seeing bills pile up.

Another advantage to the model: It’s a shield, somewhat, against the next economic downturn, when projects dry up. It’s also another way for Schimberg to manage the firm’s growth, which he says has been a conscious decision to stay small so he can stay connected to clients and monitor service. “I know some people who want to get to 25 architects,” Schimberg says. “I’m not into that. I’m a hands-on person. I like being in the work. I like putting on my boots and going out to the construction site.”

Schimberg says ideally he’d like to have 80% of the five-employee firm rely on retainer revenues, and the rest project-based. While he says his firm still has to do stellar work, on time, to retain the retainer clients, one of the other factors he likes about the model is it allows him to chase relationships — not the next big thing like many others do in architecture. “Finding clients,” he says, “is now more important to me now than finding projects.”

(This story was updated to reflect the correct spelling of Barron Schimberg.)



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