RIBA’s convivial speed mentoring


RIBA Guerrilla Tactics – Small practice conference and CPD Day 10-11 November

Invited to be one of over 60 speed mentors at RIBA’s two day event for small architectural practices, I was impressed by the volume and quality of people involved. We had one hour to give quick fire advice to up to five mentees who were pre-matched with their preferred five mentors. Four to five mentors per table, we stayed put whilst our mentees made a bee line for the empty seat next to us, claiming their ten minutes to pick our brains.


As a professional mentor, working with a number of architects as clients, I came prepared to structure the conversation to best suit the mentee’s needs.

Issues that arose included how to manage stress and priorities within a small practice. Too much energy spent on “fighting crocodiles, when I should be emptying the swamp”. Meanwhile billable hours get the short end of the straw. We discussed some tools to help re-prioritise swamp emptying duties.

Be realistic on the time it takes to complete a complex task. If you think it’s going to take an hour and a half, allow two hours

Let go of the less important, non-urgent activities. Decide which these are and put them on the back burner, or drop them altogether

Be disciplined

Say no to new invitations/projects that are not directly linked to billable hours (until the swamp starts to properly drain)

If social media is a distraction (we all get drawn in), then allocate a time slot per day to engage, and cap it

Make a plan every morning of how you divvy up your time and priorities – plan the work and work the plan. Make the plan visual (e.g post it notes on the wall), so you are reminded, and can throw away notes when the task is done

Allow nonetheless time and headspace for contingency (those crocodiles are notoriously resilient!) – not everything goes to plan

Keep interruptions to a minimum (phone calls, questions) – set aside specific time slots for staff briefings and queries, put the phone on voicemail when you’re in the midst of a reflective, creative, time sensitive task


Other issues that came up were about how to get a practice owner to recognise a Part 3 architect’s value.  Regarding salary and reputation. Said mentee is not featured on the practice web site, despite several years of successful work on projects start to finish. Salary apparently was under market value. We discussed some remedies.

Go to the owner with a sound argument (loyalty, added value, diversity) for including the mentee’s profile and photo on the web site, and offer to make it happen so the owner has nothing to do except perhaps check the bio copy

Write a one page proposal asking for an appropriate salary rise. Give salary market value evidence supported by all the mentee’s indisputable achievements, demonstrating the added value of said mentee. Go through proposal with owner, face to face – read it out if lacking confidence

A third issue was for a young Part 2 architect on the verge of sitting Part 3 exam, who wants to set up her own practice with a business partner. Both are very skilled, motivated, expert in their respective fields (it appeared), however starting one’s own business can be a daunting undertaking. Top tips on branding, marketing and messaging were shared.

Choose a name that is distinctive, and memorable

Be very clear on your practice ‘offer’ (ie what are you selling?). Especially as the two founders come from two distinctly different architectural disciplines and fields of interest.

  • What is the common theme/benefit that ties the two disciplines together in the eyes of prospective clients
  • What language can you use to clearly outline the services your practice offers?

Target clients you really want to work with – approach them fearlessly (email, phone call, professional networking), be clear on what value you can add, how they may benefit

Ask permission from previous employers if you can feature images of buildings you’ve worked on, so you can use in your marketing / otherwise use your own drawings 

Use social media to create a buzz for your new practice. Twitter is a must!

Many more conversations ensued, in an extremely convivial atmosphere, New friends were made. All in all, one of the best professional networking evenings I’ve had in a long while. Thank you RIBA for making it happen. See you next year?

For liberating mentoring programmes, workshops and masterclasses with Yensa Mentors

Get on touch



 © Amanda Yensa Manor 2015


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