Slowing down? An action list for Smaller Firms

The “Round Tuit”, as most of us know, is a vast repository of issues and items that await attention when there is nothing else to do. A slow down in work load may mean it’s time to open up the Round Tuit file.

Annual accounts:

You may not enjoy sorting them out, but this is the perfect opportunity to get them done and dusted before “real” work demands your attention.


Unless you are fully digital, there is probably a lot of out-of date paper lying around the office. If you are fully digital, you can build up a huge volume of “stuff” which needs to be sifted and biffed as for the paperwork below.

• Go through all those old trade publications and biff out anything that is out of date, but KEEP information that you might have relied on for a project in the last 11 years and which you might need to refer to if that project goes sour. Maybe file it (or copy it) in the jobfile? Some old trade information may be more relevant than newer stuff, but that is rare.
• Sketch plans of completed projects are only useful for sentimental reflection or to provide good ideas for future work. Otherwise, biff them.
• Draft working drawings, if not used for construction, have no reason to live.
• Contract documents (professional services and construction) should be kept for 11 years.
• Voluminous files relating to contract administration older than 11 years have no use except to remind you of how much work you need to allow for in future fee quotes, and the processes required to do the work. Once you have recorded that information, biff them.
• Keep all your fee calculations, associated time-cost records, and correspondence relating to fee negotiations (unless re-reading them causes too much pain!). They are a valuable resource.
• Likewise, keep all your financial records (and time-cost records) for as long as they might be useful as a base for future business management.
• Miscellaneous files of correspondence relating to work done 11 years or more ago may have value as “intellectual capital” for you to refer to in future similar projects. But the chances are that less than 10% of the paper is useful and that anyway you won’t look at it. Biff the 90% – at least.
• If a project is under the 11 years (based on 10 year longstop plus a bit of leeway), and it is likely to be problematic, the more you keep, the better prepared you will be to fight the good fight if that becomes necessary. But that information will be much more useful if it is organised: put effort into getting it in order. A quick review of it along the way may help you identify and prioritise preparation for the worst case scenario.

Finding stuff:

• Make sure that all your information and documents is properly dated, and coded with the job (or task) reference, so that it can be found later.
• Re-organise your physical office to allocate things to better advantage.
• Information which cannot be easily accessed is of limited use. Let’s face it, for most of us, even our “library” is only referred to very rarely, and it might be easier to look it up on the web instead.
• Digital information may be even more critical in this respect: NOW is the time to make sure that every email (in and out) is coded to the job reference or task. Likewise all other documents and files. That your computer folder structure is coherent, consistent, and intuitive. That any incoming staff member can understand what is where; and that if you are hauled into a stoush at some unknown time in the future, non-architects can navigate your files without a PhD.

Future planning:

• If you are betwixt and between paper and digital processes, this is the perfect time to structure this transition.
• Now is the time to identify new skills that you can build for a better future.
• The Covid19 lockdown may be the beginning of a new way of working.
• Do a SWOT analysis on how you have coped thus far, and how you might leverage it into the future.