How to Start Your Own Architecture Practice with Josh Kunkel

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On today’s episode of the Young Architect Podcast, architect Josh Kunkel joins Michael to talk about his various experiences with putting together an ARE study group called the ARE Success Team, raising a young family, and launching his own side business while still continuing his regular job.

If you’re interested in starting a business, this is a great episode for you!

Architect Josh Kunkel

Hailing from Tulsa, Oklahoma, Josh Kunkel loved the idea of being a meteorologist, but high school drafting classes and his father’s experience as both a residential contractor and a master carpenter had a great influence on his decision to pursue architecture.

Josh studied architecture at the Oklahoma State University with the belief that he would mostly focus on design for his career. However, he realized soon enough that he also loved the business side of the profession. He was never a member of AIAS while in school, but became a member of AIA once he graduated. There wasn’t too much going on in his local AIA Eastern Oklahoma chapter for Emerging Professionals when he joined, but he’s really been helping to make some improvements happen including developing the study group, the ARE Success Team.

After doing several test runs and modifying the program, they narrowed it down to a 6 week study program with 2 weeks off to take the tests. Not only does the program include group study sessions, but they also take part in content lectures and presentations given by experts.

In addition to working full-time, developing an ARE study program, and raising a young family, Josh has also taken on a new side project in renovating houses with his wife and father. This new project has allowed him to learn more about marketing and the business side of owning an architecture firm.

What You’ll Hear on This Episode 

  • Why he decided to study architecture and what interested him in developing his own side business.
  • The reason behind not joining AIAS in school and then becoming a part of his local AIA chapter.  
  • How he has already helped his AIA chapter grow.
  • What his ARE study group, the ARE Success Team, is up to and what progress different members have made to pass the exams.
  • Why he decided to begin his own side business with both his father and wife to flip houses.
  • How he’s ensuring that he doesn’t cross any lines between his regular job and his side business.
  • Why he feels that he’s better at working with groups than alone.
  • How he manages his time to be able to juggle work, the ARE study program, renovating houses, and raising a family.
  • Advice for staying focused and positive about work and life.
  • How to balance time between yourself and helping others.
  • The power of saying ‘No.’
  • Sacrifices he has had to make to have a career, study for the AREs, and raise a family.
  • What it takes to really buckle down and study hard for the ARE exams.
  • How to start your own architecture practice.
  • The basis for understanding business and marketing within the architecture industry.
  • How to become better at prioritizing tasks and managing your time. 

Top 3 Takeaways from This Episode 

  1. It’s a great idea to get together with fellow students and build a community to study for the AREs. Not only will you surround yourself around people who can help you get ready, but it’s a great way to network. Share exam taking experiences, tips, and insights to help everyone succeed.
  1. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. Respect your time as well as others. Realize when you don’t have time to take on a new project to avoid over-committing yourself and wasting time.
  1. No matter where you are in your career, it’s always good to have a back-up plan in case something should happen. It doesn’t hurt to have a side project, continue learning, or keep in touch with people within your network. 

Josh Kunkel’s Advice for Aspiring Architects

“Be open to opportunity. You never know what’s going to come and you never know how your life is going to pivot. Do what’s in front of you and do it well. You can only do your best, but you have to try to be at your best every time.” 

Favorite Quotes 

“You go to architecture school thinking you’re going to be a designer, but when you get out, you realize that design is only a small part of the field as a profession. For example, there’s also the business side of architecture.” – Josh Kunkel on the different careers within architecture.

“You don’t have to do all seven ARE exams back to back. You have to find something that works for you, but that also means that you have to try different methods. If you’re able to do all seven exams in a week, that’s great! For me, that wasn’t my path.” – Josh Kunkel on finding out which ARE study method works the best for each person.

“What’s important to do today or right at this moment to help me stay on track? To juggle my career and family, it’s all about being strategic with my time. Even though I wasn’t very good at it in the beginning, saying ‘No,’ can be very powerful because you’re respecting your time as well as another person’s time. If you can’t do something well because you’re over-committed, then you’re not doing them any service by signing up to help them cause you’re not actually helping them.” – Josh Kunkel on respecting your time and commitment to yourself and others.

“Being the planner that I am, I’m always thinking about what Plan B, C or D could be in the case that I got laid off. In many scenarios, if a person is unable to find a job quickly after being let go, it’s because they didn’t have a back-up plan in mind.” – Josh Kunkel on why it’s a good idea to always have a back-up plan or be prepared for the possibility of switching jobs.   

Resources Mentioned in the Show 

About the author

Michael Riscica

Michael Riscica is a Licensed Architect who lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with his Labrador Retriever. He is passionate about helping Young Architects change the world. In his free time, Michael likes to take very long bicycle rides across America. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Linked In.

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