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Five Guiding Principles from a Guiding Principal

Mark Busse – No Comments

Michael Green, architectural thought leader and principal at MGA, shares some thoughts on marketing.

A few of us in the office were recently discussing common characteristics and marketing approaches amongst thriving architecture firms when Michael Green Architecture (MGA) popped to mind. The firm’s principal, Michael Green, previously worked under world renowned architect Cesar Pelli and was a principal of award-winning MGB Architecture before launching his own firm in 2012. Since its inception, MGA has become a global magnet for high quality clients with an impressive roster of architectural achievements. In 2013, Michael Green’s notoriety spiked with the release of his now viral Ted talk video and his presentation at IdeaCity. In both he promotes the merits and feasibility of tall wood buildings, and demonstrates clear thought leadership on the subject. We invited Michael to have a drink with us and share his thoughts on marketing for architecture firms. He generously agreed and came dressed in his casual west-coast attire. We conducted the interview in Vancouver’s first Paris-style patio, designed by Michael Green Architecture itself. Below are a few interesting lessons he shared with us:


“If you do what you care about, it’s easy to sell it… it’s easy to become successful.”

According to Michael, one of the main contributors to MGA’s success is its authentic and relatable motives. MGA has a benevolent reason why it does what it does that goes far beyond growth or profits. He points to one of his, and our, favourite models: the Golden Circle from Simon Sinek’s book Start With Why. Drawing from it, he emphasizes the beliefs and values of his brand are really what attracts people, stakeholders, and potential clients. When people perceive these traits, agree with them, and see they’d enjoy working with MGA, a long term relationship is already in the works.


“We make sure that everything we ever touch has a story to it. And that probably is the single greatest theme of our work”

The tricky part is, how does an architectural firm properly express its beliefs, values, and motivations through its brand? According to Michael, it’s done through storytelling. Stories have the capacity to explain more than just what an architecture firm does or how it provides its services but why the firm does what it does. MGA capitalizes on this by telling all sorts of stories about the team, the community, and about individual projects. According to the MGA website, “a beautiful space or building falls short if it doesn’t connect with a story.” So how does MGA tell stories?


“Architects should be about connecting with people.”

Traditionally, architects have been disconnected from the public, but that’s all changing. Advances in technology—such as websites, search engines, and social media—have opened doors, allowing anyone to join the architectural forum. MGA is trying to adapt accordingly and ensure openness to everyone, not just potential clients or industry professionals. At MGA, connecting with people is key to their success.


“We all need to share… and be generous with what we do.”

It seems counter-intuitive, but Michael cites generosity as one of the greatest contributing factors to his firm’s success. Perhaps the most notable example stems from his altruistic contribution to the discussion regarding tall wooden buildings. He spends countless hours researching, writing, and sharing valued content in support of the cause. Most notably, his 200 page research document titled: The Case for Tall Wood Buildings. But also his many blog posts and publications. Michael and his team passionately believe in the benefits of tall wood buildings. And they openly share their passion with the public.

But Michael’s generosity also extends outside of the architectural profession.


“The design statement encompasses everything. From the way you design the web, through to how you communicate, through to the building execution.”

An architecture firm’s website and online communications are just as much a part of its design statement as any of its buildings. According to Michael Green, having an excellent website that accurately reflects the firm’s brand—with its motivations, stories, and human connections—is critical to MGA’s future success. Without an appealing online presence, he recognizes that his firm will have a difficult time hiring the best architects and attracting the best new clients.

So, what are your company’s beliefs and values? And are you making them clear and accessible to the public through storytelling, generosity, and proper online communications?

To view the entire interview, click here.

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