[2016 is the year of the Arkitrek Sabbatical and we’ll be publishing a series of articles by Arkitrekkers explaining what the sabbatical means to them. Arkitrek founder, Ian Hall, kicks us off.]
Sabbatical to me means to take time out from a job that you intend to return to. In contemplating the meaning of the Arkitrek Sabbatical, I am immediately faced with the difficulty of separating myself from Arkitrek. Am I speaking about what the Arkitrek Sabbatical means to me, or what the Sabbatical means to Arkitrek?
To Arkitrek, the Sabbatical primarily means needing time to adapt to both a downturn in business and being dealt an almost entirely new cast of staff: coincidentally and for different reasons in mid-2015 most of the Arkitrek staff, including the entire management team, decided that they wanted to take time out at the same time. The Arkitrek Sabbatical for me is therefore about separation and succession.
The idea of a leadership transition is not new to Arkitrek and as the founder I had our separation in mind back in 2005 when my old mate and junglist, Andy Lo, first coined the name. It is common for architecture practices to be named after either their founder, or founding partners. I did not want this because I wanted to one day pass the business to other people without also passing them the burden and indignity of working in someone else’s name. Arkitrek was the perfect name that resonated with our founding values and upon which other people could imprint their own values and experiences.
“Why do you want to keep Arkitrek going?” was the surprising question, on the subject of succession, posed to me by Phyllis Chin recently. Beyond the mundane answer that: ‘I want a chance to recoup my investment’ and the sentimental: ‘It would be a shame for it to die’, lies a third answer that ‘there are many outstanding Arkitrekkers who have told me that given a chance they would want to come back to work for Arkitrek. I want to keep it going so that they will have something to come back to.’
As it turns out, Arkitrek is not entirely on sabbatical: there will be no Arkitrek Camp in 2016 but we do have to ensure that we honour our professional duty to existing clients and that we follow up on existing business leads. Luckily for Arkitrek, Filzah Jamjam decided that she doesn’t want to move on this year after all and is sticking around to keep the candle burning.
Remember at the start that I said that a sabbatical is something that you come back from. Arkitrek will come back from the Sabbatical with an entirely new management team, new staff, new advisers, new clients and new business opportunities. As for me, I may not come back to Arkitrek Malaysia, but somewhere else in the world. This opens up the enticing possibility of global expansion.
Meanwhile I still need the sabbatical time out to figure out how to effect my separation and succession. I have brought Arkitrek to a good place and now it’s time to make space for the far greater potential of all those outstanding Arkitrekkers. In this article in the Harvard Business Review, the author discusses ‘the founder’s dilemma’, and postulates that as a business grows, sooner or later the founder will have to make a decision between being rich and being in control.
I want Arkitrek to be rich and the Arkitrek definition of rich is probably more in line with Bob Marley than a venture capitalist, but I think that the point of the article is on the mark. It is time for me to relinquish control.