March 12, 2012 | Michael Fox | Uncategorized

Entrepreneurship in Architecture – My Education

This is my next installment (only one left) on the Entrepreneurship in Architecture presentation I gave at Washington University in St. Louis last Fall. The adjacent graphics helped illustrate the critical issues I (we) were facing back in the mid-eighties. I titled this entry My Education because it really was the period that we would mature or perish. Fortunately we did mature…albeit at a glacier pace.

At this point the firm was six years old, but still crawling. I believed, in error, that after we were hired to renovate Emerson’s World Headquarters we would advance like a rocket. Far from it, we still maintained our “slower growth trajectory”. Much of this was due to our firm’s “split personality”. As you may remember the firm started as an interior planning firm, but with Emerson’s increasing faith in us and their projects becoming progressively more complex and architectural in nature, we had a critical decision¬† to make. Become an Architectural Firm or remain an Interior Planning Firm and forever be subordinated to other architectural firms. For me the decision was easy – we would become an Architectural Firm. The decision was easy, the journey ahead was far from it.

The most obvious impact of this decision was to “recruit” an architect that could provide our firm with the professional experience, leadership qualities and personal chemistry required to make our transformation a reality. Like I have done my whole life, I acted quickly. Too quickly, I grabbed the first person that “appeared” to fill the bill. He was a seasoned professional with extensive experience. But after a few years it became apparent that this Principal’s leadership and chemistry capabilities did not fit our firm.

We wrestled our way along, but a big change was necessary and fast! My stress level was at the breaking point. The Architectural Principal had to go. I made the decision, he was re-leaved of his responsibilities – I gathered our senior people, told them of my decision (believing that once I told them, they could possibly all leave too) and hoped for the best. To my relief and delight, they all felt the move was long overdue! We began a period of reasonable stability and better chemistry. I balance had desired seemed to naturally evolve.

As we continued to mature through this period, we enjoyed stable levels of project activity, but we were not as balanced as I felt we needed to be….more a bit later.

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