Art’s Principles: Lessons Learned from a World-Class Service Firm
Art Gensler started his architecture firm in 1965 and it has grown to one of the largest firms in the world with more than 90 offices across the globe. His book, Art’s Principles, covers many of the lessons he has learned over the years. After a few of us around the office read the book, we decided to share how these concepts can develop a successful firm and how we might apply them to our practice.
Here are our top 5 takeaways:
1. Wash. Rinse. Repeat
To have a successful business, you must execute the following and do it over and over until it is ingrained.
Here at Schmidt Associates, we want to work with clients that align with our business’ mission, vision, and goals. We have strategies in place that will help us decide when to say “yes” to a project, but also when to say “no”. We put in a lot of time and effort into projects, and we want to make sure we say “yes” to projects that will create a cultural alignment and will have a return on investment – as do most businesses. Our sales team makes sure that we know our clients, what their needs and pain points are. After we know this, we can implement an approach and plan to meet their unique needs and alleviate those pains.
2. Building Company Culture
Art talks about several aspects that can create a strong and healthy company culture, and we personally connect to many.
- Trust: In order to be successful as a company, you need to build a strong foundation of trust with your clients. Once you have spent time building that trust through example, it is just as important to make sure you maintain and further build upon this relationship. If you don’t have your client’s trust, then you cannot truly lead or serve them. One way that we know we’ve gained a client’s trust is when we are able to say we’ve worked with them on several projects over several years.
- Sense of family: We think that most of, if not all, our staff would agree that a “sense of family” is a major pillar to our company’s culture. Granted our office of just over 70 people is much smaller than Gensler’s thousands of staff members, the significance of creating a family culture is just as important.
- Work-life balance: Another important facet of a strong company culture that he mentions in his book is a good work-life balance. According to Art, that means leaving no later than 6:00pm and doing activities outside of work. Do something that strengthens the community around you and give back through time, talent, treasure, and transactions. Taking time to enjoy life outside of the office and tending to personal agendas will lead to more productive and satisfied employees.
Art’s Principles lists out 6 main traits of a leader to seek out and develop
- Efficiency and Effectiveness
And 6 skills to seek out and develop
A good leader will most likely have more than one trait and a handful of these skills, but it is important to hone in on their strengths to produce the best leaders. At Schmidt we believe that all staff have the opportunity to lead. We encourage staff to build on those skills and practice them both internally and externally.
Simply put, you need to develop a strategy that will attract the best talent as well as retain it. Find the right ways that will get the right future employees at the right time. By creating a challenging-enough, fun environment that allows your employees to grow as professionals in a career, not just a job, will allow you to keep the best employees right where you want them, in your office. To do this, you will need to invest in your people – training and coaching along the way so that they want to come back for more every day.
At Schmidt Associates we take this to heart. Each year we invest a great deal of time in career pathing in both the spring and the fall to meet with each staff member to review career goals. We also provide on-going training opportunities to ensure continued growth and development of staff. This has helped to keep voluntary turnover low and employee engagement high.
5. Ways of a Winning Business
- Everyone is a marketer within the company – you never know when there will be an opportunity to bring in a project.
- No projects are too small for a great client – they help to build trust (if done well) and hold growth opportunities.
- Respect your client – make them part of your team, speak their language, and manage their expectations along the way.
- Become trusted advisor to your clients – look at the bigger picture while finding solutions and delivering on your promises. The ultimate sign of a trusted advisor is when your client shares you with others.
- People value what they pay for – charging a fair fee for our services reinforces that there is value added for our clients through our depth of expertise and skill.