BOD, PR, and Q&A
November 3, 2020
A bit different of a post this week. Two quick pieces, then part one of my interview with Patrick MacLeamy. Here goes:
- Great news from NGA this week with the announcement of four new members added to an already amazing board of directors. Congrats to Courtney Little, Denise Baker, Silas Koonse, and most especially for me, Chris Dolan. As readers of this blog know I am huge fan of Chris and his “megatron” like skillset (an old reference to Chris being like the Calvin Johnson of the Glass Industry, a guy who can do anything at the highest level) and adding him to the board is absolutely awesome for our industry. Very pumped for this group to keep growing what the NGA does to continue to help our industry!
- This week I add one more person to my most influential 15; that would be the best PR person in the history of our industry, Heather West. If you don’t work with PR people, your image of them is the “Hollywood” version of a fast-talking person selling and spinning. Well, that’s not very accurate in real life or our industry, and it is surely not Heather.
No, Heather is sharp and focused and there’s never “spin,” just cold, hard, usually awesome facts that advance her clients and our industry a great deal. When I look at Heather, I see someone who set the PR bar impossibly high and I appreciate that because, again, what she has done has advanced the appreciation and usage of glass and glazing. Heather also happens to be a class act, so in addition to being an amazing influence, she’s good people. On my list she goes!
I have six spots now filled, nine left to go, and I just feel so grateful that all of these people I am listing not only positively disrupted our industry, but had a great influence on me and how I do things.
- Ok, I have written a few times on the book Designing a World-Class Architecture Firm by Patrick MacLeamy former CEO of HOK. I was lucky enough to get an email interview with Patrick and here is Part 1. You’ll see how his passion comes through here and the book was the same way.
Q&A with Patrick MacLeamy, Part 1
Max Peristein: Now that the book has been out a while, has anyone you worked with had any issues with you talking about some of the tougher times in the business like the cash flow challenges or branch politics, etc.? This was such a rare peek inside the halls of an organization everyone in our little world knows.
Patrick MacLeamy: None whatsoever—transparency was at the root of HOK’s emergence from those challenges, and that openness helped influence Designing a World-Class Architecture Firm. Honest communication allowed HOK to identify its flaws and create solutions. As one example, after HOK’s accounting system was simplified so everyone in the company could understand it, we opened the books. Each office could see how the others were performing, increasing positive peer pressure and collaboration. HOK is owned by employee shareholders, and company-wide support was offered to offices that weren’t meeting goals. Also, my annual visits to each office included Ask Me Anything sessions for all staff. So, transparency is part of HOK’s DNA. It played a vital role in reclaiming financial stability and a collaborative culture (which we call HOK Culture).
MP: You were in charge of HOK from 2003 to 2016. You navigated the company through a bunch of very pivotal issues that could’ve taken a wrong turn somewhere. Of every victory you had though, which one is the one you appreciate the most? For me it had to be paying off the BOA loan. (HOK had a line of credit with Bank of America that had become a pain point for a few different reasons) That scotch afterwards had to taste extra good!
PM: That was probably the most satisfying extrication. Everyone in the company made sacrifices to pay off HOK’s line of credit. The experience prompted me to include insights on relationships with banks in Designing a World-Class Architecture Firm. Firms should seek out banks that view clients as partners, not just revenue sources.
MP: HOK and sports and the adventures you had in that space was the biggest surprise for me in the book. You eventually handled everything and came out ahead, but I have think it was a heck of challenge given the strong imaging the brand had not only in the building product world but even with the everyday consumer who looked at HOK as the premier designer of all of these great new stadiums. How tough were those times and if you could do anything different what would you have done?
PM: In 1983 HOK hired four architects in Kansas City with specialized sports design experience. These designers transformed stadiums into multi-functional event centers by adding luxury suites, retail, and other amenities. Along the way they grew the small office into a hugely successful practice that became HOK Sport. The timing was perfect—many professional teams’ stadium leases were set to expire in the 1980s and 1990s, and HOK Sport subsequently designed Camden Yards for the Baltimore Orioles, MetLife Stadium for the Jets and Giants, United Center where the Bulls play in Chicago, and numerous others.
HOK Sport became one of the firm’s primary profit centers. That division’s revenue covered shortfalls in other areas—which led to growing pains and HOK having to re-assess its accounting and bonus programs. In retrospect, HOK Sport’s merger with Lobb (which specialized in sports architecture in the UK and Australia) wasn’t a seamless fit. HOK should have demanded that Lobb assimilate into HOK’s London office instead of retaining their existing London location. It created a rift between HOK Sport and the rest of the company. HOK’s core culture was one of collaboration, and HOK Sport had operated autonomously from the beginning. We ultimately sold HOK Sport to its leaders and relaunched the division, re-aligning operations with the rest of the company. The new HOK Sports + Recreation + Entertainment was an instant success, with projects including Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Hard Rock Stadium’s modernization in Miami, and others.
Next week: Where glass fits in, Coaching, BuildingSMART and more....