a critical missing aspect of firm culture that is best promoted with actual, in-person human interaction. We created a roadmap for a return to the office at a “grass roots” level through a Work Future Committee. That committee took input from all levels within the firm and examined what COVID taught us about our practice, our work efficiency, and our culture and howwe could positively take and apply that knowledge going forward. TZL: Howmuch time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” JG: Lately, it’s been more on the business than in the business. The last couple of years have been challenging for a variety of reasons, but we’re very excited about where we are headed. While we’ve all persevered through COVID, it’s been much more difficult to bring our culture forward and to integrate new talent. It’s probably two-thirds on and one-third in these days. “There’s a delicate balance between having smooth, predictable transitions while offering sufficient growth opportunities for leadership and ownership within the firm year after year.” TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? JG: The clients’ trust is paramount. Design, by its nature, is a big challenge. We’re always inventing something new and improving upon something we did previously. Architecture is really a series of prototypes that are by definition “flawed” in some way. Most of our clients realize this, but overwhelmingly we try to make them part of our process of Responsive Design. This collaborative, multi-disciplinary process demands client engagement and usually through that process there are opportunities to align vision and prioritize and build that critical level of trust. TZL: Diversity and inclusion are lacking. What steps are you taking to address the issue? JG: We’ve had a lot of very frank, recent conversations on this topic. I certainly won’t say we have the diversity/inclusion puzzle “solved” but we are taking active steps to recruit and promote more diversely. There’s a legacy aspect reflective of previous
generations’ disparity in architectural education and some of that is beginning to self-correct. However, the firm leadership recognizes that simply waiting for it to happen naturally isn’t enough, so we’re examining avenues for intentional outreach and engagement to try to become more representative of the population as a whole. TZL: What benefits does your firm offer that your people get most excited about? JG: We offer a generous benefits plan with a solid, recently-improved 401(k) match, a robust medical plan, and excellent maternity and paternity leave opportunities. We have good, collaborative office work environments, strong professional development, and a nice, family-friendly, highly social firm culture. Unfortunately, COVID has impacted the benefit of this last grouping significantly, but we’re in the process of getting these rebooted as we begin to return to the hybrid work-office environment. TZL: You became a principal in 2000 and then firm president in 2010. Did you strive to be president? How did that evolve? JG: To be honest, not particularly with respect to taking on the role of president. Lord Aeck Sargent had long been a very collaborative, collegial firm that embraced different voices, finding common ground and building consensus around our key business decisions. As LAS evolved from the founding partners’ structure as a company (initially adding other principals/owners – and then later at the CEO level), I felt we needed to find a way to approximate that original ethos, but as a larger firm that was continuing to grow. I wanted to use a different model, one that embraced the new broader organization. In response, we created a management team structure that was both focused on the operations of the business and was involved in the delivery of design. As someone who was deeply involved in design and in the business of architecture, this structure better fit our culture as well as my talents and interests and allowed me to maintain a connection to our design practice through having the time to remain actively engaged on projects. TZL: How are you balancing investment in the next generation – which is at an all-time high – with rewards for tenured staff? This has always been a challenge, but seems heightened as investments in development have increased. JG: LAS recently made a conscious decision See LOOK TOWARD THE FUTURE , page 8
HEADQUARTERS: Atlanta, GA NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 130 (and growing) YEAR FOUNDED: 1989, with roots back to 1942 OFFICE LOCATIONS: 6 DESIGN: ■ ■ Science and technology ■ ■ Education ■ ■ Arts and culture ■ ■ Historic preservation ■ ■ Housing and mixed-use ■ ■ Urban design and planning ■ ■ Landscape architecture ■ ■ Interior design EXPERTISE: ■ ■ Sustainable design ■ ■ Cost management ■ ■ Construction administration ■ ■ Building technologies ■ ■ Interior design ■ ■ Planning ■ ■ BIM ■ ■ Landscape architecture ■ ■ Conservation lab ■ ■ Laboratory planning ■ ■ Environmental graphic design GREEN OPERATIONS: LAS is a fully climate neutral organization, purchasing 100 percent green energy to power offices and offset emissions from travel associated with projects.
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NUARY 3, 2022, ISSUE 1422
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