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helping others, and gave me tremendous awareness that there are people who truly care for their fellow humans. They’ve also taught me to be an ambassador of positivity for the causes and organizations I support – professional or personal. TZL: You’ve recently been recognized for your firm’s growth and management. To what do you most attribute that recognition? RD: I attribute it to my business partner, Michael Crackel, our talented staff, and trusting clients, along with our relentless persistence to improve every day. We’ve been fortunate to have experienced substantial revenue growth over the past four years despite the pandemic. To achieve this growth, we’ve remained dedicated to design excellence and we’ve had a very focused strategic business plan that has been communicated by leadership and supported by staff. I still strongly believe that dedicated, rigorous work and thoughtful preparation are essential to success and one’s ability to effectively react to opportunity and “luck.” “There are many lessons learned from military service that carry over, from leadership and precision to persistence through challenges and adversity. TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?” RD: Despite the common “wisdom” of analysis to this very topic, ThinkForm’s most significant revenue growth has been in the years that seemingly have me working on the business more than in the business, at least versus previous years. Although I do recognize the importance of both, my shift occurred after being awarded an executive MBA certificate course through the Small Business Administration’s Emerging Leaders program in 2015. As a licensed architect, licensed interior designer, and LEED accredited professional, my professional passion is design and we have set goals on how to play a larger role in the capacity of a designer. However, ThinkForm places high value on principal- level client involvement from start to finish, and for us that begins pre-proposal stage. Therefore, I would argue that as architects we need to shift the conversation from “in/ However, for me, the greatest lesson is others before self.”

on the business” to the reality of what is required to build a brand that just so happens to allow us to practice and contribute our craft. This seems to be less of a question or analysis of whether I’m an entrepreneur or a licensed professional. Nonetheless, I am “in the business” daily and as the president and founder, I am “on the business” – also daily. “It’s important to not lose sight of your moral compass in business. I’ve lost count of ‘opportunities’ I’ve passed on if only I would look the other way.” TZL: What are your tips for managing growth? RD: Create a detailed plan pertaining to what, when, where, who, and how. Surround yourself with talent, collaborate, listen, lead decisively, delegate, thoughtfully plan for tomorrow, and energetically live for today. TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients? RD: Just as ThinkForm’s principal-level client involvement begins pre-proposal, so does trust. This begins with the integrity of the ThinkForm team, including its principals. One may argue that it’s easier to make money in the AEC industry by going along with every “questionable” offer that comes one’s way. It’s important to not lose sight of your moral compass in business. I’ve lost count of “opportunities” I’ve passed on if only I would look the other way. With 29 years of experience in the AEC industry, I’m comfortable being honest with potential clients and current clients, whether it’s about their program, schedule, budget, or anything else pertaining to our expertise. We’ve won some and lost some based on this philosophy, however, it’s resulted in exceptional relationships and recommendations. Where others may tell a potential or current client what they think the client wants to hear or provide a proposal with more pages of exclusions rather than what’s required of the project, ThinkForm has earned trust by doing just the opposite. I’m often asked, “What makes a great project?” My response is always “a great client.” TZL: What role does your family play in your career? Are work and family separate, or is there overlap? See RELENTLESS PERSISTENCE , page 8





Hopewell, NJ

Charleston, SC

Tampa, FL

Cincinnati, OH








Federal government



Interior design

ADDING VALUE: We’re always looking to add value through design and for talented individuals who are as passionate about design as ThinkForm.

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RUARY 13, 2023, ISSUE 1476

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