THE ZWEIG LETTER | OCTOBER 31, 2011, ISSUE 933
TO P P L AY E R
Former banker leads firm to success
Michael Hinton says failure is a motivator, but only if you learn from it. K nowing thy banker has never been as important as it is now in the A/E/P and environmental consult- ing industry; something that will likely turn many firm leaders green with envy of Michael Hinton. Hinton, the president of Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, Inc.
duct weekly “rounds” where we share information about active and pro- spective projects and clients. We share problems and invite our teammates to offer thoughts and suggestions. It’s our way of reminding everyone that they are not in this alone. TZL: What is it in your DNA that drives you to success? Is it audac- ity and risk-taking; a can-do at- titude and a relentless pursuit of perfection; something else more abstract? MH: The greatest driver for me is the knowledge that hundreds of individu- als and families (including my own) de- pend upon me and BLA to be success- ful in order to allow them to pursue and enjoy the things that bring them happi- ness. I grew up playing team sports and I found great motivation in the notion that there were others depending upon me to do my job well in order for the team to succeed. TZL: In today’s difficult business climate, what does it take to suc- ceed? Is the spectrum of failure a motivator? MH: The spectrum of failure is, in- deed, a great motivator; but only if we keep failure in perspective and use it to guide us to success. Several years ago, I presented the commencement speech for a local college graduating class. I ti- tled the speech, “The Monumental Un- importance of Failure.” It referred to the fact that the most successful people of all time were also the most frequent “failers” of all time. Examples are Lin- coln, Edison and Babe Ruth. The differ- ence was that they used their failures as a roadmap to know what to avoid and to point them to success. They were never defeated by failure. The biggest reason that BLA is the successful com- pany it is today is that Keith Lochmuel- ler simply refused to accept that he had failed at a particularly tough early point in the company’s history. While others around him were wringing their hands, he figured out how the company need- ed to adjust to be successful and he just kept charging.
dent ends up leading a design consulting firm, but it’s really not so outlandish when you know the background. My career started while I was still in college in the mid-’70s. I worked nearly full-time in transportation plan- ning for the Evansville, Ind., M.P.O. The M.P.O. director at the time happened to be Keith Lochmueller, who lat- er founded Bernardin, Lochmueller and As- sociates, Inc. I worked there for five years and built a lifelong friend- ship with Keith, who served as my earliest mentor. During my 26 years in banking, Keith and I stayed close, and
Michael Hinton, President, Bernardin, Lochmueller and Associates, Inc.
“The biggest reason that BLA is the successful company it is today is that Keith Lochmueller simply refused
to accept that he had failed at a particularly tough early point in the company’s history.”
(Evansville, ID), a 160-person full-ser- vice survey, planning, engineering and environmental firm, is also a former banker. A combination of that strong banking background and business acumen have helped Hinton lead BLA all the way to No. 73 in The Zweig Letter 2011 Hot Firm List. In this interview, Hinton talks about learning from failure, teamwork, and a future that will become ever-depen- dent on architects and engineers. The Zweig Letter: What does it mean to be a Hot Firm? Michael Hinton: Being selected as a ZweigWhite Hot Firm is a confirmation that our hard work and dedication to the strategy we have pursued the past five years has paid off. The Hot Firm List is the industry’s most recognized list of the firms that are earning the fastest growth and greatest success. It’s gratifying to our leadership team, fun for our employees, and reassuring to our bankers. TZL: How did you get where you are today? MH: There are lots of people asking that question! Most people are con- fused about how a former bank presi-
my bank financed the growth of his firm. Upon leaving the banking indus- try, Keith was in a search for BLA. It was a great firm technically, but need- ed business experience. He asked me to take over as president, and the fit has been great for me and, hopefully, good for the company as well. TZL: Do you remember your first paid job? What did you learn then that still influences the way you work today? MH: Actually, my first job was selling shoes for the local Kinney Shoe Store. The manager was a stickler for a tech- nique he referred to as “turning over a sale” at least three times before let- ting a customer walk. If I had a custom- er who was about to leave without buy- ing, I was to ask the customer to allow me to bring over the specialist in men’s shoes, or ladies’ or children’s shoes – whatever was appropriate. Until we had performed this switch at least twice, meaning that three different individuals had tried to complete the sale, we had not met expectations. The key point was that we needed to act as a team and realize that we hadn’t done our best until we had asked for help when it was needed. At BLA, we con-
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