An introspective look on leadership by Dave Heater, President of AMA.
Three years ago, after 25 years at Ankrom Moisan Architects, I took on the role of president of the firm and started the ride of a lifetime. As I look ahead to starting my fourth year this summer, I finally took some time to reflect and take stock of where we’re going in the future. Here are three lessons learned along the way.
Lesson #1: Invest in the Business of the Business
Design is a deeply personal, emotional and subjective profession, and as an architect, I had spent my career on the creative side working for our clients as a project manager and principal. But when it comes to running a growing business, getting behind the scenes of how the firm operates is just as important as running a great project.
When I became president, Ankrom Moisan was midstream in a big push to complete large investments in our workplaces, with beautiful offices in both Portland and Seattle being designed to accommodate a growing employee base and our eyes on expanding with a new footprint in San Francisco. These efforts proved to be amazing successes. http://portlandtribune.com/but/239-news/336958-216241-new-space-for-ankrom-moisan-
As we grew, it became clear we needed to put more investment in our financial systems. They just weren’t set up to keep pace with the amount of change we were going through. So, we rebuilt a top-notch business office with a great leader that’s going to be essential to helping us meet our ambitious goals. https://www.linkedin.com/in/bobbiejenkins/ . If you want to grow and exceed the success you’ve already experienced, investing in the business of the business is essential.
Lesson #2: Two Ears Are Never Enough
Clearly, listening to your clients and your team is essential to building a successful business. But when you’re hearing so much, its easy to let things get jumbled together. Knowing what you’re listening for helps you prioritize what’s really important.
One area that I truly value and continue working to improve on is understanding the unique issues of our creative leadership team. Ankrom Moisan has nine teams firmwide, and the 13 individuals who dedicate their careers to their teams and clients have a lot on their plates. Design can be a stressful business, so listening to understand and acknowledge the unique issues each leader is facing is essential to making decisions that help us succeed as a firm.
The other group that needs to have its voices heard are employees – at all levels of the firm. Design attracts passionate people (we should all be so lucky, right?) who need and deserve a place to express their opinions as much as their creativity. In-person forums, online tools and impromptu hallway conversations give people a lot of different ways to share their thoughts – and we can always do this better.
The point is, different people deliver feedback in different ways, so it’s important to do everything you can to get the full picture of what makes people tick and what helps the business move forward.
Lesson #3: Get Clear on the Path Ahead and Walk it Together
A place like Ankrom Moisan is tremendously busy, with client work happening across seven different project types and firm wide initiatives to constantly improve our operations, outputs and outcomes. This is intense and important.
But it also pays look at the big picture and clarify the path forward. One of the ways we’re doing that is with what we’re calling Ankrom Moisan 24/7, a strategic blueprint for creating our future.
Many of the concepts in 24/7 have been around Ankrom Moisan for a while – a healthy margin, pushing the boundaries of design leadership in everything we do, and growing our business in four cities up and down the West Coast – but we wanted to show how they all work together and where they can take us.
This is especially important for a firm planning for the growth and change we have on the horizon. New people come into the company. Individuals have their own individual priorities and aspirations. Having the strategic blueprint in place helps people align their own goals with those of the company and helps us all grow together.
I’m amazingly proud of Ankrom Moisan. We have an ambitious strategy for financial health, growth and quality. And, most importantly, we have an amazing team of individuals who all come to work each day to collaborate, innovate and create places where people and communities thrive.
If you made it to the end of this post, no matter who you are, I thank you and hope you took something away from it. If you’re an Ankrom Moisan employee, I thank you for everything you do, every day.