Contract - January 2009 - (Page 92)

practice Unfortunately, a great designer does not always equal a great leader of a firm. “I want something that can live on,” says Lauren Rottet, FAIA, IIDA, founding principal of Rottet Studio. A highly decorated professional, Rottet has worked for and with major firms such as Skidmore Owings & Merrill (SOM) and DMJM Rottet, where she was principal-in-charge, before leaving this past year to form her privatelyheld practice that maintains offices in a number of major U.S. cities.“I’m really focusing on trying to see which of my good designers can get their arms around the bigger picture,” she says. For Rottet, that “bigger picture” involves design leadership that encompasses not just beautiful work, but also includes financial, managerial, and marketing skills that reflect her firm, her vision, and her client relationships. And that means finding good designers who are more than just good designers. “How do you perpetuate a design firm? You can’t just produce design. All these other things are just as important,” says Rottet. “In When Russel started Essential Futures in 2004, it became clear to her that for the design industry, the notion of succession transition was important, as many firms didn’t have a handle on it. Many didn’t even know how to interview for management skills. “First you need to figure out what you want to do,” Russel says of moving to the next generation of managers and owners. “And you must be open to leadership potential.” A big mistake firms make is not knowing what they want their futures to be and believing that somehow it will magically fall into place, but never actually sharing or giving up control. “Two critical factors in succession transitions are finding people to do it and getting out of the way so that they can,” Russel says. People need to have accountability and the authority to make decisions and make mistakes as well. Passing down client relationships is an important aspect of this process. Managers must make formal introductions between clients and the transitioning staff, she says, “They get an opportunity to talk in front of peers and get compliments and guidance,” she explains, adding that presentation is crucial in the development of good senior designers and managers. “When we do our marketing presentations, we always have a senior designer there, but also try to have someone intermediate involved, so they are up on their feet and talking,” she says. Rottet also likes to get her younger designers as involved as possible. “You have to spend a lot of time with the designers you see have talent and you can mentor. You have to be very upfront with them and critique them. I like to show even young designers what the projects are all about, and give them the full range of information. I tend to give people more information rather than less so I can see what they are best at.” HOK is required by its corporate team to have each office’s managerial committee be on the look-out leader, not a follower In order to ensure that a firm lives on after its founders leave, possible candidates to assume the empty throne must be weeded out at the starting gate By AnnMarie Marano terms of leadership, you must take time to know the people you are going to promote into those positions. They can’t have an ego to make it all about them, but instead will make it about the firm, the design, and the work. They need to learn the other side of the business.” According to Dorothy Russel, principal and founder of Toronto-based Essential Futures—a management consulting firm that focuses on helping designers build a succession transition plan and prepare for the transfer of accountability—the most important job of owners is considering their firms’ future. “Owners understand that in terms of design development, but forget it in terms of firm development,” she says. or else it will be a hindrance if those contacts aren’t passed down to the next generation. There has to be a natural evolution based on employee strengths, especially when control is being transferred to the employees within the organization. A map should be delineated that allows staff to move around in order to develop the expertise required to someday become a senior leader. One might think such mentoring programs would get lost at a firm the size of HOK, but that is not the case. Each office conducts a monthly design forum, and according to Juliette Lam, senior principal in the New York office, it serves as a venue for any level of designer to present their work and do so in a more gentle environment than a design critique or review. for future stars and to retain and foster them, giving them a chance to shine. Other ways to ensure successful transitions include employee ownership programs. “About 400 or so employees own stock in the company,” Lam says. “So we haven’t had the transition problems that some other firms have had.” “There is a huge potential for contribution through employee ownership,” says Russel. “When people have an ownership stake, they can reap financial rewards and therefore there is more interest.” Give us your feedback on this story at 92 contract january 2009

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Contract - January 2009

Contract - January 2009
Urban Elegance
Beyond Fad
Designers of the Year
Legend Award
The 30th Annual Interiors Awards
Large Office
Small Office
Public Space
Environmental Design
Designers Rate: Furniture Systems
Leader, Not a Follower
Deconstructing Costs
Ad Index

Contract - January 2009