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Member Spotlight

AEBL is made up of the industry’s leading Architecture, Engineering and Environmental consulting firms. These are the companies that work to improve the natural and built environment in which we live. Our member profile looks at what firms on the cutting edge of the industry are working on, how they operate their organizations, and what opportunities they see on the horizon.

TAYLOR became an AEBL Sustaining Member in 2010. Based in Newport Beach, California, the firm employs approximately 60 people and provides full-service architecture, planning, and interior design services to healthcare clients.

In recent years, TAYLOR’s annual profit margin has been above the industry average. Even now, despite the recession, the firm’s performance has continued to be strong relative to the industry. TAYLOR is improving its overall technical capabilities by bringing in experienced professionals who have recently become available or interested in making a move due to recession-driven pressures at their previous firms.

D. Randy Regier, AIA, is president of TAYLOR, and AEBL recently spoke with Randy about his firm, the state of the industry, and his thoughts on AEBL.

taylor

How is TAYLOR addressing the challenges of the recession?

RR: While healthcare is by no means considered recession proof, firms like ours that focus the majority of their market on healthcare have been somewhat insulated from dramatic changes. Having a 100% commitment to healthcare clients has made the go/no-go process very simple around the office. If it isn’t healthcare, we don’t chase it. This wasn’t the case prior to 2005 when we dabbled in other market areas.

Another key component to our success has been developing strong leadership. All our top positions are now well defined. We have been going through an ownership and leadership transition for the past several years; we completed a buyout of the founder in 2008. In that time, we’ve been sorting out new leadership roles and how best to work together to grow the firm. We’re now to the point where we’re all moving in lockstep, handling things as a team, instead of each trying to carry the entire load individually.

Part of that has been redefining the organization as we know it – as opposed to what it was under the founder – and creating a well-defined organizational structure. There are six of us in leadership positions and we each have a defined role.

Have you made any changes because of the downturn?

RR: Last year, we organized a business development group. We started last spring and the intent was to focus an effort on business development to make sure we’re communicating as a firm…to make sure there is cross talk among folks in the office doing business development. We compare notes about clients and cross selling, and that has made a tremendous difference. We also assigned the responsibility for client contact to certain individuals and there has been a renewed focus on client contact – getting face time with them, having general discussions. So as the economy started to turn, we had those lines of communication established. We were comfortable picking up the phone and talking with clients, and we were able to show them that we understood what they were going through and we could ask them how we could help.
As a firm we also communicate more frequently with the office as a whole to fend off anxiety about what might happen versus reality. It has made a difference in moral overall.

How has the downturn affected your investment in marketing?

RR: We didn’t reduce our marketing budget, but we are taking a much closer look at how we spend our money. For example, we’re always solicited for donations and in the past, we were almost reflexive in donating money. Now we focus on the ones that are more strategic for us, rather than just opening the checkbook. You can dole it out when times are good, but we have to be more selective now.

I believe a down economy is the best time to focus on strategic planning…to look ahead and make strategic marketing decisions that will benefit the company overall. It helps that we came into this well equipped and well armed to deal with the downturn, so we’re not trying to play catch up.

We also invested in new enterprise business software that handles our accounting, contact management, project management and so on. It puts everything in one place. It’s groundbreaking. We believe it will make us more efficient in finding information about everything. It also has a client management database and everything is actively tracked as part of the business development effort. We meet monthly and everyone has activities that they are responsible for performing and reporting on every month. It is a culture shift for the firm.

The other thing we’re doing is become more focused on our brand. It’s much more defined now. We’ve taken healthcare and broken it into different practice groups — children’s, women’s, general/acute care and so on. For each one, there’s a consistent message we want to put out and that’s part of what this effort is trying to accomplish.

How is the firm performing this year?

RR: It was a little tense at the end of last year and into this year. December through the end of February, it was almost a total lockdown. Clients were nervous because their access to capital went away and the funds they rely on evaporated. It’s difficult for them to rely on income from operations to pay for big projects. But in March and April, they relaxed a little bit. Small projects were released and the work flow started to return.

Our profit this year should be okay. We’ve always been at or above the industry average, but that has more to do with our culture than anything else. We’re very team oriented; we try not to work in silos. We’re still small enough at 60 people to manage the priority of the week. We spend our time as a firm focusing on client needs, providing our clients with the best level of service and being there when they need us. We’re not too hung up on the money. We count our money at the end of the day, not during the day, and that has always worked out well for us.

What differentiates Taylor from the competition?

RR: Our greatest strength as a firm is the people we have in it. I know that sounds kind of ordinary and everybody says their staff is their biggest asset. But we have the highest caliber people. They want to be here, they enjoy what they do, and we provide them with opportunities for growth. They are allowed to spread their wings a bit and grow into their positions. If we didn’t spend our energy focused on hiring people for their character, we wouldn’t be in the place we are today. You can always train someone to do healthcare architecture, but if they don’t have the mindset and they aren’t the right type of person, none of that matters. It’s not always credentials; it’s how you fit into an organization.

One thing that differentiates us is our culture. It has a lot to do with our mission – “promoting wellness through architecture.” The people in this firm really get behind that. In health care, you can see how your work really changes people’s lives. Everybody here rallies around that as a benefit on a much bigger scale. The work we do can make the difference between someone going home in four days or six days. They can recover faster in an environment more conducive to healing. Perhaps more important, we are in the position to be able to create environments for wellness rather than just environments for curing sickness.

Healthcare architecture touches each one of us personally. We have all had a personal experience where we’ve been in the hospital or someone we know has had a serious health issue, and we’ve experienced the conditions and environment. It resonates personally, and as an architect, it gives us the perspective to know that we have an ability to effect change, to make a difference.

How does AEBL fit into the picture for TAYLOR?

RR: The great benefit of AEBL is that it’s a non-competitive place where the barriers are let down. At the CEO Roundtables, every person who attends comes in with an open mind and a willingness to assist a colleague, even if they’re technically a competitor. It’s a benefit to the industry as a whole and it makes the industry better. If you hoard your ideas and your experiences, that does nothing for the industry. With AEBL, everyone is trying to make a collectively better industry. You don’t necessarily get that in some other organizations, where it can be more competitive. AEBL is neutral territory. It’s like Switzerland.

The people in AEBL are also largely practitioners, where you get mainly consultants in other organizations. [The consultants] may have seen others do it, but in AEBL, you hear from actual practitioners who have done it and who are going through the same grind you are. It’s a huge difference. It’s having someone who has been in the trenches with you, sharing that experience. There’s more value in that.

What has AEBL meant to you in your career?

AEBL: What has AEBL meant to you in your career?

RR: As a newly minted CEO, being able to attend those CEO roundtables gave me the confidence to come back to my own organization and speak and lead with confidence. That was about five years ago, and though I may have eventually gotten there on my own, being able to sit side-by-side with CEOs that had been doing it for anywhere from five to forty years was invaluable. I can’t say enough about how beneficial that was for me. I gained way more insight into the role and it helped me formulate my vision and ideas. It gave me the conviction to know that maybe my ideas weren’t so batty after all.