The sky’s the limit …
Art Gensler is the epitome of business and personal success.
He is behind the design of many of the world’s best-known buildings – from China’s tallest skyscraper to terminals at San Francisco International Airport.
Over the decades, Gensler’s firm has designed universities, hotels, sports stadiums and universities, encompassing almost every part of the built environment. Some of his designs include the corporate headquarters for Facebook, Burberry and Hyundai, and airports from Detroit, Michigan, to Incheon, South Korea.
In the process, the company has grown into a giant of global architecture, employing thousands of people at offices in 50 cities worldwide. A huge transformation since it’s very humble beginnings as a small interiors shop in 1965, employing a total of 3 people.
Whilst Gensler passed away earlier this year, his legacy lives on in his book, “Art’s Principles”, which contains valuable advice for business leaders – something he considered integral to his company’s success.
Here is a synopsis of his 1o tips:
- Take advantage of every opportunity.
Chance encounters can lead to major opportunities.
As an example, Gensler met Steve Jobs after speaking during a conference in California, just after the Apple II had been released. After their chance encounter, Jobs hired him to design Apple’s new campus and he served as Jobs’ designer on-and-off for several years.
As another example, Gensler just happened to be on a JetBlue flight at the same time former JetBlue CEO, David Neeleman, was on the plane talking to customers about how their flying experience could be improved. Gensler mentioned to Neeleman that his company could design airports. Neeleman hired him shortly after that to design a terminal for JFK International Airport.
- Embrace the small projects.
One of Gensler’s first projects was designing an ashtray for the interior design of a building. As his firm kept winning high-profile projects, Gensler still wanted to keep working on the small projects. “Somebody’s gotta design it. It might as well be us,” he is quoted as saying. Now, the firm will design anything from a wine label to a massive high-rise tower.
- Develop long-term relationships with clients.
When your company completes a project successfully, you get the opportunity to build a lasting relationship with that client, Gensler said. Ideally, this results in clients trusting your company, so much so that they will often bypass the presentation and negotiation process for future projects.
- Hire the top talent.
Gensler emphasised the recruiting process and said a company is built on strong employees. “Provide the infrastructure for them, and get out of their way,” he said.
- Build a strong work culture.
Gensler said that when his company hires a new employee, he tells them it takes a year to fully understand the work culture. Current CEO Andy Cohen commented that “Art taught us all about pursuing personal passions, opening doors for our people to excel at what they love to do, and working together to redefine the profession. He showed us anything is possible.”
- Focus on retention.
Once a company finds a great talent, it is crucial to retain them. Pay your employees well and offer a strong bonus program.
- Value your work.
Gensler was adamant that his firm never participated in design competitions or offered free services. “People value what they pay for, not what they get for free,” he said.
- Avoid internal competition.
Some companies implement a “star system” for their employees, but Gensler found that approach ineffective and not compatible with teamwork. “We treat each other as a family, rather than competing against each other,” he said.
- Encourage employees to have a life outside of work.
Gensler felt it was important to have staff that can talk about more than just design work. “Get your people to have a life after 6,” he said.
- Give back to the community.
Although company culture is a major focus, engaging with the community and giving back is a vital component to a successful business.
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I hope you have enjoyed these insights. Have a great week and stay growth-focused!
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