Written by Wendy Osaki

We are proud to announce we placed #47 on the San Francisco Business Times’ 100 Fastest Growing Private Companies list. Companies who made the list were ranked by percentage growth in revenue from 2017 to 2019. The 2020 Fast 100 class honorees are based in 25 different cities and reflect a varied range of industries and sizes—each following a different path toward economic success. After our place was revealed, we asked our Founder William Duff and Director of Operations Phoebe Lam for their reflections on how we got here and what’s important for sustaining our firm size.

How did we achieve this amount of growth?

“We’ve been very intentional,” says Phoebe Lam. “We’ve built our practice areas with specific goals based on the type of work we’re interested in, and what we’re well-suited for. We revisit these goals every quarter. This helps us stay focused and plan our business development and networking based on what we are trying to achieve.”

Transparency is important too. “It’s essential to get buy-in from all stakeholders. We can only achieve our goals if everyone knows what they are,” Phoebe added.

How do we maintain firm culture?

“People are the most important part of our work,” said Phoebe. When recruiting, we look for the best people who align with our values, and how we engage in our work. We’re always focused on firm culture and keeping our identity. By staying connected, we keep that small firm feel even as we grow.”

William Duff noted, “As you grow, it’s also important to focus on organizational development within the firm. Part of getting bigger is accepting a continuous state of change that supports people’s professional growth and creates different paths they can pursue.”

“You can experience growth by making everything very efficient, but you can lose your soul,” William cautioned. “We respond to that by having social events and making time for deeper dives and organizational introspection opportunities, like our monthly Town Hall meetings. This helps us stay connected as the firm grows.”

What’s important for sustaining a firm once you achieve a certain size?

For William, it’s key to scale systems and processes to a more complex organization. “As you grow, processes need to be systemized so they happen with regularity, planning, and rigorous execution – creating a rhythm. You’ll need to be able to manage more and need more resources to tap into, such as operations, HR, finance, and the development of new initiatives. You have to have strategy and structure that allows that to happen with organization and intent.”

“Don’t get so busy that you forget this a perpetual cycle,” Phoebe added. “It’s a continuous effort to push yourself out there, look to the future and give time to marketing and business development. If you don’t build that system, you start to roll downhill. Just doing the work itself is not enough. You need to give time to all the things that make you successful.”

What does the future look like?

“There is so much uncertainty right now. Growth is always a good thing, but it’s not the end all, be all,” said Phoebe. Whatever the future holds, we’re confident our team, tools and systems will help us successfully meet it head-on.

 

CONTRIBUTORS

William Duff, AIA, LEED AP; Phoebe Lam, Architect; Steven Lovell, AIA; Sarah Mergy; Brenna Daugherty

 

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