David Shove-Brown with his energy, unending determination and worldly design experience gained teaching several design studios and leading the foreign programs in Italy, France, Spain and Finland for The Catholic University of America, brings a global perspective to design and fabrication. This exposure to Architecture around the world, as well as teaching students to understand and digest architecture as a wonderful blend of art and space, has made him a designer willing to take chances and make moves from which others might shy away.
My Definition Of Success | I once believed that architectural success was having projects and articles published. While this is great for my ego, I no longer see it as the ultimate understanding of success. Following many years of hard work, I now understand that true success is in the relationships I have, I gain and I develop.
Our team doesn’t go after projects; we go after clients. We want to create great projects that have happy clients who return for more work and / or recommend us to their friends, relatives and colleagues. Having a client call us well after a job is complete just to say hello and that they still love the work makes me incredibly proud.
In addition to client relationships, I want to develop my own team so that they are strong, confident designers and businessmen and women so that they grow as individuals and professionals. I sincerely hope that our team takes over the business when Dave and I choose to retire and make it their own.
A Key Talent | Architecture is about understanding your client and providing a thought provoking, dynamic design solution. Unfortunately, unless you can sell yourself to prospective clients, your design genius will never get realized. Being able to network, market and present have been a critical attributes to my personal and the firm successes.
Very few people have the natural ability to network; the rest of us have to learn through practice. To properly network, one needs to be able to talk to a diverse audience about differing topics. As a result, it is critical to know what is happening in the world around us [not just design topics or the weather]…read the paper [or news website] and learn about current events. Once you have built an arsenal of information, go to networking events and practice. It is okay to go with friends or colleagues, but don’t find yourself stuck in the corner talking to only the people you know. These experiences will help you sell yourself in the world of job searches, but also sell your firm and designs as you grow in your career.
Be worldly, well-read and open to meeting new people.
Principles I Live By | We try to remind our staff that while what we do is important, we are not curing disease or world hunger. There is a great big world out there and architecture is just a small piece. Relationships, friendships and family are far more important and as a result, it is important to use our skills to enhance those things. How can our workplace enhance our own relationships? How can we develop our client relationships to partnerships and friendships? The core of the answers to these questions is honesty and integrity. We treat our clients like we want to be treated…be open and honest; have common goals and work through the good and bad times to achieve those goals.
It is incredibly important to ask questions. It is more important to LISTEN to the answers. Listen to your clients, your team and your partners. By asking and listening, you learn the needs and goals of those around you so that you all can strive for greatness.
Take time to acknowledge and celebrate successes. Whether the successes are individual, firm wide or project based; celebrate. Raise a glass, pat your team on the back and take a moment to smile about what you have achieved. Then get back to it and strive for greater.
Learn how to say “I don’t know”. It is really scary to be on your first job site and have the contractor ask about a connection detail. Rather than stumble through a bullshit answer, acknowledge that you need to do more research; as the contractor for his / her opinion; go back to the office and do more research. 2 hours to find the right answer is better than a client suffering through 10 years of a bad answer.
How I Use My Mind | I used to work with a work-reward mentality; get your work done and then you can do something enjoyable. My thinking has evolved so that I now see the great importance in stepping away from the desk and giving my brain a break. I have found that a brief change of scenery or diversion can provide just the right break so that I am more efficient and effective when returning to work challenge. Generally, I put on some running gear and head out for 4 or 5 miles to clear my mind. If time or weather doesn’t permit [when will winter end???], I will head to a local coffee shop for a breath of fresh air and quick caffeine blast.
Performing At My Peak | It is important to give people room to perform. I have found that in environments in which work is dictated by “leaders”, employees don’t feel vested or empowered in the product or process. While initially people feel as though they are “getting good experience” they develop animosity as they are simply vessels for production rather than key elements within the process. We believe very strongly in getting all of our team members, regardless of age or experience, involved in all phases of projects from initial design through construction administration.
As a partner, my role is to help guide, not to bark orders. I sit in on design sessions and meetings and review drawings and specifications for the team. I am here to aid when necessary and even help someone stand back up and brush off after getting knocked down. By helping our team members see the big picture, they have a strong relationship with the project itself and a better understanding of the process as a whole.
Yes, sometimes I need to be stern; deadlines are deadlines and goals are goals. We need to hit the marks during the project to get the work done and the fee in the bank. By preparing the team for the long term marks, enforcing deadlines is a matter of reminder rather than a mandate from above.
My Future Dreams And Ambitions | I want enough money in the bank for food on the table and my daughter to be able to go to whatever college she chooses. I want a place to live that keeps us out of the weather and clothes to keep me warm. While I would love a Ferrari, my life won’t be incomplete without it. I want my family to be happy and healthy and for my daughter to be able to go to the college of her choice. I want to teach my daughter that money, while having importance, is not the end all.
I want my firm to grow and continue its success. I want my team to learn more and more and celebrate greater successes. I want my team to take over our jobs and mold the practice into their own.
I want to embrace vacation time; I want to truly go away from the office and know that my group has it all covered. I want warm sand and crisp ocean water. I want to take more surfing lessons and to enjoy the wipeouts as much as the rides.
The Meaning Of Life | Be nice to one another. Share what you know.
Yes, know that these statements are nothing short of idealistic. I firmly believe that we are all on this earth to interact and learn from one another. It pains me to be a mile from a building in which people argue the fate of our country based on what label they have adopted or who has paid more money for “representation”. I read about anger, war and death based on skin color, gender, sexual orientation and religion and I wonder how I will ever explain this to my daughter. Instead, why not adopt the childhood playground innocence and go down the slide hand in hand with the person next to you simply because it makes you happy?
In years of travel I have witnessed more yelling over canceled flights, hotel rooms that are not ready and late trains then I ever care to witness. Our population has grown with the mentality that screaming at innocent customer service employees will solve all problems. I am fairly certain that the airline phone operator did not personally cause the storm and the front desk employee did not personally slow the turnover of hotel rooms. Yet, we believe that berating individuals will solve these issues. At the end of the day, maybe yelling is cathartic, but it won’t get the plane in the air.
We have a wonderful planet filled with intriguing and dynamic people and cultures. Listen. Share. Welcome. Celebrate. It’s not really that hard to just be nice.
The Best Advice I’ve Received | When I was in college, my father was President of a good sized distribution company with contracts around the world. During a summer break, he and my mother called my sister and me into the kitchen. As we were not a “family meeting” kind of family, this was completely abnormal.
My father, the former Army Green Beret, very simply stated “I am quitting my job”. Selfishly, I immediately imagined how this decision would affect MY life causing me to have visions of having to leave college and moving into in a box in an alley. All I could vocalize was, “why???”
My father responded directly, “Because I am not having any fun”.
It took some time for the conversation to sink in, but I remember the day vividly. There are tough days, but I promise that I will never be in a position where I am not having any fun. We have create an office environment with a team that I love being a part of and although some jobs are not as stimulating as others and challenges arise, I smile the whole way though.
On Inspiring Others | We very purposefully created a firm name that had no individual names as a part…we didn’t want the name on the door to suggest a monarchy [or dictatorship]. It is important to build team form the start.
We have successfully adopted the philosophy of “hire the right people and get the hell out of their way”. By sharing your goals and encouraging your team to make goals, everyone has targets in mind. Empowering your team to drive the design, make decisions and work through challenges [while acting as a resource and guide], each member becomes vested in the project, process and work for firm success. It is important to applaud team success and not dwell on mistakes. Help fix the errors and do not beat up on people; I can count the number of time I have heard raised voices in our office on one hand and none were directed to office team members.
As stated, every member of the firm produces a list of TANGIBLE goals for the year. These goals have dates associated with them and must be able to be quantified. In other words, we do not have goals like “we want to be better hospitality designers”, rather, we have “by August, we want 2 new hospitality clients” or “by November, we want to have 2 projects published in hospitality design magazines”.
In addition to design based goals, we have goals relating to the office and finances. Money tends to be the elephant in the room so we bring it out in the open. Everyone knows which clients owe us money and to which consultants to we owe. We also share where the firm is with income for the year and how that number compares to years past. Financially, the goal isn’t to bill more money by itself; it is to understand the interconnection of finances, productivity, invoicing and salaries.
Every Monday morning during our office meeting were discuss the goals and get status updates. In the short term, we want to grow our business financially while being more productive. We want everyone to work smarter, not harder.
I Am Inspired By | While there are designers and architects who have projects of great inspiration, I am most inspired by people with whom I interact on a regular basis. My parents have provided incredible inspiration through their continuous support of me and my career. It was obvious early on [high school biology and I were not friends] that I would be going down a more creative avenue so rather than force me to suffer through chemistry, they encouraged me to focus on art and drawing. I haven’t looked back and the only thing I know about chemistry is that water is 2 parts hydrogen and 1 part oxygen.
I am honored to work with such an incredible business partner and best friend in David Tracz. His ability to combine design, detailing and business development makes him a force to be reckoned with. He maintains an insanely positive attitude through just about everything and produces amazing work. Most importantly, he tolerates my insanity and makes me a better architect and business owner.
I have been able to maintain a foot in the university arena through teaching a design studio each semester. This has given me the pleasure of working with some of the greatest professors who guided me through college and now aid me in my own teaching. Stanley Hallet, Ann Cederna, Vyt Gureckas and Jay Kabriel were great inspirations to a wide-eyed 18 year old and are even greater mentors to me now. I hope to channel a small fraction of the love for design that they each taught me in my own work and teachings.
Most importantly are my wife and daughter. My wife has been through it all with me…the high highs and lowest of lows. She has encouraged and supports my career and the development and growth of studio3877. She also can tell me I am being a jackass and I [usually] listen. My daughter has developed the action verb architecting when it comes to my job. To her, architecting is the greatest profession ever known to mankind and she is 100% supportive as long as I time to be silly, wear a tiara and dance to loud music.