Rhett Crocker | Crain's Orlando

In this ongoing series, we ask executives, entrepreneurs and business leaders about mistakes that have shaped their business philosophy.

Rhett Crocker

Background:  

LandDesign's landscape architects, civil engineers, planners and urban designers help clients create "places that matter." Founded in 1978, LandDesign has offices in Orlando, Florida; Dallas; Washington, D.C.; San Francisco; and Charlotte, North Carolina.

The Mistake:

We said yes to everything. But sometimes winning a project is not the best for the firm. [For] some things, it’s hard to do your best work. And when you’re not successful, it really brings down morale.

What we learned, and this is going back several years when the market was very different, is we got off the path. We sell ideas and vision, and land planning, civil engineering and landscape architecture. But we chased some public sector jobs that ... weren’t as well suited for what we [wanted to do] or for our culture. There are just certain projects in certain markets that we don’t work best at.

The company had transitioned through the years [to] become what I would call location or office silos. We were always still LandDesign, but we often became location-specific and sometimes would compartmentalize.

My challenge every day is getting everybody focused on the same goals.

The Lesson:

We got together and instituted a new vision plan and strategy. We spent three or four days and really focused on – after 38 years as a firm – where do we want the next 30 to 40 years to go? And we broke that down into bite-sized pieces. And so my challenge every day is getting everybody focused on the same goals.

We’ve gotten more disciplined about not chasing everything – about saying no, learning where our lane is and where we should stay focused. We’re better at knowing what we’re good at, and when we can really be effective in the market and really serve our clients best.

Since then we really have focused on projects where we can really dig more into master planning and engineering. It really was about us just refining that and getting our path straight.

Now we have a whole business development and marketing team to really keep us in check. They go through not only a checklist but they [give] the go or no-go. They ask, "Is this really suited for us? Can we be successful doing this?"

The biggest thing I’ve learned is how, with five offices all in different states, to get everyone on the same page ... so that we’re all chasing the same thing. Today, if something doesn’t fit all our categories of how we can best serve the project, then we need to say no – no matter what the fee is, no matter who the client is. And changing the culture [without sacrificing] entrepreneurial spirit has been huge.

Follow LandDesign at @LandDesignInc and Rhett Crocker at @RhettCrockerLDI.

Photo courtesy of Rhett Crocker

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