CEO Q&A: Gene Guszkowski, AIA, AG Architecture

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BizTimes: What sets your firm apart from others?

Gene Guszkowski: In today’s market, it is difficult for an architectural engineering firm to be a generalist. In fact, many firms are narrowing their focus and assembling teams with specialized expertise. Dating back to 1961, with previous generations of our firm, AG chose to stick with what we know best—housing—innovative senior living, trendsetting multifamily and modern mixed-use projects. We have experience in the full spectrum of housing, from affordable apartments to high-end condos.

Our projects serve several generations, from young professionals to empty nesters as well as seniors, from active boomers to those with supportive care or hospice needs. Each project has offered an opportunity to infuse the energy of walkable urban environments, spaces that are incredible urban destinations and create deeper community connections. Our passion and commitment to housing has led us around the country to work in 39 different states—that is what sets us apart. Our tagline is “a sense of community.” We truly live and breathe this mantra every day creating places where people want to live.

BT: What is your personal history, and how has it affected your leadership?

GG: I was fortunate to start my career at AG, or rather, an earlier generation of the firm. I started as print boy and 52 years, more than 725 projects and 403 coworkers later, I have grown with the firm from draftsman to principal. I have watched, learned and gone through my own trial and error process. I have sought advice and been counseled by leadership and business experts along the way.

The firm has achieved success over the years with a partnership model. Within the last few years, we have focused on restructuring leadership roles to be better positioned for continued success. As we have been nurturing team members and transitioning to a new generation of leadership, my position in the firm has evolved to CEO-level responsibilities. In our work as designers, we ask people to change where and how they live on a regular basis. I apply that mentality to leadership as well. There is always room for change and improvement—and market challenges, technology advancements and multiple generations in the workplace require a willingness to adapt. As a leader, I have to institute changes and lead by example to maintain the success of this legacy firm and properly position it for the future.

BT: What’s next for your company?

GG: Like other firms in the AEC industry, we are transitioning from a partnership model to an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). This gives each team member a greater sense of ownership and definitive stake in the success of the firm. This business decision paves the way for the future of AG. It is exciting to be a part of this evolution. Our industry and our way of doing business was so different over 50 years ago. The new era of the architectural engineering firm is about empowering every team member.

BT: What is your philosophy on innovation within your firm?

GG: Innovation is essential because our market demands it. The next generation of residents has high expectations, so we need to keep pushing to come up with forward-thinking, desirable solutions. From initiating a survey series to working with clients to explore alternatives, we are looking to other industries for inspiration and challenging our team to disrupt our thought process in order to uncover what’s next in senior living, multifamily and mixed-use design.

1414 Underwood Avenue, #301    Wauwatosa, WI 53213
(414) 431-3131    www.agarch.com/insights/

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