302: Ed Shriver, Strada Architecture, LLC., Pt. 2
It's the Nobis marketing show. I'm Dave fastage CEO of mass solutions, the world's only noble shit. Marketing firm today, we have part two of my conversation with Ed Shriver, one of the founding partners of Strada architectural firm in the first episode Ed talked about why he chose architecture and how his experience in the military helped shaped his leadership style in this particular part of the episode, he delves into how working with Disney impacted him and how he was able to help Disney, and how he and the partners of Strada have infused their own culture and involved over time and how they focus on design with people in mind, hope you enjoy it. Then you get back to the United States New come back to Pittsburgh. Yeah, I came back to Pittsburgh. Couple of friends were either still hang. Around here or or when they heard I was back. They came back. And so I found a job with the little architecture firm that hated. Lasted about two months and I got another job with a bigger firm JSA, and I spent twenty years there and my best friend who inspired me to go into the army. He took my job with little architecture. And then a few years later when that firm folded he came to work at JSA as well. So, so we literally kind of our whole career was like that. But the twenty years at JSA any management and leadership positions there. Yeah. Probably the last eight or ten years were management positions beyond just project management that I, I was operations for longtime. I worked under the directly under the I guess he would be the CFO Tom Schmidt. He was my mentor. So Tom taught me what I hadn't learned in the army, but how how being an architect really worked, and he was great. He was great. I remember a story, I was the project architect for the renovation of the monroeville mall, and we were taking the ice skating rink out of monroeville mon- turning it in. To food court, and I was the project manager and the president of the company was the principal in charge of the project, and I had done all the drawings most of the design work. I did the budgeting, I did almost everything went out to bids and the day that the bids were due Jim Johnson. The president of the company was on vacation in Florida, so he called. Tom and said, would you go with Edward to the bid openings about? So we went out together. I think we had five contractors bid on the project and the average of the five projects was exactly my estimate, which is unheard of absolutely dumb luck. I did no credit for being a great estimator. It was it was probabilistic dumb luck. But after we finished as we're driving back to the office. He says, let's go have a beer, so. He stopped off somewhere in green tree, and had probably ten beers. At one point in the discussion, Tom said, so where do you want your career to go? What do you want to do? And I said, I want your job. And he said, great. That's what I'm looking for. So he became my mentor, and we worked together until yet heart attack live nother six or eight years after that, but he retired after the heart attack and. There was a great relationship. I learned an awful lot from Tom and still think about him a lot mentor is a huge part of all of our lives. Some glad you had the chance to talk about that we've learned a couple of things about Ed Shriver of Strada architects, that when the going gets tough drink beer to make decisions. That's how you ended up in the army. That's how you end up celebrating this great estimate, and then becoming the number two with your mentor. When do you realize the entrepreneurial spirit kicks in that it's time for you to start your own thing? I think it was drinking again. Well, I was part of the AA American Institute of architects, Pittsburgh chapter. I was on the board of the chapter at that time you were the founder, though too well, right. Yes of Strada not AI. Okay. All right now, I'm not that old. So I'm on the board of the a and Alkatiri was also on the board. We know our neighbors, and John Martine was on the board and other one partners. And Michael stern was not on the board. But Michael was a consultant to the chapter on a project we had been working on. So I knew all those guys and I came home after a board meeting and I got a voicemail is back before emails voicemail from the. The president of j they knew president who I did not like in did not have any respect for. But it was a voice mail saying that we, he had just hired a new marketing director for the company and the guy that they had hired name was Tony poli. Well, Tony Pola was Alkatiri partner up until the moment. I heard the had left. He didn't even talk to Allah's completely caught off go. And so, I called the executive director, the, the chapter because in and our good friends, and I said, what the hell do I do with this? I mean, you know, and of course we had been drinking. Yes. Always good to get a second opinion. When you've been drinking Lloyd, I know L del kick. This guy's ass made them. Well it, it got ugly. But, you know, so all of a sudden, there was this little explosion in the architectural community and so shortly thereafter, I got fed up with the JSA dick, and I said, I'm outta here and Al at that point was short a partner by about maybe a month. So when I quit, I didn't quit to go to work with ou-. But when I quit, I had kind of this idea of a firm made of the four of us. And so, I reached out to all of them, and I said, why don't we sit down and talk for a little while? I have this idea about a new firm that I think would be good for all of us. And we got the other head more drinking and kind of hashed out the idea of Strada it so important when you have a company to build the culture, and so you went out to find people at like-minded values and you found the four of you, and that kind of drove the beginning of Strada talk a little bit about how that culture began. And then how it's evolved to where it is today. I think that similar culture is import values are important. But I also think that different perspectives are important. You don't want a firm full of yes, men or people who all think exactly alike, but you do need the same values. And so our thoughts around, what Strada could be was that with these four different perspectives. John John Martine, who is award winning architectural designer John's a great guy. And he's in my mind. Best architect going certainly the best architect, I've ever worked with as a designer Michael was is still outstanding urban designer and landscape architect. Michael went to Harvard. He taught it university of Virginia. He was the project. Manager for the city of Pittsburgh when they redid the entire downtown master-plan. So he managed that whole process. That's the process that put the stadiums where they are. Now it identified the fifth and Forbes corridor as a target that was critical to fix market square. That's all done through Strada note. This was before strana. Okay. That was what Michael had with the city and then Alan, I both had strong practice experience, we knew how to be architects, and do that. Well and such though is a good. It was a good mix and values were there. We wanted to make a difference. We were strongly focused on urban design and city planning, and that kind of thing we weren't interested in doing McDonald's or Ryan homes or things like that. We wanted to work downtown. We wanted to make a difference. That was a period. It wish there were several development, schemes floated about the fifth, and Forbes corridor. And, you know, they were bulldozing sections of downtown and proposals like that. And we were looking at that gun, we could do better than this, both we in the four of us. And as a city, we can do better than this. So those were the kinds of discussions that sort of brought us together. So in in architecture with marketing will we can make fun of when there's lousy marketers? They do like bullshit marketing do lousy creative. They. Do stuff that's just garbage. Okay. Do that, too. But it doesn't doesn't really hurt the world much. I guess other than bad social media. Bad billboards bad messaging. But when there's architects that are compromising the values it impacts a city a region. Talk about that a little bit it does. But it's hard to judge a design if you're not on the inside, you don't know what the budgets are. You don't know what the program is. You don't know what the client's vision was in a weaken. Do phenomenal sculpture. But we can't do buildings until we have a client, who's got a program that wants that we can then solve those problems. But if the building cost ten million dollars and the client can't afford it, then it doesn't matter how pretty it is. And we can challenge the client, we can push them to try to make things better. But in less you. You understand all of those elements. It's hard to judge another architects, work. You know, you can look at the really nice ones and say, wow, that's you know, the Guggenheim wow, that's great. That's very cool. Building probably cost today's dollars twenty five hundred dollars a square foot. Most buildings cost honored and fifty dollars a square foot. Guggenheim's got money. They can do that, that being said, though, I think, philosophically, you're probably being humble, and politically, correct. Because philosophically, you can tell the difference between architects, and I've worked as a company or companies worked with a number of architects in other jobs. I was responsible for some building expansion. I've worked with architects, and there are some that have a philosophy that's a little bit more volume oriented and margin oriented. And when you walk into Strada you can tell the culture and everyone on our team has said this that when you first walk into Strada, you can tell the culture that this is not a cookie cutter a volume based. Architectural firm. Yeah. I think that's true. And thank you. I'm glad that shows, there's sort of maybe three silos one is the cookie cutter repetitious make money things. You know McDonald's when she got McDonald's down, you can make a lot of money doing McDonald's on the other end of the spectrum is the architect, who doesn't really care what the client thinks it's their project, and they own it, and honest to God, I have heard architects say he hired me to do the job. Now get the hell out of the way and I'll design it. And that's the other end of the spectrum mostly because they don't get a lot of repeat clients, but. That's the other side we're more in the middle. I feel strongly that Strada is not so much a design firm, as it is a creative firm that we looked to resolve those issues in the most creative way possible to meet all of the requirements that we had strategic planning retreat last week. And the example, used his idea is a creative design firm. It's not so much about what these iphones look like. It's the fact that there was no conception of this intil Ideo conceived of it. That's what I think, stratas is that kind of combination of technical and artistic and practical and budget all together. How do you make all of those pieces work? It's just. Beautiful and has not code compliant doesn't matter where you can't afford it doesn't matter. So I think the key at least for for me and for stratas focus on creativity. Your big idea is designed with people in mind, and I think you are alluding to that. But talk a little bit more about how design with people in mine resonates with you and your clients and your clients clients. Yeah. That we, we started the firm with that whole concept at that point. We were calling places for people, but it is where we start in the creative process. It's not sculpture. It's not music is it's people places. That's what drives us. That's what we're interested in. I'm fascinated with the whole concept of neuroscience how the brain perceives space, and how space affects our brains. Winston Churchill's great line that we shape, our buildings than they shape us. And that's absolutely true what we don't really understand is how that happens. And so we're working with Disney down at Epcot on expansion to the Japanese pavilion, and it's fascinating to me, how Disney designs their parks because they are so good at creating space that affects people, you know, that makes you feel this way or that way, and how they do that is really fascinating. It's, it's more set design than it is architecture. But when you work with them, you find out how hard it is to make the architecture to support the set design to create the effect. And it's been a real education as. To the neuroscience of architecture talk a little bit about your work with Disney specifically Disney's philosophy of a magic nearing when we started Strada, one of the examples that I had in mind was Walt Disney Imagineering because Disney Imagineering was built out of basically set designers and lighting technicians and people like that, and Walt Disney started putting those people together to create his own design firm, but it wasn't all bunch architects. It was a whole bunch of different design talents together, and he would throw out some new concept. I think we ought to do a show around pirates of the Carribean and then. A bunch of them. Sit down and figure out. What's the story? You know what's the set to support the story? How do we create the lighting? How do we create the sound effects? How do we do all of that? All of these people are in the same design firm effectively, and then they go out and they build it. And that's my idea of what strategy would be doing a sitting down with experts. We have architects, we have interior designers landscape architects. We have exhibit design. We have graphic design. We have a whole bunch of different expertise in the firm. We really liked to find Polly, mass people who have multiple interests in different areas, because those kinds of people are curious, their creative. They're constantly seeing things from different perspectives. And that's the. Kind of people, we wanted Strada is the kind of people who they're interested in architecture, but they might also be training dogs for the blind, or they're learning statistics online at Ed X that kind of curiosity and interests are the kinds of talents that we want to pull together. You can see your passion come out when you talk about Imagineering and design with people in mind, and how they're tied together. You've done some work with Disney in the past and you're doing more now. Well, we're still finishing up the Japanese project right now. We've we've submitted our portfolio to the contracting folks to see we can be put on the approved architect list. So we'll see how the goes, but certainly like to do more there. It's exciting to have you with Disney now and do some rapid fire. When to go back to those three examples that I gave. To start the show. That's Trotta worked on here in Pittsburgh. And I want you just take a few seconds and just tell us the one thing that you remember that's a memorable part of that project, and we'll start first with market square place in downtown Pittsburgh today, that project was the g c Murphy buildings because it's actually seven buildings was the crux of the problem in Pittsburgh, when Tom Murphy, was the mayor and the fifth and Forbes Michael's work on the master plan. Nobody could figure out what to do with that. The Preservationists wanted the building saved, but the developers wanted a tour down. And so that was basically the hang up for g c Murphy for years and client of ours, milk craft finally stepped up and decided to take a shot at it. And our her member, the first meeting the kickoff meeting, and it was in our conference room. There were ten or twelve people and client said, okay, you know, we're gonna kick this thing off. Our plan is to tear the building down. And here's what we want to do. And I said, you can't do that. The Preservationists just crucify haven't you been watching? You've been watching the news for the last three years. I said, it'll never happen. And we had a thirty forty five minute heated discussion about tearing down versus not tearing it down. And finally, Jack by the president of the company said, okay, fine. We won't tear it down. But remember, this is your idea. And so we worked out a way to interconnect seven different buildings and their CFO. Brian Walker worked out of way to make it work economically, there's creativity to Brian would work great in Strada, but anyway, so we created a project that is both economically feasible, it is lead gold level and a historic tax credit project all that without tearing the building down. That's a success are. Let's go to advanced technologies in Pittsburgh. What he remember most about that project. It was the most creative challenge. I can remember as a project not because it was a hard program or anything. But the schedule was. Tight the, the program was constantly evolving. Because when you're doing research, you're trying to guess two years ahead. What kinds of construction you need to do, but the rate of change is so fast that you're tearing out stuff before the painter is because somebody's got a better idea. And things were just volving people were coming go. And from the, the crew it was my most challenging project manager management project. I think it's beautiful. I like it a lot. I just love working with Mark people. You get to work with two hundred PHD's and robotics people. And it's gonna be fun to nother success and the third. One was the north shore place, nor sure place is one of our longest running projects. We actually when they tore down three rivers stadium and opened that whole space. The city put out. Out a request for developers to develop that space in between it and continental real estate was selected to be the master developer in conjunction with both the pirates and the Steelers and so- continental decided that for their first project, they would do a design competition, and they picked, I think six firms actually initially they picked five firms than they added us. We were already working with continental on smaller another smaller project. And somebody said, well, maybe Strada, we gotta give them a shot. So we took that on designed what is now the equitable building. Well, I call it the equitable building now. It's the insurance company over there. But we designed that the third hand report about the, the selection process was that all of the continental real estate, all continental people got together after having all looked at the, the submit. From the Sixers so firms and continentals. I guess he's president or chairman from Frank Cass and his son, flew in from Columbus, as part of this decision, and Frank's son came in and before everybody's even set down, yet, he walks in, and he says, well, if anybody doesn't think stratas the only choice, the year an ass and then he sat down and everyone's looking at each other going well, that was a short meeting. So we got picked and since then we've built everything between the stadiums, except the Hyatt place hotel. What's that like to as part of the architectural from the drove that so anytime you go to the north shore anytime you're in market square is got to be a sense of pride? Yeah. It's great to look around the city and realized, you know, we did that we did that we did that my wife's a tax accountant, and she always tells me that she really envies the fact that I can point things and people can see what, what I do. She's I never get the show anybody their tax return. So it's a great profession. It's a great pleasure to see things get built to be able to point those things out. And there is, of course, the downside, which is when people all look at it and say, I not very good. But it goes with the wow, that's great. You know, sort of washes out it, what's a tool that you could tell our audience that you use on a daily weekday quarterly basis to increase productivity, improved communication or help with your leadership. I don't know that I have any tools in particular, the leadership skills, I learned I learned in, in the army, and it's basically take care of your people, and they'll take care of you. And I think that it's really important that you're always teaching you're always mentoring, but you're also always protecting the people that work with you. And they respect that, that some Nobis words to live by it was there, anything you thought I'd asked you, that I didn't or any last comments you'd like to make. No, I really haven't thought about what you were going to let you. We're gonna ask. No, I don't have anything there. And I think. I've talked enough will, thanks for being on the no BS marking show. Thank you. And to our listeners, thanks for being loyal Nobis IRS. Remember, go to mass Lucien stop biz to sign up for your Nobis weekly marketing fix. And also remember to ask yourself, what's the big idea, and build your story around the answer? It's all about boats solutions. Nobis.