In late 2013 we acquired LZT Architects. LZTa was a highly reputable firm with an amazing portfolio, having been established in Austin in 1982. It had done the first LEED Silver project in Austin and numerous notable projects. One of the founders had passed away a few years prior, and the remaining partner wanted to take steps to ensure his firm would live on.
In the beginning we planned to let LZTa run independently while we got to know it and take our time with the integration. We planned to keep a separate Austin office to cater to the Austin clientele. We had no idea what a beast we were creating.
Generally we were permitting a very unstructured environment with the idea that all were professionals and would naturally do what was best for the firm. It was a very progressive idea.
However I have been told that the transition from a small firm to a larger firm can be very difficult. Completely different procedures and structures are required. The 20-50 person phase is perhaps one of the most challenging. We found that to be true for us as well.
The two separate offices, Round Rock and Austin, began to develop a rivalry and an idealistic divide. I split my time between the two offices in an attempt to form a connection. But it was like I was straddling a widening crevasse.
We brought in a friend who was a psychologist as a business consultant to help us unify the firm. It was a really interesting experience. He did personality testing on everyone and lots of interviews to determine the “personality of the firm.” He tried to mend some deep differences in opinion between the major partners at the time.
We had asked him to help bring the chaos to a resolution. And that is exactly what happened. Of course it was not clean or easy. But that is another story.
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