BLGY as an Incubator: Developing Future Leaders
by Benny Hawkins
Over the past decade, Austin has emerged as a leading city for entrepreneurialism and innovation. As a result, we have seen a heightened emphasis on incubators and startup accelerators to support this growing industry. In fact, we hear the words “startup” and “incubator” so frequently these days that they have really become part of our local vocabulary.
What exactly is an incubator? How do they help support local companies? Business incubators provide an array of support services like workspaces, coaching, education, and capital for entrepreneurs. Their goal is simple: to accelerate the growth and success of these companies.
When I look at the definition of an incubator and the value these entities provide to a startup business, I can’t help but see the similarities in how we run our own firm at BLGY. In many ways, we strive to act as an incubator for our employees – to provide them with the tools, training, and support they need to accelerate their own growth and success. This mentality extends to many aspects of our practice, including ethics and community involvement, professional development, and business acumen.
Ethics & Community Involvement
At BLGY, we firmly believe that if you are extracting a livelihood from the community, you are morally obligated to return some of that value back to the community itself. It is not just the nice thing to do; it is the ethical thing to do. Our particular practice is deeply rooted in the design of educational facilities. Accordingly, supporting the education of our children is one of our top philanthropic priorities. We join with other friends of education in our community to share our resources to the greatest extent practical in order to help prepare our children for the future.
The contagious thing about community involvement is that the benefits extend far beyond the original cause; being deeply involved in causes like education in the community also benefits our team members. Through their individual participation, they are personally involved in making a difference and they experience a stronger connection with their profession. Through this process they come to understand the total value behind community involvement, and they become more committed to the cause.
Our firm is also committed to ensuring our employees are supported in terms of professional growth. We encourage team members on a career path toward architectural licensing to sustain their preparations, and we provide various types of support to them. We also promote continuing education. Not only is continuing education a requirement for maintaining licensure, it also provides a way for our team members to stay abreast of industry trends and best practices.
But professional development extends beyond taking classes and passing exams. We further nurture our team members by giving them face time with clients and stakeholders – allowing them the opportunity to make presentations and exude ownership of their work. Through this heightened level of responsibility, our employees learn critical skills they need to be successful in their careers.
Beyond professional development, ethics, and community involvement, there are many elements of practicing architecture that cannot be explicitly taught. For example, it is critical to learn to have enough confidence in your business practice to stay calm under pressure and maintain a certain level of optimism about the future. I personally have been through several recessions during my professional tenure at BLGY. In each situation, we have emerged as a viable business due in large part to the unique set of skills and values we have. We try to pass on this business acumen – along with many other business skills that can be taught more easily – to our employees, who are the future of the industry.
Bob Landes, one of BLGY’s initial founders, used to reflect very fondly upon the individuals who started working for our firm early in their careers and who have gone on to become successful entrepreneurs, leaders, and public servants themselves. I share this same ideology; I believe that running an architectural practice has more than one dimension. It is about more than just keeping the firm afloat and ensuring employees stay put. Fortunately, the same mentality of growing people into entrepreneurs creates the type of culture that naturally attracts new talent to the firm – and so the cycle of incubation continues.