By the time I was 10 years old I knew I'd grow up to be either an architect, or a drummer in a heavy metal band. As fate would have it, the rise of grunge and alternative music in the early ‘90s pushed heavy metal out of the spotlight so I naturally shifted my focus to my second love and went on to secure two degrees in architecture and design theory. Now, with over 28 years experience in architecture, the last 20 practicing custom home design in coastal Orange County, Palm Springs, and Hawaii, I have no regrets, though I still plot my rise through the ranks of musical stardom with my band THUNDERHOSE - much to my wife’s chagrin. In 2005, after nearly 10 years as the managing associate for Mark Singer Architects in Laguna Beach, I opened the doors to my own firm and have continued my focus on innovative designs for not only residential projects, but also restaurant, retail, and hotel projects. Prior to launching my practice I served on the faculty of Cal Poly Pomona where I taught architectural design studio for 2 years. I continue to be a guest lecturer and juror for architecture and design classes at Cal Poly Pomona, USC, Cal State Long Beach, California Baptist University, Orange Coast College, and Saddleback College. Over the last several years I've been invited to speak as an expert panelist or contributor for various professional and media groups including the American Institute of Architects, Houzz.com, Zillow.com, the Orange County Register, and PBS. As a past member of the Board of Directors for the American Institute of Architects, Orange County, I served as Design Awards Committee Chair, and Director of Design for 4 years. I currently serve on the Design Review Committee for The Strand at Headlands development in Dana Point, California. I hold a Master of Architecture degree from UCLA and a Bachelor of Architecture degree, cum laude, from Cal Poly Pomona. I’m a licensed architect in the states of California, Texas, and Hawaii, and a Certified Green Building Professional.
What made you take the leap into entrepreneurship?
I had a very good boss who was my mentor. When he realized that I was no longer happy just working for him he "encouraged" me to leave the nest by explaining that we had outgrown each other. It was kind of like breaking up with a long - time girlfriend, bittersweet, but necessary for growth. He left me with great advice and encouragement though. I remember him saying "you're going to be like that moon rocket, taking off from the launch pad - slow at first, but you'll pick up speed quickly, and there will be no turning back!"
What were the biggest initial hurdles to building your business and how did you overcome them?
making sure I had the right infrastructure in place to operate as a professional from day one. I'd already laid the ground work for that by securing my architect's license, and forming a corporation. The first thing I did when I started on my own was set up a competent accounting and billing system. While i lve what I do, I don't do it for charity. Billing and accounting area a huge part of my work, and keeping that part running smoothly has proven to be a critical part of our success.
Did you ever deal with contention from your family and friends concerning your entrepreneurial pursuits?
How did you handle it? What would you do differently in hindsight?
I was very fortunate in that I had a wonderfully supportive wife, and two very young children to support. Nothing motivates a man more than 3 hungry mouths at home that you need to feed and keep safe! Also, my mother was very generous and "invested" in the company with a small injection of cash. Just enough to bridge the first few months until we had some billing. It was not much, but it made all the difference. Looking back, I think she intentionally kept it small, to help motivate me!
What would you say was the single most influential factor in your business success?
Without question it has been the ability to find talented people to work with me, and the cultivation of a robust network of colleagues. We get projects through so many different avenues, it's been really interesting to watch how seeds that were planted years ago start to bear fruit much later, and when you least expect it!
What do you know today that you wish you would have known when you first got started as an entrepreneur?
To risk more. As you begin to build success don't shy away from risk at the expense of staying safe. I've never regretted any risk I took with my business, but I do regret not taking some risks that were missed opportunities.
What advice would you give to an upcoming young and old entrepreneur locally and internationally?
To get into the lead and stay there you must always work as if you're still behind. No leader ever feels they've reached their goal. Also, remember that winners focus on winning, and losers focus on winners. So keep your focus on you, and what you need to win. Forget the rest.