leaderspeak: is your check engine light on? by nicholas kreitler

 Have you ever been driving down the road and all of a sudden a little sport car goes flying past you? I started thinking about that car the other day after I was wrapping up a day in the office. I was picturing that car cruising along, oblivious to the fact that it was blowing a whole lot of smoke and causing a mess for everyone else to navigate through. I smiled when I passed that car pulled over on the side of the road, realizing if only they had taken better care of their car it wouldn’t have happened. For the purpose of this piece, let’s just say they ran out of gas.

 I normally don’t like using analogies to make my point but this time I am going to make an exception. For the past year I have been in and out of so many offices searching for a place to start my career, just like every other recent graduate out there. Through that time, I have had the opportunity to see various offices and the character and culture of each. This has allowed me to gain a better understanding of what an office environment is really like compared to anything my professors tried to explain. The analogy came to me when I was reflecting back over my experiences from the past several months and the thought of that little car came to mind.

I’m sure you’re wondering where I am going with this, right? Well, what I mean by that is that an engine runs on gas and oil. If you consider the oil as the collaborative and creative side of an office, while the gas in the tank as the productive side that keeps the office running, you’ll get this analogy. The point is that you need both of those to keep the car operating, so keep that in mind when you start the engine on your firm.

Think about this; if you run with too much oil and not enough gas, you just end up in a big cloud of smoke while you’re stranded on the side of the road. This means when you spend all your time thinking and playing without proper production, you just end up breaking down and on the side of the road with your thumb out asking for a ride. The opposite is equally devastating, too much gas and not enough oil, you end up going really far but burn out after that recommended oil change. What I mean is if you are only productive and don’t take time to play, then you lose your passion for what you do and quickly stop caring about the task at hand.

The right balance for everyone is different. Each firm has their own ratio that works for the culture they have created. A particular amount of oil to every gallon of gas is critical, some work better with a drop and some take it by the quart. Every firm is unique and there is no exact science to the right ratio but there does need to be balance. Finding that balance and individuals who believe in the culture of the office will keep it running smoothly and it is those firms that will stand the test of time. Now there will always be other factors to consider, but when the firm has a shared vision and believes in what they are doing they will always find a way to make it work.


LeaderSpeak: Marketing & Branding

November was another great month for DesignSpeak, as we launched a new discussion series for design professionals, LeaderSpeak!  We plan to hold these every other month with rotating speakers and topics.

Our first topic on Marketing & Branding was a great success!  We were very fortunate to have such talented people for our first panelist lineup.  We really appreciated David, Nate, Araceli and Tom for being so open and offering insight into their marketing strategies.  Also, a huge thank you to Global Furniture for hosting the event with us!  Their showroom looked fabulous and turned out to be a great source for seating our crowd!

David, Nate, Araceli (& Bella Rue), and Tom offered fantastic insights to the group!

Meet our panelists:

L. David James, III – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for David
Hospitality & Senior Living Sales Team Leader at Colt Industries
visit Colt’s website

Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Araceli
owner of Rue Lafayette
visit Rue Lafayette’s website

Tom Niemeier – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Tom
owner of SPACE Architecture + Design
visit SPACE’s website

Nathan Sprehe – Read DesignSpeak’s bio for Nate
owner of Almanac A Design + Marketing Studio
visit Almanac’s website

Great idea to hold the event in a showroom full of comfortable chairs!

From my perspective, the key points to take from the event were these:

– Be authentic and real in your professional dealings.

– Ask and you never know what doors may open for you.

– It really is about who you know; building relationships is more important than ever.

– Find a niche that plays to your strengths and core values.

Our hosts Tom (far left) and Cate (far right) were wonderful!

We hope you enjoyed the event and we’re looking forward to many more intriquing discussions in 2012!

meet our panelist: l. david james, iii

David James wears a lot of hats in his role of Hospitality & Senior Living Sales Team Leader at Colt Industries, none greater than his unofficial title as “supreme networker.”

You see, David’s real “business” is people.  Remembering important events, lending a helping hand, getting to know what is important to his friends as well as his clients.  He really enjoys making new connections and often uses social media to foster important friendships.  He prides himself on the fact that Facebook helped him land some fairly large hospitality projects.

His motto is “90% rapport, 10% selfish promotion” and is passionate about connecting people and helping them improve their business.  Bottom line, David excels at developing relationships which is really what good business is all about.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.


meet our panelist: tom niemeier

Tom Niemeier has worked on basically all the sides of the table in the design and construction process, from that of architect, to client, to contractor.  During that time, he has evolved a three pronged approach to marketing and branding.

First; it starts from within.  The design Team must understand, believe in, and practice the core philosophy of the company.  Hire correctly. Let your team contribute throughout and see the project all the way through. Do quality work and let it speak for itself.

Second; relationships.  Stay in touch with your clients after working so hard to create something special with them.  Do this casually, and keep it fun and down to earth.

Third; name recognition.  “Hit ’em from all sides.”  Do good work and promote it.  Win awards and announce it. Get to know the print media and get published. And social media is particularly special as “architects have the ability to do really interesting tweets”.  But no matter what, keep it casual, real, and approachable.  And hopefully when the time comes and somebody is looking for an architect, your name is the one that comes to mind first.

Click the link below to get a glimpse of the SPACE experience.

Note:  Tom was recently featured in St. Louis Magazine.  Click here for the article.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.

meet our panelist: Araceli Kopiloff-Zimmer

In the few years since Rue Lafayette opened, Araceli has successfully marketed her cafe/boutique as a little slice of Paris in the Midwest.  Yummy treats, a relaxed atmosphere and vintage French touches keep you coming back for more of the “joie de vivre.”   To do this she combines modern day technology with old fashioned friendliness and a great personality.  Rue Lafayette has received accolades both locally and nationally in the media.

Rue Lafayette Cafe & Boutique

An offshoot of her overall concept, Bella Rue the canine “hostess”, has developed into a brand personality all her own.  Araceli has been smart in marketing this adorable little Boston Terrier with humorous accessories/toys, videos and even her own Facebook page. Click here to learn more about Bella Rue!

Araceli and Bella

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.


meet our panelist: Nathan Sprehe

Nearly seven years ago I met Nathan Sprehe, a free-lance graphic designer at the time, over breakfast and sketches to discuss our company’s brand and identity.  As a company that had yet to get its business license, Integration Controls was nothing but a concept at the time.  I left the meeting thinking, “There’s no way he got anything valuable from that conversation”…

Little did I know that all of our buzz words, concepts, hand gestures and napkin doodles inspired Nathan in a way that translated into graphics and company identity.  From our first round of logo designs, to a completed brochure – and beyond – Nathan provided a great foundation for our company’s image.

As a proprietor of Almanac, Nathan brings to the table a wealth of real-world experience blended with a passion for great design and architecture.  His easy demeanor and probing questions make him easy to chat with while he figures out how to best create a company’s image.  I’m proud to know him and eager to pick his brain for our first leaderspeak event.

Leaderspeak is an event for industry professionals on 11.9.11 and will be held at Global Total Office.  Click here to view the invite.

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