“The real competitive advantage in any business is one word only, which is people.” – Kamil Toume
Celebrating 40 years means celebrating the people who have helped get us here. For our final spotlight, we are celebrating one person who has been here pretty much since the beginning. Thirty-eight years at HagerSmith and counting, Scott Idol was the third person to be hired at the firm. Now Principal and Architect, Scott shares with us his time at HagerSmith.
Taking it back to 1980, Scott was about to graduate college and started looking for jobs. Through his search, he came across Mike Hager PA. At that time, other than a part time secretary they were sharing with two other businesses, it was just Mike and Jim. Eventually Scott joined the duo and it’s been history ever since.
In the beginning, Scott says, there was very little work since they were just starting out. “It was really interesting,” he says, “because you had to basically do everything since there was nobody else.” They were a young firm, so it was a challenge trying to establish yourself in an environment when there wasn’t a whole lot of work.
Back then when it came to designing work, they were drafting. They were literally drawing on pen and paper on the drafting table, and if they ever had to change what they’ve done, it was very difficult, Scott claims. “Today it has turned into model based design which is much faster and easier. There may be one drafting desk left in the office and it’s a relic.” He adds, “You can kind of date yourself if you can draw because the new guys never dealt with things that way and now they fly through the modeling. It’s very interesting.”
Most of the early work they designed was all brick. It’s what the thing was to do back then, but in order for them to stand out more, they tried to make it more sculptural and unique, Scott tells us. Instead of using it the way it was always used, they tried to find ways to make their buildings stand apart from the others.
Part of that along with their determination to provide exceptional customer service, caused them to eventually gain the interest of larger clients. “Overtime, we ended up following them all over the country,” says Scott. “That’s when we really began to grow.”
Scott admits that it’s because of the people at HagerSmith that have kept us around all these years. “A lot of us have been here for 10, 15, 20 years…” He continues, “Working at HagerSmith has been the only full time job I’ve ever had. I like it because I like the people I work with, I like the work we do, and I like the clients we have. Nobody likes to come to work every day, but most days I do, and I think that’s kind of unusual.”
Why do people stick around? Scott says it’s because employees are truly taken care of. “When the economy turned really ugly years ago, we weren’t laying people off, we were trying to figure out how to keep them. We figured out a way to keep everybody afloat so that hopefully when it was all over, we would have the same great people around. Being here this long and having employees that stay that long, it feels like family. I’ve got partners that I’ve had for 35 years, that’s longer than I’ve had kids.”
It’s not just the family aspect that makes HagerSmith a great place to work, but they’re a team too. “When you hire us, you get a team that goes to the end for you. You don’t get handed off. There’s not a sales side and production side. The same team is with you from the beginning to the end,” says Scott.
Scott thinks clients stick around because, “We do what we say we’re going to do, we treat money like its ours, spend it wisely, be very fair, and I think people respect that.” Scott adds, “We’re also really good at paying attention to our clients, looking out for their best interest and trying to make sure we truly understand their goals and business.” When you understand that, designing a project that meets those goals becomes a lot easier.
That’s one of Scott’s favorite things about his work at HagerSmith. “I like understanding the clients business and to be able fit in part of that. Being able to dive into what makes the whole company work and relaying that into the design, that’s interesting.”
As for the next 40 years, Scott sees those client relationships strengthening even more. “When we were younger most of our work was all in development, not all but majority, as we’ve gotten older, some of the folks we met through the development community as tenants have become clients of ours and I see that growing. It seems to be a fairly natural evolution that’s occurring but a lot of our clients have evolved over years, with small projects getting bigger and bigger, and I see that continuing.”