Editorial: The archetypal design professional…

Mar 21, 2013

This article first appeared in The Zweig Letter (ISSN 1068-1310) Issue # 1000 Originally published 3/25/2013 Follow your passions, people – for a rich and successful life! It was an interesting week for me here in Fayetteville. This was the first time in months I didn’t have to travel – a real treat. But I did have a visit from my old friend and client, Joe Lalli, chairman of Ft. Lauderdale-based, planning and landscape architecture firm, EDSA. Joe came to town to address the Fay Jones School of Architecture at the University of Arkansas – telling them a little about his fascinating life, worldwide travels, incredible projects, and business philosophy. For those of you who don’t know Joe, he is the archetypal design professional and international firm leader. The guy has been at EDSA for more than 40 years. He is a true “intrepreneur” – if there ever was such a thing – and in the 20 years that he led the firm it had unparalleled growth and profitability. Today, he is focusing on his clients, projects, and other passions – such as painting – although he never seemed to lose involvement in any of those, even when he was CEO. Joe has many unusual qualities that made him so popular as a firm leader, with his clients, and with his peers in the profession. For starters, he is obsessed with his work. Within five minutes of seeing Joe or connecting with him on the telephone he will be telling you about what’s going on with his projects. This, of course, never led to him becoming obsolete like so many other people in this business seem to when they ascend to the top job in their firms. He kept his hand in all of his projects and still does – even if that means travelling to China, the Middle East, Europe, and/or Latin America every month. Because he is still so engaged with his work, Joe sells a lot of work – a whole lot. In spite of defying every stereotype of the extroverted, fast-talking seller (Joe is probably more often thought of as an introvert), the fact that he is so observant and can share his ideas without insulting a client allows him to demonstrate his quick insight. He’s also honest. He will turn down a project (he’s done it many times) if he doesn’t think it will lead to success and a happy client in the end. And he is a great business builder and leader. Joe doesn’t think a design firm should be headed up by someone who isn’t a designer. I agree. Joe also likes to do his own projects – even some very small ones, such as redoing a bathroom tile counter himself. He has a number of homes in Florida, an art studio, a palm oil plantation in Honduras, and a small compound on a pond in Maine. He loves to paint and has painting workshops at his place in Maine. He also has a zillion hobbies. He and I even stayed up late last night watching YouTube videos of Ferraris just because he loves the sound of them. The moral of the story: Follow your passions, people – for a rich and successful life! Mark Zweig is the chairman and CEO of ZweigWhite. Contact him with questions or comments at mzweig@zweigwhite.com.

About Zweig Group

Zweig Group, three times on the Inc. 500/5000 list, is the industry leader and premiere authority in AEC firm management and marketing, the go-to source for data and research, and the leading provider of customized learning and training. Zweig Group exists to help AEC firms succeed in a complicated and challenging marketplace through services that include: Mergers & Acquisitions, Strategic Planning, Valuation, Executive Search, Board of Director Services, Ownership Transition, Marketing & Branding, and Business Development Training. The firm has offices in Dallas and Fayetteville, Arkansas.