I hope your 4th of July (Canada Day for those of you who live in the North) was spectacular and that you took a moment to think about how lucky you are to be free to run a business that is an expression of what you were called to do. Philanthropy and social responsibility are important pillars of leadership. At large design companies like Gensler and HOK–among the leading five in the US–designers are encouraged to be a part of something bigger than themselves. Good citizenship is part of the culture.
“We’ve got this gServe program here at Gensler,” says Robin Klehr-Avia, Regional Managing Principal and Chair of the Board. The grassroots effort led by many of the company’s juniors has helped to develop housing in India, a school in Haiti, and a New York city classroom among other projects. “We’re really into the community and volunteering in the community and making sure that our people are out there helping because we’re good citizens.”
HOK is the US Green Building Council’s official design partner for Project Haiti which involves the replacement of an orphanage and children’s center that was severely damaged in the 2010 earthquake. An all-volunteer HOK team, including architects, landscape architects, lighting designers, sustainable experts and structural, mechanical and plumbing engineers at the senior and junior level committed themselves to the challenge of bringing highly sustainable design to a developing country. In a country with no enforceable codes or functioning infrastructure, the design has a net zero energy, water and waste facility that meets LEED Platinum standards.
As a boutique firm, your good works don’t need to be massive in scale but you do want your employees to be as passionate about their commitments to serve. How can you use your skills and your design gifts to do something better for people? How can you build that service mentality into your culture? What charities are important to you? How about to your team members? Do you donate a percentage of monthly sales to them each month? Will you sponsor a table at a high profile charity event from which they will benefit the proceeds?
Build a model for giving back inside of your studio. Making the investment to be a leader in your community brings powerful returns.