2012 Columbus Smart Leaders: Bob Loversidge, Jr., President & CEO, Schooley Caldwell Associates

Bob Loversidge, Jr., President & CEO, Schooley Caldwell Associates

Bob Loversidge, Jr., President & CEO, Schooley Caldwell Associates

Give us an example of a business challenge you and/or your organization faced, as well as how you overcame it.

Our biggest challenge at the moment is the tough economy. With government agencies — at all levels — short of money, our traditional primary market of public works has been depressed for several years. In fact, when the economy first tanked, we had 13 active projects of various sizes and at various stages of completion cancelled! This means the work stops immediately and the income stops about a month later. We did not respond with layoffs; we kept our talented and experienced team together, reduced salaries for a while, helped individuals with problems, hunkered down to complete the work we had more efficiently, and re-doubled our efforts to identify and “land” new work. We worked hard with repeat clients, and our principals made an extraordinary push to identify new clients and markets. One result has been a dramatic increase in work with private sector clients, and increased assistance to clients to attract various financing programs and incentives to “push” projects into feasibility and design.

In what ways are you an innovative leader, and how does your organization employ innovation to be on the leading edge?

I am not sure I am an innovative leader (but I am happy to have been asked the question). As the leader of our ownership team of five, I try to be a proactive listener, to take the pulse of the business, to respond to the needs of our team, and to ascertain the changing requirements of clients and potential clients, and to make the appropriate adjustments to keep the ship afloat. We try to make sure our team has the necessary tools to do a better job — these days this often consists of computer or software upgrades, but it also includes access to continuing education and teambuilding. We have become leaders in BIM (Building Information Modeling), the now and future way of communicating design information to the entire design and construction team. We also maintain a very visible “presence” in our community through our work with highly-visible (and accountable) projects (see below), and though pro-bono public service. Perhaps our most innovative practice (although we have been doing this since 1944!) is extensive, thorough and pro-active client service, going beyond normal expectations to do what should be done. This results in happy, repeat clients. Lately, we have been helping public clients meet “normally” unrealistic but real deadlines for completion, by identifying ways that “they” can streamline their own bureaucratic and complex decision-making process and by giving “them” deadlines for milestone decisions (instead of the other way around). As a result several projects have been completed on time and some of these efficiency techniques are becoming the “new” normal practice.

How do you make a significant impact on the community and regional economy?

Most of our work involves renovation or restoration of existing buildings — many of them are iconic landmarks in our community, like the Ohio Statehouse, the Columbus Cultural Arts Center, the Columbus Museum of Art, Franklin Park Conservatory, the Lazarus Building,  the Thomas J. Moyer Ohio Judicial Center, the Atlas Building, the LeVeque Tower, etc. Renovation projects are inherently sustainable, taking advantage of embedded energy, re-using scarce resources and reducing the burden on landfills. Subsequently, dollars spent on renovation projects create almost twice as many high-paying, skilled construction jobs than equivalent dollars spent on new construction. As architects, we are kind of harbingers of the economy — if we are busy designing, now, the construction industry will be … soon. One relatively “new” impact is created by a renewed emphasis on specifying materials that are available nearby. While this idea starts as a sustainability practice (less fossil fuel used to transport materials from long distances), it has the added benefit of boosting a more local and regional economy.

Bob Loversidge, Jr. is the president and CEO of Schooley Caldwell Associates.