Education: Associate degree, computer technology, Purdue University
What is the biggest business challenge you’ve faced, and how did you overcome it?
In the early ’90s, our industry came to a virtual standstill because the capital markets were nonexistent. We had a recession. We had a tax reform act in 1986, which started the problem.
It led to a constipation of the capital markets. Traditional lenders were no longer making loans. Federal banking officials were requiring lenders to dramatically reduce their exposure to real estate. That made it a tough, difficult period of time to build new products.
That was the birth of U.S.-based REITs. We were proud and happy we were able to work through that period without going public. It was a period when many competitors went bankrupt and others went public.
What is the most important business lesson you’ve learned?
People the power of people. A close second would be the need to constantly change, constantly adapt, constantly reinvent. I know that sounds trite.
This company, in many ways, is unrecognizable from two years ago, let alone almost 30 years ago. That has served us well. That’s the primary reason we’ve been able to survive through all kinds of economic cycles and conditions.
Lauth on technology: We’re hugely reliant as a company upon technology. We’ve always prided ourselves on being a leader in that regard. Almost everybody in this company carries a Blackberry.
Many of us have, since the day they came out, when almost nobody had them, trusted in them or believed in them. We thought that was a pretty good idea given that we were growing, had people around the country and the importance of communication in our business.
Three or four years ago, we came up with a product we call Project View, which is proprietary in nature. It’s a Web-based, online tool where all of our clients, with the appropriate password, can log on to our Web site and see their projects either real time or same-day photos of what it looks like today, see up-to-date budgets, schedules, plans, meeting notes virtually everything they need to know about the project without leaving their office.