March 2015 – Inver Grove Heights, Minn. – Commitment. It’s a word our company uses a lot – we use it to define our relationship with our clients, our relationship with our projects, and our relationship with one another. For 30 years it has shaped the character of this company and in looking back over our history I couldn’t help but think about my own journey to KOMA 15 years ago and what that word has meant for me.
Back in 1999, just a young kid in college, I was working a summer job for a home builder in Inver Grove Heights. Although the job gave me great hands on construction experience, I was looking for an internship to give me office experience and a look at what architecture in the real world would be like. Fortunately for me, my mom worked in the building department at IGH City Hall and knew of a local A/E firm that she thought could provide some good networking exposure. I was able to set up a time to meet with Jim, Dan, Brady, and Brian (KOMW at the time) to ask them questions about the industry beyond what I learned in school and also how to prepare myself for the “marketplace” in which I would soon be entering. Again, fortunately for me my preparation was short lived because by the time I got home I was greeted with an unexpected voicemail and the offer of a summer internship.
My summer was spent helping out in any way that I could – even if it meant running copies of plans or putting up shelving systems in the attic crawl space. Regardless of my “grunt” status, the experience was exactly what I needed and I felt extremely privileged to have such a great group of people spend the summer mentoring me. After graduation I interviewed at several other firms, but ultimately decided to return to KOMA. Of course there was a comfort level that I already had from interning here but more so I had that gut feeling – this is where I am supposed to be, here I had partners who were willing to take me under their wing and guide me; they were committed to me.
Fast forward 8 years….I had just received my architecture license and had been taking on much more responsibilities within the company. The partners approached me with the opportunity to become a part of the future ownership group. Of course I felt extremely privileged and honored to be in this position. But there was also a part of me that felt overwhelmed and as if it was too big of a commitment to grasp….I was left thinking, I always thought I’d take time to explore the world before being so permanently grounded, and you mean someday I’ll be a part of the team running the company?!
But here’s the thing…I had a team committed to taking on this challenge with me. I had people I trusted and people I respected. And I had time to grow through the process. It has been a slow and steady process of learning about the intricacies of running a business – how to market and get work, how to plan for the future and evolve, how to mentor those coming up after me and most of all how to maintain the core values that have made us who we are today. I’ve learned that while there are risks and sacrifices to making a commitment like this and there are times when things aren’t always perfect, the positives by far outweigh the negatives and if in another 30 years we are a team as committed to our clients, projects, and our own team as we are now – then I will have considered it all a success!