Urban Landscapes, LLC is inching closer to being three years old. Given that this is my Sixth (gulp) company since 2010, I am careful with how everything transpires (read further about my path here). This includes the hiring processes, the type of work that we do and leaving a positive impact of the community. The ethos of the company is what differentiates Urban Landscapes in the land development and landscape architecture industry.
When you want to build a company, especially in times of economic and workforce instability, you have to differentiate the company. I have felt that I have always been able to do that. I believe that if you love and are passionate about the work that you do, it won’t be work. We, as a company and employees, need to be passionate about our work – we need to love our work.
The passion has always been the differentiator of a quality design and one that checks the boxes in my experience. It makes sense, right? If you are working on a project that you don’t believe in, the final product and efficiency are less than desirable. Ultimately, the company ownership and clients are poorly served. Before you say it, yes, you’re correct. We can’t always work on only the projects that we want to, they can’t ALL be winners, right? But what if they could, that is my goal for the business… and we’re pretty darn close to achieving just that!
I want to pull a little more on that thread. As I’ve told existing clients and prospective clients in regard to rezoning applications, if I can’t believe in what we’re proposing, the odds of success are greatly reduced. For me to believe in the project, it needs to be a net benefit to the community. Some land development achieves this net benefit, but not all land development.
In my twenty year tenure, I’ve had some of the most complicated and rewarding zone change and land development applications. Knock on wood, but to date, I have been successful in everyone of them. Most come with adversity, compromise and detailed explanation to concerned neighbors. Some come with multiple community meetings, and a couple have even come with great opposition from City Administration and political forces. The constant for all of the complicated applications is that they all benefitted their communities.
On the other hand, I’ve turned down or referred on clients that have requested my services several times. Those were generally for applications like storage facilities, gas stations, and fast-food restaurants.
I believe that we, as Town Planners, have a great responsibility for the resilience of our region, country, and planet. When we design our places around the automobile, we’re contributing to the problems that are slowly destroying the health of our residents, our economics, and our planet.
Pardon the long digression, but this ties in completely to employee retention.
I want to provide work for my employees that they want to do, work that they can be excited for. I want the work that got me excited to come into work every day while I was employed in Omaha and when I had my start in Colorado Springs at Thomas & Thomas. They included projects that are catalytic for the community, push the definitions of sustainable landscapes, or in one instance, where we are currently creating a new town in Northern Colorado – Hylandtown. These exciting projects make us anxious to return from vacations.
Granted, not all are always necessarily profitable projects on the ledger- some are frankly money losers. However, sometimes the least profitable projects are the greatest importance to employee retention.
Today, there are three of us at Urban Landscapes, including myself. My first hire was a little over one year ago – Sherry MacWilliam. Sherry was brought on to assist with the landscape design for many of our projects. She has a vast amount of experience and passion in horticulture and landscape design. For a landscape architectural and urban design company, conventional knowledge would be to look for a degree in landscape architecture. I have learned that that is a foolish approach.
Sherry has been an outstanding addition! She has opened my eyes, outside the conventional landscape architectural degree. She has far exceeded all expectations and continues to have a great passion and desire to learn more about the development work that we do on a daily basis. Fortunately for Ryan and I, she also has great taste in music and, perhaps unfortunately for us, she tends to win the majority of our inter-office corn hole and other competitions.
In January of this year, I hired a familiar face in Ryan Bowman. Some of you may have met and worked with Ryan in the past, as this is actually the third time that I have hired Ryan. I hired him the first time at Altitude Land Consultants in 2016 from a colleague recommendation. Ryan moved a couple of years later to the West Coast to help out family for a few months. I was excited to see him back in the hallways of Lincoln Center (a former client and the former office location of ALC) where we discussed hiring him once again, he started the following week.
Shortly after I had decided to move on from ALC, Ryan did the same and he helped me out as a contractor to Urban Landscapes. A few months later, our companies collaborated as a company called Civic Design Partnership with another former colleague, Jeff Webb. This venture was unfortunately short-lived and was dissolved at the end of 2021.
In January of this year, I was excited to welcome Ryan back, where he has continued his excellent and creative work. Ryan, as the more prototypical landscape architect in training, has a great understanding of the development industry. He also brings a passion for the placemaking process and new urbanism.
Reach out to us!
If any of this resonates with you, I’m open to have a coffee, and almost always open to grab a beer. Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I love the work that we do and am always happy to discuss the process of land development.
Thank you for reading, and feel free to peruse our relatively new, simplified website!