Episode 26: How to Build an Exciting and Long Lasting Culture That Drives a Company Forward with Lloyd Rosenberg

Who is Lloyd Rosenberg and the key takeaways in this episode?

Lloyd Rosenberg is the President and CEO of DMR Architects. He’s a well-traveled person and it’s through his travels that he’s gleaned some of the fundamentals that he’s applied to his company in terms of building an exciting and long lasting company culture.

 

In this interview, we dove deep into the many secrets of how he’s built his company to be world class and well respected. Some of the topics we’ve discussed include:

 

  • How his journey of Architecture and design molded him into who he is right now
  • How traveling to different countries influenced his company’s culture
  • We’ll also get to know which project he’s most proud of
  • Why he thinks empowering the people in your team is key to building a successful company culture

The Questions

[4:21] How did you end up wanting to be an architect and what drove you down that path?
Answer: It’s interesting. My grandfather was a master carpenter. And he was one of those old world carpenters that was really artistic, and I developed really good construction abilities. I followed him around when I was a kid. I’d be his little helper. You know, when you’re a little kid, you play with the wood, good stuff. And from when I was in school, I just always wanted to be an architect. I followed that dream right through, and it really happened.

[7:55] What is the common link that you think has helped you achieve success?
Answer: I’d have to say it’s the price we pay for success is dedication and hard work, and just keep your nose down and just devote your energy to what you believe in, what you want to happen, and see it happen and work hard, and stay focused.

[16:06] Can you share with us how company culture can be reflected in office design today?
Answer: Yeah, we try to do that with all of our clients and try to understand what their needs are and how they work and what makes the company tick. And we try to design their space around what they believe in. A very, very hard thing to do and accomplish is to get people to understand what it is and how they want to be, and how they want to act, and what the design needs to look like. And I’d say that we’ve been very successful in doing that.

Culture According to Lloyd:

It’s really the people that are here. I empower the people that are here. I give them full responsibility. I have a high integrity work place. And I encourage strong company relationships with the people that are here. And that has really come to fruition in the way people are, the way they act.

Go To Quote for Inspiration

What Lloyd Wants His Company to BE:

  • BE Committed
  • BE Passionate
  • BE Talented

Links and Resources Mentioned in this Interview:

Where to Find Lloyd:

Connect with John on

FULL EPISODE TRANSCRIPT

 

John: Lloyd Rosenberg, welcome to BE Culture Radio. How are you, Lloyd?

Lloyd: Okay, John. Good day.

John: Yes, it’s good to have you. Just so my listeners know, Lloyd is a very close friend of mine. We’ve known each other for over 20 years and have done business together. So I’m quite honored that one of my closest friends in the world would come on the show with me and share his insights. But I know you really well, Lloyd, my listeners don’t. So maybe you could take us back a little bit and share with everybody where you’re from and just a little bit about your journey.

Lloyd: Well, I’m from one of the best cities in New Jersey, Jersey City. Grew up there, went to school there, learned a lot, got street smart there, really got a great, great preview to life living in Jersey City. Then I left there and went to University of Oklahoma, studied architecture, one of the renowned schools in the country, one of the only schools that Frank Lloyd Wright was supportive of. I got my five-year degree from Oklahoma and then I came back to New Jersey. I’ve been practicing architecture ever since.

John: Just so everybody knows, he is an ardent Sooner fan. So he bleeds red, Oklahoma red always. Just so everybody knows, right, Lloyd?

Lloyd: OU! Oklahoma horns. [0:01:09.0] Any Texas people out there, we’ve got to beat you.

John: And you had a great background in Jersey City. Both your parents—since I know you, I’ll share this with everybody—provided you with a tremendous work ethic, because what you’ve accomplished didn’t come easily.

Lloyd: No, I’ve been working all my life. Working hard.

John: Yeah. Your mom and dad gave you a tremendous work ethic and foundation to build a company on. So that goes out to you, to all the moms and dads who have great kids, this is what they end up like.

Lloyd: You’ve got to try hard. You’ve got to work hard.

John: Now, Lloyd, tell us a little bit about how you ended up wanting to be an architect and what drives you down that path.

Lloyd: It’s interesting. My grandfather was a master carpenter. And he was one of those old world carpenters that was really artistic. And I developed really good construction abilities. And I followed him around when I was a kid. I’d be his little helper. You know, when you’re a little kid, you play with the wood. It’s good stuff. And from when I was in school, I just always wanted to be an architect. I followed that dream right through, and it really happened.

John: And you have had some real support in your life. For my listeners who don’t know, Lloyd has been married. How many years have you been married now, Lloyd?

Lloyd: 50.

John: 50 years to one of the nicest people in the world I know, Margie Rosenberg, a great supporter of yours. And behind every good person is a support mechanism. They have great kids and a great wife that have always been there for you. So I think that lends itself to your success as well, that you’ve raised a great family. And it’s something to be said for a guy and a woman that have been together for 50 years successfully.

Lloyd: I’ve got three beautiful grandkids.

John: Yes, you do. One’s going to turn one year old this weekend, right?

Lloyd: Big party, you’re all invited to the party, Saturday at my house.

John: Now, Lloyd, as you traveled, so my listeners know, you’ve not just traveled in North America, you’ve traveled worldwide in your path, in your journey of architecture and design. So could you share a little bit about that?

Lloyd: Well, I had a great opportunity to design a lot of work in the northern part of Nigeria. I designed a university in Kaduna City in Nigeria. It’s a teaching university for the Ministry of Education. So I had a great experience traveling throughout West Africa, and pretty much all of Africa during those years. I designed a university in Kaduna, as I said. I designed the Ministry of Defense headquarters in Abuja, the new capital or the capital of Nigeria, and a couple of hotels and some residential projects while I was there. So I spent about five years traveling back and forth from New Jersey to Lagos and Kaduna. And I met a lot of great people and had great experiences. I was to travel the world and really see different cultures, different people, different ways of life, different ways of building, different ways of living. And I lived with the people who I was working with, and had a great, great time doing that. I’ve also done work in some other areas around the world. I was in Romania, doing master planning and design in Romania. The firm has done work in Costa Rica. I’ve done a lot of work in China. I had a relationship with a very well-known architect in Beijing, James Jao, who is an old, old friend of mine from when he was in New York. And he’s established a major company in Beijing. And he and I have worked collaboratively together on many office buildings and other types of buildings in Beijing, in Shanghai, in Hangzhou. And we’ve enjoyed all those international relationships. And it’s great: great to travel, great to get out of the area and see different parts of the world, different parts of people, different ways things are done, and really experience the world around us. So it’s been a lot of fun.

John:  Lloyd, you are the leader of DMR Architects and the driving force behind it, you have so many different cultures in your firm. You’ve been a mentor to me for many years, and as a matter of fact, just so my listeners know, Lloyd is the one that pushed me off the edge and said, “Go start your own company. It’s going to be okay. Don’t worry. Go and never look back.”

Lloyd: That’s right.

John: So he’s the one who pushed me off the ledge. And I can’t thank him enough for it. And so, I just want to ask you, culturally – Jersey City, Oklahoma, Nigeria, Romania, New Jersey – what is the common link that you think has helped you achieve success?

Lloyd: I’d have to say it’s that the price we pay for success is dedication and hard work. Just keep your nose down and just devote your energy to what you believe in, what you want to happen, and see it happen and work hard, and stay focused.

John: I want to ask you something about culture. Because when I’m fortunate enough to go to DMR Architects, it is incredibly diverse, culturally diverse. People from all walks of life, religion, race, color, you name it. It’s a melting pot in your firm. Did you do that on purpose?

Lloyd: I think I did. Not necessarily knowingly, but I think since I’ve grown up in a city that certainly had a lot of different people as part of it – I went to Oklahoma as a Jewish guy from the East into a very different culture. When I went to Oklahoma, that was a learning experience and a culture shock for me because I never experienced people looking at me as something that they couldn’t understand who I was. When I came back, I engaged with a lot of people that had different backgrounds. And I’ve been friends with people of different backgrounds. So when I really developed the firm some 25 years ago, I wanted to have a nice mid-size firm with lots of different people with different talents. In order to get people with different talents, they have to come from different backgrounds. And they have different environments that they lived in or worked in. Culturally here, probably the greatest thing is that I have employee commitment. And we empower the employees in the firm to do their own thing. We have their commitment. They’re highly motivated and dedicated professionals that are part of the culture that we’ve established. And that’s why we’re both so good and so popular.

John: Alright, so Lloyd, you’re one of the top architecture and design firms in the State of New Jersey. You’ve mixed public work with private work, corporate work, healthcare work. You have a broad spectrum of work at DMR Architects.

Lloyd: We just about do everything. And we’re good at everything.

John: So tell our entrepreneurs about that, because that didn’t happen by accident.

Lloyd: No, it was purposely planned. We started out being primarily a public design firm. We did a lot of schools and colleges. And as the economy expanded in different ways in New Jersey, we followed the type of work that was done. We’re now known for public police stations, emergency management facilities, 911 centers, fire houses, county court houses, county facilities, higher ed. We have a whole sector of the firm that does healthcare. We have a sector of the firm that does tenant work and landlord work, office fit-outs for all the major corporations in New Jersey and in the world. We do a lot of residential, mixed-use residential development. We have a sector of the firm that does planning, urban planning, landscape design. We did the train station at the Meadowlands. We’ve done many different types of buildings throughout New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania and then around the world. So we have a very, very diverse space of work that we do.

John: You also have a division that helps your clients with the environmental side of the business?

Lloyd: We do planning, environmental zoning approvals, approvals for different agencies and remediation of contaminated sites. So it’s all to do with land development. New Jersey is a highly dense area. However, there are still many, many opportunities for either development or redevelopment in New Jersey. So we look at the economy now. We think it’s great. We think it’s growing. We see another good number of years of economic growth. We see hiring and expansion of many of the businesses in the area. And we’re very proud to be part of that development in New Jersey.

John: Now, Lloyd, you have a tremendous background and a very storied clientele list. What would you share with our listeners is one of the things you’re most proud of, one of the projects you could point to and say, “That really epitomizes DMR Architects. That’s really built in line with my value system and my core beliefs.

Lloyd: It’s hard to pick one project that does all that. But I have to say that one thing that makes me feel good is all the work that we’ve done in Jersey City. I always love going back and doing things that reflect the city I grew up in and the transition that’s been made. We did the Justice Complex, a new justice facility for the city. We converted the old Medical Center, actually the place I was born in, Margaret Hague Hospital. We converted that to a residential development. It’s about a million square feet of new residential buildings. We built condos and apartments. We built schools. We worked on colleges. We worked on the city hall, and are currently working for the city on a number of their facilities. So I like the Jersey City connection for one part. Another area that is kind of cool is the work I did in Africa, having accomplished and built a university there. I still have friends that I made some 30 years ago and I communicate with them. And I have a friend that lives in Tanzania. He and I were really good and close while I was in Nigeria. And I have friends that are back here. I have a friend that’s in New York City, a guy in London. So I’ve been able to maintain those relationships. And then all of the things we’ve done, Bergen County, because that’s our home. We did the 911 Emergency Management Command Center. Worked on the Bergen County Administration Building. We’re now doing a building at Monmouth University that is called Pozycki Hall. Steve Pozycki is the basic benefactor of that facility. We’re proud to work with Steve on some of his projects and working with him on this new building on the Monmouth campus is exciting. We’ve done work in Sussex County, in Middlesex County, Monmouth County, almost every county in New Jersey. We worked in Kean University doing their master plan and their facility and union. So we have a lot of projects that we’re proud of. It’s not very hard to pick one.

John: You certainly do. I want to shift gears a little bit and I want to talk about company culture. And we talked earlier about DMR Architects and the variety of people that you bring to the table to produce such a great result as you just shared with us. But Lloyd, I got to ask you. How do you define company culture and how do you make sure you continually adapt your needs, your clients’ needs to a culture you’re trying to create?

Lloyd: It’s really the people that are here. I empower the people that are here. I give them full responsibility. I have a high integrity work place. And I encourage strong company relationships with the people that are here. And that has really come to fruition in the way people are, the way they act. We were just named one of the best places to work in New Jersey. That came from the company internally. We’ve gotten a lot of rewards. We’ve gotten a lot accolades. And we’re really proud of the people that are here. They all make up the culture of the company. It’s not me, it’s all of them. They really carry that banner and carry that flag and are able to do the things that I’ve given them the ability to do.

John: Okay, but I’ve got to drill down a little bit on this, Lloyd, because you’re very humble. And I’ve known you a long time. And there is the Lloyd Rosenberg/DMR brand that you put on things. You’re not heavy-handed. You were focused on culture before culture became popular. So there’s got to be something that you can share with us about the way you do it, the way you get people to get it. You have not talked about this, right? People, they have to get it.

Lloyd: Well, they have to get it. And they’ve got to get on the bus, as one of those famous books say.

John: So how do you get them on the bus with you, Lloyd, because you have a way of saying to people, ‘This is my brand, this is the way I do things. I need you doing them with me, so I can set you free to go do it.’

Lloyd: Patience. Patience, commitment and just dedication and hard work. I try to lead by example. Many, many times, I’m the first guy in the office and the last one to leave. I do what everybody else does. So I set an example. I try to set an example and have people follow that example. And some people exceed those expectations and create a little subculture of their own within the firm and their area of what they do. And I’m really proud of that because I’ve given them the opportunity to do that and to show how they could exceed and excel in what they do.

John: You don’t have a lot of turnover, Lloyd. The people, I mean.

Lloyd: Our people have been here for 25 years and they’re still here.

John: Why is that?

Lloyd: The majority of my staff has been with me for almost forever. I guess we get along well. I treat them well. They treat me well. We like each other.

John: I like that. I think that’s very true. Lloyd, can you share with us how company culture can be reflected in office design today?

Lloyd: Yeah, we try to do that with all of our clients and try to understand what their needs are and how they work and what makes the company tick. And we try to design their space around what they believe in. A very, very hard thing to do and accomplish is to get people to understand what it is and how they want to be, and how they want to act, and what the design needs to look like. And I’d say that we’ve been very successful in doing that. We have some very, very happy clients who’ve complimented the facility once it’s done and completed. One of the hardest parts an architect has to do is to have our client visualize what it’s going to be like once the space is done, built, fit out, the furniture’s in, the carpet’s down, the colors are on the wall, the pictures are on the wall. And they walk in and the greatest accomplishment is for them to say, “This is what I thought it was going to look like.” And people have different abilities to view what it is that they want versus what the plans look like. We do mock-ups, we do models, and try to understand what it is that they want. And I think we achieve that. And there are many facilities that we’ve done that have exceeded their expectations. For example, we worked together on the Bergen County Command Center. John and I worked together on furnishing that. If you were to go there, you could see the enthusiasm and the ability for people to integrate into that space. I think that was a great job that we did together.

John: It was a lot of fun. I have to tell my listeners. Lloyd said to me when he was doing it—and I have to tell you, it’s a team because he’s got some great interiors people in Michelle Lee and Tom Hofmann, really top notch people. But again, unlike a lot of other places that are good, Lloyd has a secret sauce where Lloyd’s part of the team. He’s the President and CEO and owner, but he shows up on the job site like everybody else.

Lloyd: Right, I’m there. I’m working.

John: Which makes it fun, I think, for all of us. And we were sitting around, we’re talking to Lloyd and I was saying, “You know these high-tech crime shows, crime labs? We’re going to make it look like that.”

Lloyd: There used to be a TV show, I think it was called “24”.

John: Yeah, “24”.

Lloyd: Where they had all that high-tech technology. That was about the time that we were doing the Command Center.

John: It was a lot of fun, I’ve got to tell you, because it’s unusual from an interior standpoint that the owner of the firm is on the job.

Lloyd: What was most cool about it is that everybody that we worked with, they all carried guns. They were the boss.

John: Yeah, we can’t disagree with them, right?

Lloyd: We worked with sheriffs, and the police and the detectives, high-powered guys. They were all good.

John: Now, Lloyd, you’ve seen hundreds and hundreds of offices in many different cities and many different countries. You’ve talked to clients about designing their offices. Can you share a story with me about someone who wanted to say ‘I want X. I want high-end, I want high energy,’ and the culture just really wasn’t there. How did you bridge that gap for that person being the senior executive in the room? Doesn’t that fall on you to help that client understand? You say you want something but it’s not aligned. It’s not who you are.

Lloyd: Well, you’ve got to have a lot of patience. And sometimes, you have it,  and sometimes you’ve got to dig down deep and take a lot of deep breaths, and get clients to be understanding. And they need to have patience and they need to understand it’s a collaborative challenge: vendors that supply material and furniture, and carpet and building materials, and designers such as ourselves, architects, interior designers; engineers, mechanical, electrical, plumbing engineers; and the client. We all have to collaborate together and we have to work and develop strong trust relationships. And we have to show some leadership and help the clients understand that it’s a process. And sometimes, the process is a little messy because we are building things, and they have to be engaged and to get the job done. And I’d say that we’ve been successful in doing that.

John: Now, I’ve worked with you, as I shared with my listeners. You’ve been a mentor of mine for 20 years. We’ve worked on a number of projects together. And we’ve had our share of ups and downs. And I will share with my listeners, he doesn’t treat me any better or any worse than anybody else. I think I’m held to perhaps maybe a higher standard. But that being said, I’ve never seen you look at something as a commodity, Lloyd.

Lloyd: No, everything has a value. We like the value of what we get. We have a value, you have a value, the furniture that goes into a building has a value. The equipment that goes into a building has a value. And you get what you pay for to a certain degree, the old expression.

John: Right.

Lloyd: And it’s not just something that you go and buy off the shelf. And you want somebody to be responsible. You want somebody who if it doesn’t come out right, they’re going to make it right. And one thing that you’ve done over the years that I’ve known you is if something didn’t go out right, didn’t happen right, you were there to fix it and to make sure it was right before the end of the day. And we’ve done things in New Jersey. We’ve done things in New York together with John. We’ve done things in California together. So no matter where it is, we get it done. We have some clients that are a little bit more demanding, that we have to work around, and some that are less demanding, that maybe we have a little bit more fun with. But it all gets done and it gets done right. And BE has always been a standup company that’s always done the right thing and made sure it was to the satisfaction of the user and the client, and the guy that paid for it, and the company that it stands for.

John: Well, we have a good design firm. I appreciate it. I’m humbled by your kind words. I’m surrounded by great people like you. I took a lot of what you did for many years before me and emulated it here. So just so my listeners know, I’m not that smart, I just listen well. Lloyd, I’ve got to-

Lloyd: He’s a good golf teacher too, I’ve got to tell you.

John: We might have played one or two rounds of golf together.

Lloyd: I think so, yeah.

John: Lloyd, I want to ask you, in your travels, what did you think was like a cool company, a cool culture that you walked through and said, “This is cool. This is hip. They get it.” Can you share with us and our listeners in your travels any that you’ve been by? It may not have been one of your projects, it may just have been some that you captured as a client. But when you walked in, it hit you immediately, that they got it from a cultural standpoint?

Lloyd: You know, I see a lot of spaces and I’ve been doing this for a long time. And I try now, as I’ve gotten older, to be somewhat less critical of things and appreciate what people have done. So I’ve seen a lot of things that people have accomplished through stress and anguish, and that they’ve been able to achieve that. So I really give credit to a lot of people and a lot of designers, and a lot of vendors and a lot of contractors that have done good jobs. We like nice things. We like nice spaces. We like to have contemporary and well-defined and designed facilities that we have. And the world changes too. So what might have been good ten years ago in today’s environment may not be good today. Some of the things you bought last year aren’t that good today. So the world changes and you have to look irrespective of the things that you like, and irrespective of the things that were done years ago that might not be as current or up-to-date, but really have a value today. So we like a lot of things. We think they’re all good. We just encourage people to do a good job, do the best they can, do the right thing for everybody else, and kind of move forward.

John: Now, let me ask you, what advice would you give a young professional coming out of architecture school, trying to build a career, trying to build a team, trying to build a culture, what advice would you give them?

Lloyd: Come here and work for a while to give you experience. If somebody out there that is listening to this and wants that ability to get in with a firm that gives people opportunities: opportunity to learn, opportunity to experiment with things, to experience different things, to see different ways different people do things, we’re working now on the American Dream Project in the Meadowlands. We have construction and administration professionals. We have staff on site. We’re going to see a $2 billion amusement park/theme park being developed and built in the Meadowlands. We work very closely with 555 Company. We just finished their executive showroom. BE furnished that with different furniture and carpet and conference tables, glass walls and other things. It’s an exceptional space. It’s a cool space. They’re using it to lease the new facility. And we work together on that with the 555 representatives. So this is all great stuff. I mean, really, it’s a small space, but it’s a highlight of the new facility for American Dream.

John: Now Lloyd, let me ask you a question. So what I’m taking from this comment is ‘Hey, I may not be an architect, I may not be a designer, but I have other skills. Is Lloyd Rosenberg saying there might be an opportunity for me at DMR?’

Lloyd: We look for good people. So if you’re a good person, come on over.

John: Excellent. Alright, now I’m going to take you into the lightning round. It’s where I’m going to ask you a question, it won’t take 60 seconds to answer the question, and move on to the next one. Lloyd, is there a book that changed your life?

Lloyd: It’s a hard question, John. I haven’t read a lot of books in my life. I have to say, that’s one of the things that I probably could have done better at. So I kind of say no.

John: Okay, did you have a quote you go to for inspiration?

Lloyd: “Work hard, play hard.”

John: I like that. What company do you admire the most as it relates to their culture outside of your own?

Lloyd: I’ve read the Apple book, Jobs book, I guess that’s one of the books I read. I think that was a really cool culture that was developed. And I like to emulate some of the things that go on in that high-tech field.

John: Okay. Now, Lloyd, what’s your favorite office design or designer, if you will? Who’s influenced you and who do you hold dearest to you?

Lloyd: The Business Environments. Is there another one?

John: Maybe Franklin Lloyd Wright?

Lloyd: I actually studied as part of the University of Oklahoma, I studied under Frank Lloyd Wright. He wasn’t alive, but all of his disciples and people that he worked with were professors at University of Oklahoma. And I guess when I graduated college, I was a Frank Lloyd Wright design kind of person. I’ve transitioned from there. But that was where I grew up in that environment.

John: Excellent. Now Lloyd, if you had to describe the culture of DMR Architects, and you were going to use – you’re going to give us three words, three adjectives and you’ve got to start it with “BE” because you’re on BE Culture Radio, what would those three words be?

Lloyd: BE committed.

John: Okay, so your ‘BE committed’ will be one.

Lloyd: BE passionate.

John: BE passionate would be two.

Lloyd: BE talented.

John: BE committed, BE passionate, and BE talented. I love that. Now, Lloyd, if our listeners want to reach you, how can they reach out to you? Your e-mail address?

Lloyd: They call you and you turn them over to me.

John: Now, tell them your e-mail address, come on, Lloyd.

Lloyd: Lloyd@dmrarchitects.com

John: And so my listeners can reach out to Lloyd. I promise you, he’ll answer you. Now, Lloyd, I never end a show without sharing with my guest my favorite quote and it’s from Maya Angelou which is “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” And I just want to thank you for making me feel one of one for the last 20 years.

Lloyd: Hey, brother, good job.

John: Thanks, I appreciate you coming on our show. You’ll come back and visit us again and tell us about the American Dream Project in about six months?

Lloyd: I will.

John: Thank you so much, Lloyd. I hope that the project goes great. And I wish you the very best. And be well, my friend.

Lloyd: Alright, and don’t forget, Saturday at my house, my granddaughter’s birthday party. She’s one.

John: We’re going to the one-year-old birthday party.

Lloyd: Imagine Bliss.

John: And that is the child’s name.

Lloyd: Yes, it is.

John: Lloyd, thank you so much.

Lloyd: Okay. Take care, John.

John: Bye-bye.

Lloyd: Bye.