Weekly stories on the subject of real estate, design and the built environment


Winning & Succeeding in Business Across Geographies

On Thursday 8/20 we held our roundtable on Winning and Succeeding in Business Across Geographies. The session was co-led by Gabriel Smith, Director at Thomas Phifer & Partners, and Cass Smith, Principal at CCS Architects.

For information on future Brick & Wonder events, visit our Events Page.

Video & Audio Recordings

Brick & Wonder members can access full session notes, and video + audio recordings here.

Key Insights

Cass Smith, CCS Architects

Why do work in a different state or a different country? A little bit, it’s for the business – you need the work, you take the projects. But perhaps it’s more because it’s the icing on the cake of your work – it’s hard to be an insider in these places – so it’s nice to spend time there. As a professional in my career it’s an evolution and a learning opportunity.


Gabriel Smith, Director, Thomas Phifer & Partners

For projects outside your normal area, you have to be able to answer the question: “Why bring me in to do this thing? Is it my expertise, it is my passion?” It doesn’t matter where you are – you need to be able to answer that, before you’re on the flight on your way over there!


It was our first poured-in-place concrete home. Being remote from that process was difficult – we went frequently but it was really tricky to manage. We learned that it’s not the dream role to be the design architect on a remote project!


One thing we know is that you never know which relationships the work will come from.


Relationships exist independent of projects – so don’t be seen as a carpetbagger, only showing up when there’s a project.


Our international and national projects are some of the easier ones because we’re hired for creativity, not for difficult problem solving.


If you think creatively about your network, you can be delivered by the hand to resources who can answer the questions you have in the local marketplace.


As a designer, you have to ask yourself what can we live with – because you won’t be able to finesse every detail the way you would locally.


We sometimes get hired because someone likes a photo of a specific project and they want to replicate a specific look in their city – and it’s not always appropriate, especially in relations to materials and climate.


With this economy, it’s likely there will be a lag before a downturn – it’s not tomorrow, but a year from tomorrow – there is some research to be done… and it takes time for the information to be validated.


Building safety and light + shade control are very tricky, but there is a huge hunger for the latest technology wherever we work.


I try to be in touch with people at a human level, not just in relation to our work.


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