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Initial Strategic Planning Retreat with Ole Carlson
and Subsequent Follow-up Sessions Help
MulvannyG2 Architecture Grow into One
of World's Top Architecture Firms

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That was our "coming out party." It defined who we are and where we want to go. It was transformational in the fact that it made us collectively believe that we could do it, that we could accomplish our dreams as a business.
Mitchell Smith
Senior Partner, Managing Director
MulvannyG2 Architecture


Since the Carlson-facilitated session, MulvannyG2 has become one of the fastest growing architecture firms in the country, the third largest retail design firm in the U.S. (ranked by Display & Design Ideas and Visual Merchandising + Store Design) and among the top 20 largest architecture firms in the U.S. (ranked by Building Design & Construction magazine).

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MulvannyG2 Architecture
Mitchell Smith
"At that session we established our Core Values that we live to this day. We established our Strategic Principal of 'One Unified Firm' that drives how we collaborate together to achieve the best results for our clients. Now it's time to refresh and revisit the vision and raise the bar even more."
Mitchell Smith
Senior Partner, Managing Director
MulvannyG2 Architecture
MulvannyG2 Architecture was founded in 1971. By 1991, when Managing Director Mitchell Smith joined the firm as a project manager, it still was relatively small with 18 people. In 1999, the acquisition of G2 Architecture brought expertise in high-end office, international, mixed-use and interior design, a new name for the company -- MulvannyG2 Architecture -- and continued growth.

By 2001, the small architecture firm now had 320 people on staff. But while the firm was doing well, it did not have a clear direction. The growth was impressive, but it was responsive to client demand, not proactively planned as part of a strategic initiative.

"We were a stealth firm," Smith said. "We had become large, but no one knew who we were. We had no central focus or purpose."

In 2001, they brought in Ole Carlson to facilitate a 2 ½ day strategic planning retreat. The objective was to examine the corporate vision holistically and put a structure in place that the leadership could sign off on and implement across the organization.

"There was no way we thought we would do that," Smith said, "but that's precisely what we left with under Ole’s guidance."

"The catalyst was getting clarity around what our vision and mission was and what we aspire to," he continued. "Ole pushed us to change our underdog mentality about who we were and what we do. Ole pushed us to take stronger stands."

Implementing the plan still required transitioning not just to new leaders, but also to a new management style. Over the next two years, Carlson was able to help in this area, as well. The transition of day-to-day executive and operational responsibility from Jerry Lee, one of the firm's early partners and who still serves as chairman, to Mitch Smith was particularly challenging because of the differences in management styles between the old and the new.

"Jerry is a laid back, benevolent sort," Carlson explained. "Mitch is very direct, the type to tell you what the deal is without much varnish. But Jerry's leadership style, while very suitable to what the firm was, created a sense of entitlement that was stronger than the sense of accountability among the staff, and Mitch had to deal with that."

Smith's direct style, plus the tough, immediate decisions he needed to make to take MulvanneyG2 to the next level, created the potential for a difficult transition. Carlson coached Smith, helping him develop his management strengths while improving his interpersonal skills to help alleviate the stress the changes placed on the organization.

Difficult decisions were, and still are, made. People are not made to feel uncomfortable, but they nonetheless know they will be held accountable for their assignments and responsibilities. But these demands have not kept MulvanneyG2 from consistently earning recognition as one of the "best architecture firms to work for," as identified by the industry's leading publications.

More important, using the plan developed at the Carlson-facilitated retreat, MulvannyG2 has become one of the fastest growing architecture firms in the country, the third largest retail design firm in the U.S. (ranked by Display & Design Ideas and Visual Merchandising + Store Design) and among the top 20 largest architecture firms in the U.S. (ranked by Building Design & Construction magazine).

The concepts learned while working with Ole Carlson during that original strategy session are still being used today.

"At that session we established our Core Values that we live to this day," Smith said. "We established our Strategic Principal of 'One Unified Firm' that drives how we collaborate together to achieve the best results for our clients. Now it's time to refresh and revisit the vision and raise the bar even more."


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