I recently had the opportunity to sit down with a few members of our commercial team to discuss the history, projects, challenges and opportunities associated with performing work for large-scale, national clients. The conversation proved fascinating as I witnessed first-hand the extensive relationships, vast and broad-reaching portfolio, and signature jovial demeanor for which this group is best known. A recap of my conversation – excluding the fact that Kerry is a bourbon drinker – is outlined below. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed hearing it!
Who makes up the commercial team at Lawrence Group and what role does each member play in the process? The commercial team has more than 85 years combined experience and currently includes Kerry Gaffney, Michael Lombardo, April Reinhardt, Joe Meyer and Amanda Skibinski. Kerry is a problem solver who tackles special conditions, while Michael serves as a technical and software expert; April, Joe and Amanda are experienced account managers and designers as well as drivers of business development and marketing efforts.
What services does the commercial team provide Lawrence Group clients? We are tasked with taking our clients’ vision and turning it into reality. We handle anything that happens from the time they sign a letter of intent and obtain a certificate of occupancy to when they successfully open the doors to their new location. This can include code research and compliance especially as it pertains to life safety issues; assisting in lease negotiations; conducting site surveys; schematic design, construction documents, test fits, development and construction administration. Currently, we successfully manage accounts for 25+ national brands, and we completed more than 840 projects in 2015 and 2016 combined. Many of these projects are located across the United States, and Lawrence Group is licensed in 39 states and Washington D.C.
Can you describe typical clients that the commercial team is responsible for serving? Our group works directly with brands, but also has long-standing relationships with general contractors and commercial real estate services companies such as Cushman & Wakefield, who is a leading global real estate services firm that helps clients transform the way people work, shop and live. Lawrence Group’s commercial team plays varying roles, depending upon the relationship, and actively works to understand the client, perfect the strategy behind each account, and establish economies of scale to expedite speed to market and achieve goals associated with each project. No matter if the end-user is a direct or indirect client, the team wants to maintain a positive reputation for strong relationships and impressive results.
How would you describe the keys to a successful relationship between Lawrence Group’s commercial team and its clients? Lawrence Group’s founding leaders established a set of values that guide our decisions, attitudes and approach. They include: providing legendary customer service; inspiring individual growth and creativity; growing a universe of great relationships; having fun and celebrating mutual success; and the business of Architecture. This team prides itself of making customer service a top priority, continually striving to accommodate schedules and deadlines, solve problems and exhibit a flexible “whatever it takes” commitment to each and every client.
Having completed numerous spaces for food service and financial service clients, what factors must you take into consideration when approaching projects for these particular uses? Space designed for food service tenants require an in-depth knowledge of health department regulations, including the necessary size and layout requirements pertaining to kitchen equipment. The team takes into consideration any restrictions, finishes, mechanical, electrical and plumbing necessities unique to these environments and their respective municipalities and governing bodies.
Lawrence Group incorporated The Marketplace concept for 140 AMC movie theaters nationwide. This innovative design incorporates a grab-n-go concept, revolutionizing the traditional concession line by enabling patrons to select concession items before proceeding to the checkout area.
Similar to the last question, what special circumstances must be taken into consideration when approaching projects for financial service related clients? Conditions for financial service spaces are unique in that they call for special attention to be given to elements such as privacy and security. When planning for adjacent tenants, occupant loads and sound levels, certain formulas and materials are incorporated to achieve the necessary and desired goals of the tenant.
Lawrence Group has provided tenant improvement services for over 300 H&R Block and over 3,200 Edward Jones Investments locations nationwide. Working closely with Cushman & Wakefield and the general contractor, Lawrence Group provides design intent drawings and produces construction documents and permit sets. The typical H&R Block ranges from 1,500 to 2,500 square feet and includes a reception/waiting area, six to eight tax representative workstations, restroom and storage area. A typical investment office of Edward Jones includes a reception area, private offices, restroom and storage area.
Finally and most importantly, what challenges can the commercial team help its clients overcome? Every project has its own intricacies because no two spaces are ever exactly alike. One common theme involves consistency throughout the rollout process, including facilitating the logistics of opening multiple locations at one time. In the case of H&R Block, they desired to have 250 offices opened prior to the 2015 tax season. Another concept familiar to the team is roadblocks, which are present in almost every situation. Weight Watchers sought to take a hand-drawn visual aid and turn it into reality, looking to the Lawrence Group team to create documents that contractors could read, bid on and build.
In the end, we look to standardize whenever possible and provide clients with the best return for their investment, while also acknowledging and addressing any issues that may arise along the way to achieving their dreams.Claire Strube