Elevating the World for 35 Years
Updated: Mar 3
Al and I might well have finished our careers several years ago, but as you can see from our tenacity, we each enjoy what we do. While I do not feel much different than when we started, I am increasingly cognizant that figuring on another 35 years is unlikely. The wonderful thing is that we have through perseverance, good fortune and hard work found a great client group that will be around for the 50th, 60th, or even 70th anniversary.
For many, our nearly invisible presence on these projects would be difficult. The building or project is completed, and our reward is often limited to walking in when it is complete and having the satisfaction that we contributed which at best remains largely unnoticed by those who work or live or visit these buildings. My wife, Cathy, has often pointed out that we do not “claim” the work that we have done, and it’s never bothered me, as fame or notoriety is not something in which I’m interested. And I sleep very soundly knowing that while we never get it perfect – the architect’s dream – we are often able to move the needle sufficiently so that those who use the buildings we work on enjoy the experience without ever knowing who helped them to get a nicer trip to the office, their apartment or to buy the latest Apple gadget. And as I watch the work in which we are collectively involved, it is apparent that we touch the lives of thousands without virtually any one of them knowing what we have done. As a colleague pointed out to me today, we have mutually sweated the details to make the Observation Deck at Rockefeller Center a reality. Every time I have visited this, I can only smile inwardly to know what our contribution was and I am sure that my colleagues feel no differently. We mutually pulled off a significant engineering feat to raise four elevators up to serve the Top of the Rock without impacting the Landmark status of the building. And even as I ran numbers on the number of people who could potentially visit this annually, I was forced to guess at what kind of utilization we might have, even as we had never designed this kind of facility before.
So, despite a day of virtually continuous conference calls starting at 5:30 am PST, I bid us all Happy Anniversary with these thoughts:
· Never miss a chance to exercise your curiosity. We work in an industry where people will share their thoughts with us for free, yet their counsel, their experience will only make you better at your job. Never be afraid to ask “stupid” questions. Even if the person you are talking to can’t imagine why you might have asked the question, you’ll be rewarded by their knowledge. I have never maintained or installed an elevator yet have a wealth of knowledge learned from the people who do these jobs.
· Do what you can to always imagine the larger picture. What can we add to the process? Every person has experience they may even discount which can help others.
· Take the time to help a friend or colleague with details on a small elevator project. The generosity is often rewarded when someone calls out of the blue after a recommendation from a mutual acquaintance. We became involved in the Citibank project in large part because one of their employees called me to ask what might be done with their double-deck elevators to improve service. We spoke and I arranged for an elevator company to survey the building and show them what destination-based dispatching might do. After four months, I was called to interview with them for a renovation of their headquarters. While generosity is something that provides personal fulfillment, it is always good business.
· Be bold. There are projects we do that others call impossible. Years ago, as our workload was suffering due to the inevitable economic wave, a friend returned from a marketing trip to Thailand. He worked for a big MEP firm and said he had been looking at a planned 105 story building in Bangkok; he said, “I don’t know if we’ll get the job, but they desperately need you.” I looked at this as a long shot as I had never done work in Asia and would be starting from zero, but I called the contact he gave me and a month later found myself in Bangkok having lunch with the Taiwanese project manager and the partners of the Thai architectural firm. Inwardly feeling entirely inadequate. As we looked at the project in their office, it was evident to me that not only did I have elevator knowledge I could share but brought them extensive knowledge of high-rise building design. We were involved in that project for the next two-and-a-half years. This led to virtually all the work we have done in Asia.
Most of all, take the time to enjoy what you do. We are fortunate to work in a business in which virtually no one is there just for the money; there are easier ways to make money. And the benefit of this is the opportunity to work with hundreds of dedicated people in your career.
Thanks again for the continued opportunity to serve you as the President of EWCG. I am hoping to be around for the 50th Anniversary.