David Baker Architects

Entrepreneur Profile: David Baker PDF IconDbp-03'05-sfbusstimes-dbprofile

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By Lauren Beller
San Francisco Business Times
March 2005

Resume, San Francisco Business Times.

Big Picture

Reason for starting business:
I was advising other architects on how to save energy in their buildings. I was more interested in designing buildings.

Most difficult part of decision:
It's like jumping into a pool not knowing how deep it is. It's pretty terrifying. It's good I did it early, I was able to deal with it—I didn't have a big mortgage.

Biggest plus of ownership:
You get to work any 60 hours in the week you want. But, really it's incredibly rewarding. In our case, I'm continually meeting people who live in one of our buildings or have lived in one and it has enriched their lives.

Biggest drawback:
It's risky. But everything is risky: Who knows what is going to happen? Major change you tend to fear, but usually it's incredibly healthy.

Biggest misconception:
Early on, I had employees and I had to pay them so much, they all made more than me. They said, "But you own the firm." Well, yeah, but I like to buy groceries too.

Biggest business strength:
We really love what we do. Being passionate is the most important thing.

Biggest business weakness:
Not saying "No".

Biggest risk:
We've had our ups and downs and had our periods of renewal and slipping. The more proactive you are, the less you'll have of the negative.

Biggest mistake:
Not saying no enough. Having goals that are really clear helps you to say no or yes.

Smartest move:
Concentrating on quality of services. You can grow more quickly with hype, but we try not to sell ourselves at all and just do a really, really good job.

Biggest worry:
Global warming. Peak oil. I think the next 10 years will be very challenging for business. Economic disruption with things not going the way they have in the past.

Top source of inspiration:
It's the people I work with, who are really creative. And the clients too.

Daily Routine

Most challenging task:
To communicate proactively with people around me.

Favorite task:
Crawling off in the corner and designing by myself.

Least favorite task
: Laying someone off, which we don't have to do very often.

Biggest frustration:
The dynamic of not doing the right thing for economic reasons. It's very frustrating.

Source of support in a business crisis:
That's why you have to be passionate—there are ups and downs. You wake up the morning and you figure out how to make lemonade out of lemons.


Key goal yet to achieve:
Public buildings—I find them really interesting, we'd like to do more of them. We're doing a skate/BMX park in San Jose. Projects that users love—it's incredibly rewarding.

First move with capital windfall:
I would capitalize the business more, so we could do more long-term planning and strategizing. To be more strategic, pursue goals we saw as beneficial in the long term.

Five year plan:
We are not growing. We're focusing on our core clients and the clients we find rewarding. Expanding out the practice in terms of the breadth (i.e., skateboard parks), entering  competitions. Trying to refine what we have, but we made a conscious decision not to grow.

Inducement to sell:
I have no plans to sell. I don't think it would make sense.

First choice for new career or venture:
I can't imagine doing anything but what I do. I don't want to be a movie star.


Most-admired entrepreneur:
Architects developing their own small projects, doing really great design.

Most interested in meeting:
Architect Louis Kahn.

Stress reducers:
Monthly massages at the office. I ride my bike everywhere, it's very meditative. I don't drive.

Favorite pastimes:
Designing, looking at buildings and cities. I'm very interested in outside-the-property-line issues, transportation, the public realm.

Favorite book:
Collapse, by Jared Diamond.

Favorite film:
Taxi Driver.

Favorite restaurant:
Slanted Door.

Favorite destination:
San Francisco.

City CarShare.