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Key early decision continues to benefit firm

Rochester Business Journal
June 3, 2016

David Gardner took something of a gamble 25 years ago, one that has paid off nicely for his architecture firm.

As the founder and president of Gardner Plus Architects PLLC, Gardner decided the firm would have a strict focus on the health care sector. The move has paid off thanks to a shift in the industry toward independent and assisted-living settings for aging populations.

“This is something that we decided at the outset of the firm 25 years ago. That we would run the risk of focusing on one sector and be a specialist rather than a general practitioner,” Gardner said. “Over the course of the last 25 years, that’s served us well as the field has been very dynamic and really changing in the way people are served.”

The more recent changes to the field have led to a period of growth for Gardner Plus Architects, Gardner said. A gradual shift away from what he called “the mothership” hospitals to a greater focus on satellite facilities has led to a surge in construction in the sector, he said.

“There seems to be a tendency to develop some larger, one-stop-shop satellite facilities that offer more services outside of a hospital, and we’ve been involved in a variety of those,” he said. “We’ve also seen a great deal of growth in the senior market, which runs the gamut from independent living to assisted living to memory care and long-term care or nursing homes.”

There have been challenges as well, Gardner noted. The advent of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act led to what he called “a bit of agita” within the field, leading providers to hunker down and brace for changes. This led to slower growth, he noted.

“We’re not seeing the level of activity that we have in years past, but we’ve still had some good growth,” he said.

Gardner noted the firm has brought in roughly $2.5 million in gross annual revenue the past several years, though the exact total has ebbed and flowed a bit. The firm, which once had as many as 17 employees during the period of its largest growth, has settled back to 12 employees, a level Gardner said has been the best fit for the firm.

He sees more room for growth ahead as the baby boomer generation continues streaming into retirement and pushing for more independent settings.

“It’s kind of like that commercial that said, ‘This is not my father’s Oldsmobile,’” Gardner said. “This generation hitting retirement is not looking for the long-term care and senior environment of years past.

“They’re being much more sophisticated buyers and are looking for a greater spectrum of care—a community where they can age in place and not have to be shuffled from one facility to another.”

It has been an ongoing challenge to be a service to the community while also running a good company, a dual task he sees as a major accomplishment, Gardner added.

“As I look back over these 25 years, it’s really been a nice journey, an interesting road of really specialized architecture and a separate journey of owning a business—everything from meeting client needs to keeping paper towel stocked in the closet,” he said.

A large part of the company’s success comes from its internal culture, Vice President Todd Martin said. Gardner Plus Architects allows employees to work on flex hours, putting their focus on projects and clients.

“We let people come and go as they need as long as they’re putting in their time and taking care of their client needs,” Martin said.

The company has another important tool in creating a more relaxed environment: an employee listed at the bottom of the company website’s “The Team” page whose sole job is to lessen stress in the workplace.

“That’s our office dog,” Martin said of Roxy Gardner.


Gardner Plus Architects PLLC
Architectural services firm
Year founded: 1990
Top executive: David Gardner,
president
2015 ranking: 75
Current employment: 12
Headquarters: Henrietta
Website: gardnerplus.com

6/3/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email service@rbj.net.


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