Architect Tipton Housewright joined OMNIPLAN about 35 years ago. As principal and CEO, he oversees a wide variety of project types, including regional retail and mixed-use developments, contemporary churches, and higher-ed facilities. He also leads various planning initiatives in the North East Dallas neighborhood where he lives.
How are you coping amid the COVID-19 crisis?
Our entire 80-plus staff has been working from home. We have increased the frequency of communication at all levels off the firm and are leveraging technology to remain connected and productive.
Did your business continuity plan work, or were there surprises?
Working from home has been very successful. The surprise is how successfully our individual project teams have remained in contact, as well as the overall level of communication across the entire firm. This experience is pointing us to the fact that the future of work will be more much more mobile, more fluid, and less tied to the traditional office.
What are the short-term ramifications for your specific industry?
I see two big impacts. First, demand in many industries, such as travel, hospitality, and food and beverage, all but dried up. Demand in sectors like the office will certainly take a pause through this time. Industrial and distribution will probably benefit from this crisis as well as medical real estate. The architecture and construction industry is very capital-intensive, so the lack of project financing could be the second big impact. We will have to wait and see.
Have you found silver linings in these difficult times?
The silver lining for us is learning new ways to work and communicate. Becoming more proficient on a wider array of technology platforms will pay dividends for us in the future.
How are you maintaining your company culture?
Communicate, communicate, and communicate. We have launched a digital newsletter. Our monthly all-staff meetings are now held online every week. (Our slogan is “a week is the new month.”) We have also created an online survey to get feedback on how people are doing and what their specific needs are. In all of our communication, we are working hard to be as transparent and open as we possibly can.
What have you learned that may change your policies or strategies for the future?
I can see a future with more remote work and hoteling to help people with work/life balance and reduce our real estate expenses.
What will things look like for your company and industry in another six months?
I can’t see the future, but the architecture and construction industries will be largely dependent on how quickly the economy restarts and whether capital will be available. Because the underlying economic fundamentals were strong prior to the COVID-19 outbreak, we could see a quick ramp-up to new activity.
Do you have advice for other local business leaders?
Use this time to get closer to your customers while writing the next chapter of your company.