EDSA, the internationally renowned full-service planning, landscape architecture and urban design firm’s President & Principal, Douglas C. Smith is an inspirational, noteworthy leader to feature in theNativeSociety. Based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, EDSA outfits multiple properties around with the world with cutting-edge, environmentally responsible landscape architecture, most recently at 1 Hotel & Homes and The Miami Beach EDITION in Miami Beach, and Dreams Las Mareas in Costa Rica. With Doug at the helm, the all-star team produces truly magical indoor / outdoor spaces that positively affect the visitors, residents, students, tourists and patrons who interact with their projects -- projects that are as socially responsible as they are environmentally responsible.
How did you get into the Architecture/Design industry?
During my second year of college, I was still undecided about my major and found myself not at all passionate about the courses I was taking. My parents astutely suggested I check out a design related curriculum, which led me to a degree in landscape architecture. Looking back, that was a very fortunate and happy change of direction.
Tell us about EDSA. What inspired the idea and what is your vision for the company?
I actually represent the third generation of leadership since the founding of EDSA in 1960. The founder, Edward D. Stone, Jr. (hence our name EDSA) set forth a strong belief system and entrepreneurial spirit that has endured over a couple of generations and continues to influence the culture of the firm today. Building on that foundation, my vision is that the organization continuously evolves into something better – to push the envelope in terms of innovating what we do, while never forgetting the core values that were established early in the life of the company.
What strategic partnerships/marketing strategies have you implemented that have attributed to EDSA's success?
We don’t believe in a “one size fits all” approach to problem solving, so an important part of our ability to create successful projects comes through assisting our clients in assembling the most qualified team of experts for the assignment. That philosophy makes every project a unique opportunity to form strategic teaming alliances that will optimize the outcome. As for marketing strategies, we have a strong in-house team that supports our business development activities, but when appropriate, we are not afraid to outsource to industry experts to get experienced advice and to enhance the creative output of our marketing materials.
What industry trends are you noticing and how do you capitalize on them?
Advancing technology is constantly influencing change in our industry, in terms of how we operate our business and our delivery mechanisms. In response, we are dedicating more resources to integration of leading edge technologies in our practice and for research and training. Another current and ongoing initiative is to better define performance metrics related to the places we create.
I don’t have a motto that I go around professing, but in thinking about it…Be positive, treat others as you wish to be treated and count your blessings – most of our “problems” are trivial if you really put them in perspective with the persecution and poverty millions deal with on a daily basis.
“Design Matters”… Not only related to industry trends, best practices and thought leadership, but more so in terms of the impact good design can have on quality of life. This motto happens also to be the name of our annual magazine publication.
Your greatest success as President of EDSA? Most difficult moment-how did you overcome and what did you learn?
Compared to my predecessors, I’ve been in this position a relatively short period of time, but what I have learned is that the most difficult tasks you deal with as a team leader revolve around resolving human resources issues and leading the team to consensus. We have successfully navigated some generational transition issues and come through it in excellent shape. Every day is a learning experience, but I’ve certainly learned the value of diplomacy and compassion.
Your advice to an aspiring entrepreneur?
Business is like most things in our lives: Advancement and reward requires some level of risk taking, as well as trial and error. Don’t be afraid to fail – the lessons learned ultimately inform decisions that lead to success.
Describe the ideal experience using EDSA.
I suspect many would describe the ideal experience as some measure of a project’s success, which is no doubt important. However, at the end of the day, I think the ultimate experience is when we form lasting friendships with clients and the professionals with whom we collaborate.
How do you motivate your employees?
Simply put, most people are motivated first and foremost by being treated well (treat others as you wish to be treated). It’s equally important to provide opportunities for employees to take on responsibility so they can grow and improve their abilities and the last piece of the motivation puzzle: simple recognition for a job well done.
One food and drink left on earth, what would you choose?
Lasagne and root beer (if my parents are reading this write up, they are laughing now).
What literature is on your bed stand?
I am honestly not a big reader in terms of a leisure activity. The iPad is usually handy to keep up on world events and to surf the web.
Role model - business and personal?
I think we all draw bits and pieces from multiple individuals along the way, which helps us formulate our own disposition in life. I also believe that there is little difference between business and personal in terms of ethics and behavior.
Not sure if family qualifies as a passion, but I am certainly blessed with a strong marriage and really enjoying the experience of seeing my daughters find themselves as they grow and mature.
Favorite travel destination?
I’ve been fortunate to travel around the globe in my time at EDSA. Honestly, I’ve experienced way too many interesting places to narrow it down to just one.
What's next for EDSA?
The leadership of the firm is now discussing a framework for the “Firm of the Future” in terms of refining our course forward. With this, we are tackling design excellence, technology, succession, competition, growth, profitability and how to remain agile in uncertain economic circumstances. We are also focusing on developing our next generation of leaders; emphasizing our leadership values, attributes and skill sets.