Louisville is home to one of America’s oldest architecture firms, Luckett & Farley. Founded in 1853, this architecture, engineering and interior design company has maintained an ethos of investing in their employees since their very beginning.
In 2004, that idea grew even bigger when senior leadership set their sights on becoming 100 percent employee owned. Four years later, as a stepping stone toward that goal, Luckett & Farley launched what was then named the Luckett & Farley Leadership Institute, an internal program conducted annually with a focus on soft skill development.
Says Vice President of Talent & Organization Development Susan Pittman, “This really started as recognition from our executives that soft skills are not something you always learn alongside technical skills.”
“Since then,” says Pittman, “We’ve begun to look more at what’s needed to help each of our employee-owners ‘think like an owner.’ It’s fundamental to the culture we are creating.” It was this desire that transitioned Luckett & Farley’s Leadership Institute to the Ownership Institute (LFOI) — a change that went into effect last year.
“In addition to the soft skill element, which is still very much a part of LFOI,” Pittman says, “we’ve also now incorporated hard and technical skills relating to business.” The program aids employee-owners in adopting an approach that asks, “How do the daily decisions I/we make impact our bottom line?”
“L&F stock has appreciated year over year,” Pittman notes, “well outpacing the stock market.” No small feat for a company that was founded over 160 years ago. Luckett & Farley currently employs about 100 people, and Pittman explains that “from where everyone sits, they can impact the bottom line. We want them to really understand the business of our business — how we make money, how everyday decisions impact all of us. And not just profitability, but [creating] wealth for our entire team.”
If you build an institute, they will come
The creation of the institute was a bold decision for a company of this size, but also, Pittman says, a strategic one: “We’re in the people business — we’re really selling the talents of our employees … [so] we want to be investing in them.” It’s a mutually beneficial endeavor. The best talent,” she explains, “attracts the best clients, which then makes money to put back into the best environment, culture and rewards system.”
Talent, up close
Ashley Hutt, a civil engineer who’s been with the company for the last two years, agrees. Hutt was hand-picked as one of a dozen employees to complete the LFOI course last year. “To give us an opportunity to be in this class is a big investment from the firm into their people,” she says.
During the 20-week course, Hutt met with other program participants once every two weeks to learn critical soft skills like emotional intelligence; leadership excellence; vision, value, and culture; trust and collaboration; and conflict resolution.
Hutt, who came to Luckett & Farley after living in the Dominican Republic as a volunteer with the Peace Corps, explains that the function of the course is to “raise our awareness of these soft skills … because [these skills] affect how we interact with everybody.”
See Ashley in action as an employee-owner
Hutt details one class in which participants worked on mastering conflict. “This class identified several different conflict styles and helped us gain an understanding about which style each of us uses inherently,” she notes. “It also taught us how to work with people who use other styles, and [we learned] that conflicts are inevitable and healthy; they result in change, in making things better, in identifying issues that exist and in resolving them. Without conflict, things are stagnant.”
And stagnant is the opposite of the culture Luckett & Farley is working to cultivate for their employees. Hutt, whose work is concentrated on site design, finds herself eagerly contributing to 20 or so projects each month. Her focus, she says, is “everything outside of the building — land grading, layout of parking lots and sidewalks and site features outside of a development, as well as underground utilities. One of the biggest pieces that I personally work on,” she adds, “is storm water design — management of rain water.”
Her role has facilitated her involvement in many interesting projects throughout the city and state, including a UPS expansion and modernization in Lexington and the Rabbit Hole Distillery in NULU. “Since we’re 100 percent employee owned,” Hutt shares, “it instills a feeling of ownership in our work and our activities to know that we’re contributing not just to the success of a company but to our company — we have a vested interest in collaborating better and producing the best work that we can.”
Join the Luckett & Farley team
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