Businessing Magazine sat down with Mark Grisafe of Grisafe Architecture in Long Beach, California. Mark’s firm recently celebrated its 20th anniversary, so we wanted to get Mark’s take on some of the things that have allowed him to experience success as a small business owner over the last 20 years.
What Is Some of the Best Advice You’ve Been Given from Other Business Professionals?
Business advice is abundant—and not all of it is good advice, unfortunately. But I can think of a few pieces of advice I’ve received that have really stuck with me and that I try to keep in mind as I run my business and consider new opportunities.
First of all, someone once told me that not every project or every client is a good fit, and you need to say “no” to some. This advice was hard to digest as a new business owner, when I couldn’t fathom turning down work, but it turned out to be great advice that I believe has saved me a lot of heartache. Before agreeing to take on a new project, I spend some time getting to know the potential client and their motivations. I’ve learned to say no to projects and clients that come with too many red flags (although it has taken some time to learn what those red flags are).
Another great piece of advice I received early on was to be consistent and fair in all of my business dealings. This hasn’t always been easy, of course. There have been times when doing the right thing has cost my company money. However, I believe that following this advice has helped me cement my reputation as a businessman who is honest and trustworthy.
Finally, I have been advised to keep adequate funds on hand to prevent me from having to compromise on the two principles above.
How Would You Describe Your Leadership Style?
My leadership style is constantly evolving. I’ve always been a pretty self-motivated person, so I tend to assume that everyone else is too. When I hired my first employee, I didn’t feel that I had to put too much effort into “managing” her. As my company grew, however, I have found that accountability—both for myself and my staff—provides a sense of structure and direction that makes it feel like we’re all part of something that is bigger than our own individual whims.
I do my best to create a collaborative environment by involving my staff in business decisions. I encourage them to explore their areas of interest and allow them to try new things. This has really helped keep everyone engaged and invested in the success of the company.
In Your Opinion, What Are Some of the Keys to Having a Thriving Business for 20 Years?
I think the main key to success for almost any company is to be able to attract and keep competent, knowledgeable, and invested people. Someone once told me that it often seems like I jump, and then build my wings on the way down. This is somewhat accurate. In the past, I’ve said “yes” to projects that I wasn’t 100% sure we could successfully complete. I’ve invested in technological upgrades that I wasn’t totally confident would make our jobs easier or our products better. But I feel like I was able to take these risks because I had solid people to back me up.
What Would You Tell a Business Owner Who Is Just Starting Out and Struggling to Keep Their Business Afloat?
There’s a lot of great business advice out there, but here are the main pieces of advice that I have for new business owners:
Don’t wait too long to act. If a great opportunity comes along, don’t sit on it. Make a decision and follow through on it.
Be deliberate about your finances. Nothing can sink a business faster than a business owner who doesn’t stay on top of their numbers.
Be kind to others—even if they can’t do anything for you.
Don’t take on work that isn’t aligned with your moral compass.
Seek out advice from good and successful people. They don’t have to necessarily be in your same or in a similar industry, but they should be people who have a good reputation in their respective industries and in their communities.
You can learn more about Grisafe Architecture, residential and commercial architects in Long Beach, California, by visiting their website: https://grisafearchitecture.com/short url: