Building a Global Design Practice


October 15, 2014 · by Ken Sanders & Meredith Ludlow

How Gensler maintains quality, culture while expanding globally

We are frequently asked: how do you maintain a strong design culture, consistent delivery quality and sound business practice as you expand globally? The short answer: it’s hard work! The long answer involves sharing some things we’ve learned along the way.

At Gensler, our interests in growing globally are simple: take care of our clients wherever they are, provide our employees with professional growth opportunities, and pursue the world’s best design opportunities, regardless of location.

Since the firm was founded in San Francisco in 1965, Gensler’s basic approach to office expansion was to go to the places our clients needed us to be. This was true when the firm open its second office in Houston in 1974: from a strategic perspective, the city may not have seemed like an obvious choice, but Houston made perfect sense once Pennzoil awarded Gensler the interiors for their new downtown headquarters. It was also true in 1998, when Gensler opened its first non-U.S. office in London to support the expansion of our financial services clients to Canary Wharf. Indeed, most of Gensler’s office openings can be traced to one or more clients who encouraged us to expand there.

This responsive approach has served the firm well: it provides organic growth opportunities for emerging leaders, it is relatively low-risk, it avoids the integration pain of acquisitions and it remains true to our client-focused design culture. Typically, each new office is seeded with experienced Gensler leaders who leverage the larger network while growing local client relationships and delivery capacity.

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