Partners James Flick and Matt Mars got to know one another while working at Dallas-based Wilson Associates. “We wound up emceeing the company Christmas party because we were apparently the class clowns,” Mars recalls. In 2005, they decided to start their own firm and hired two other designers. These days, they lead a staff of 30—including two dozen designers—at offices in Dallas, New York, and Los Angeles. Recent and upcoming projects include two Autograph Collection properties: Hotel Distil in Louisville and the Otis in Austin.
Much of their growth has occurred in just the last two years, a quickened pace that caught them off guard. The decision to hire a business coach was a critical step to stay on top of things. “We knew in the back of our minds that our office culture would change with growth, but it wasn’t until we experienced it that we really understood,” says Flick. “The coach laid out a plan for us to grow in a conservative and smart manner and encouraged us to bring on an operations person to handle the day to day.”
For Flick, the greatest takeaway was “learning to let go.” Mars adds that “for me, it was all about trust. We reorganized last year and put studio directors in place who we trust to pursue a leadership path that we didn’t have before.”
“It’s come full circle for us,” Flick concludes. “We were in our 20s when we worked for Wilson, and we were fortunate to get great opportunities to grow and learn. This is a business that’s always changing, where the next trend is always around the corner. We’re excited to see how these people will respond to what the future holds.”
Photos: Flick Mars