Aligned Partnerships & the Story of Townsend

RELATIONSHIPS, SHARED VALUES, & PURSUING MEANING IN BUSINESS

After nearly nine years in business, I’ve been knocked in the teeth more times than I can count – and kicked while I was down more than a few.  There have been entire years I’ve wondered if Building Culture would survive.  

Running a business is hard.  Trying to do things differently is even harder.

But there is nothing quite like learning through experience.  I am no doubt smarter and wiser than I was nine years ago because I’ve seen a lot of ways things can go wrong.

This has brought confidence and humility.  I’ve gotten a lot tougher, have better boundaries, am better at dealing with adversity and difficult situations – all while becoming keenly aware of my own limitations.

One of the most transformational lessons has been learning how to build and work with a team, and to actively look for people who are better than me at certain things, and then give them as much responsibility as they can shoulder.

Diversity of perspectives, with alignment in values, has also been critical to our success.  Ideas are clunky, incomplete, and need to be debated and refined before they can be successful.  That takes the right team of people who are willing to engage in robust debate in order to get to the best answer.  But shared values is critical here.

 An old African proverb comes to mind:

“If you want to go fast, go alone.  If you want to go far, go together.”

I started off on the fast and alone track, but have since come to realize that working and collaborating with other people is where the real magic happens.

 It can also help avoid a whole lot of mistakes.

And this is where my partner Matthew Myers comes in on our Townsend development.

We met in Carlton Landing in 2020 while we were finishing up some houses there and transitioning to Oklahoma City.

Our development project in Carlton Landing, The Bend. Completed in 2020.

He’s an experienced entrepreneur, investor and developer.  He toured some of our homes and, frankly, was blown away by them.

As we chatted I found out that he was a developer concentrating on infill development in a fast-growing urban center: Edmond, a suburb of Oklahoma City.  He found out my ultimate goal was to build a vertically integrated development company, and I was about ready to take next steps in that direction with $15MM of completed projects under my belt (as of today).  We kept chatting over the next couple of years and realized how strongly we aligned in values, goals, and the kinds of places we wanted to build.

Matthew Myers

Matthew loves his hometown, Edmond, and wants to see it flourish, in every sense of the word.  That’s truly his core goal.  And that makes him very generous because he’s not competing for recognition, but always looking for the best people to partner with to do the best possible work, and constantly sharing information and resources to help others do their best work.

When he secured the last piece of land to complete a one-of-a-kind parcel in downtown Edmond he’d been assembling for a couple of years, he called me up and said, “I’ve got an incredible piece of dirt. Want to partner on it?  You be the pilot, and I’ll play copilot.  I want to share the lessons I’ve learned in developing land and attracting the right capital partnerships so you can do this on your own.”

My jaw dropped.  I couldn’t dream up a better scenario.  Getting to develop, design and build an infill project on an incredible piece of dirt, with an experienced mentor I deeply respected, who was willing to let me take lead while teaching me everything he knows and keeping me from stepping in it?

Where do I sign??!

And that’s exactly what we did.  We signed the paperwork in early 2023, and that is how Townsend came to be.    

Pretty cool, right?  For as many times as I’ve been kicked in the teeth, I’ve also had unbelievable things like this happen – and they’ve all been facilitated through relationships.

And that, once again, brings it back to people.  I used to be more inward focused, more product focused.  But just as I’ve always said that architecture is about facilitating human flourishing, something I’ve come to realize: so is business!

Business is about people.  The best businesses have great teams that, together, can build something truly great that no individual possibly could.  They have great collaborators and partners to fill in weak spots and help them execute their vision.  They have great investors and financial partners who believe in the mission. 

And what is the mission?  To serve people.  To contribute something wonderful to the world that improves peoples’ lives.  To bring beauty, hope and delight.  

That is how the world gets better.  And that is also how we flourish in our own lives: working hard together, doing difficult things, taking risks–all in pursuit of a common vision that is meaningful.  So, ironically, it is through the act of trying to create flourishing for others that we actually flourish ourselves.

When we look for financial partners, we are looking for people who share the vision and mission — people who want to partner and participate in bringing something good into the world.

That’s why I’m not just talking about numbers. Though, numbers are of course essential, too — but they come after alignment in values.

Even if Townsend isn’t in your town, I’ve learned that creating compelling alternatives is the way to push the ball forward. In the age of the internet, a small project in Oklahoma can make quite the waves nationally. And I fully expect Townsend to do just that. It’s a truly one-of-a-kind urban infill neighborhood.

My goal isn’t to just build things, but to share and help others do the same—that is the way towards a more beautiful, resilient and thriving world.

But it starts with setting the example.

Cheers,

Austin

PODCAST

Matthew and I recorded a podcast together a few months ago discussing development, business and leadership. The video version is available on Spotify and YouTube, or you can listen on your podcasting platform of choice:

PS: You can see Matthew’s bio and website here.

 

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