My Library and Courses
Last Update: Tuesday June 15, 2021

Key Idea: Organize To Inspire

Leave it to a couple of architects to think of their company as a three-legged stool. Homepage

Key Question:


Accomplish the work with a system of checks and balances.  Altoon+Porter calls their system a three-legged stool.

Q: What are the three legs to the stool?

A: The design of the project, the technical aspects of getting the design built and the business processes that are used to guarantee an on time, on-budget completed project.

Q: Does giving equal value to each leg of the stool cause this firm to operate differently from the firms that focus on design?

A: Ron said his experience in other firms taught him that when design rides alone in the front seat, clients are often disappointed because so many details are neglected.l For example, something may look great but not work. Ron and Jim are building a business based upon referrals and they can't get referrals unless the client is happy.

Clients want quality design but they also want the building to function properly to meet the usage needs. The client wants to be listened to and the building built to meet needs rather that to just serve the architects desire to make a name for himself. The client also wants the job completed on time and close to the original budget.

Q:  Why is this a motivational strategy?

A:  The more pieces of a task there are to measure, the more inspiring the task becomes.  When every person working on a job can see clearly their contribution they will work smarter and even faster.  People at Altoon + Porter know what leg of the stool  they are working on and they are recognized and rewarded by a partner assigned to that leg.  Every person who works for you wants to be measured and appreciated for accomplishment.

Think about it

Is your business organized in a way that motivates employees?  Do employees know if they are doing well?  How do you measure and recognize employees?

Clip from: Architects Altoon + Porter

Los Angeles, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Amsterdam : They worked for Frank Gehry and found that it had limits. So, architects Ron Altoon and Jim Porter started their own firm and today they are quite literally changing the world.

They do not try to cultivate "star power" but brain power. The result? This professional practice went global virtually overnight. Brain power translates into  extraordinary product power in any language!

Every customer and every architect is a star. Keep your egos in check.  Focus on customers and  growing your team. The result?  This firm now has ongoing work in 16 countries with more international work on the drawing boards for the future.

Like so many of our businesses that go global, they have proving that the world does want American products and services!

Go to all the Key Ideas and Videos of this episode...
Go to homepage of this episode of the show...

Altoon Partners

Ron Altoon, Senior Partners

617 W 7th St #400
Los Angeles, CA 90017

Visit our web site:

Office: 2132251900

Business Classification:

Year Founded: 1984

Organize To Inspire

RONALD: Many of our good friends, who are great designers, have started their own practice. And I admire them greatly. But what I've always observed in those firms is that because they are so focused on the design issue, they tend to not be able to focus at the same time on the management issues of projects or the technical issues.

JIM: We set up a three-legged stool, in effect, that had strengths in all key areas of the practice: the business, the design and the technical aspects.

RONALD: We didn't want to structure the firm on a departmental basis, which that might suggest. And other large firms have taken that matrix and turned it vertically, and set up studios where everything happens under a partner within the studio.

But you know what happens with that?


RONALD: As good projects and good clients come along, there's friction between the studios because each one wants the best staff, the best clients, the best projects, the most awards, the most profit, and there's internal strife. So we took the best of both of these and we did that.

JIM: So that was the foundation, and we still talk about that today, and it just has expanded from three to six partners, with all--with finer-grained areas of those aspects covered.

RONALD: There will be a partner responsible for the legal, accounting, insurance contracts on everyone's project. He has the last review, the last word. I have it in design. Another one has it in project management. And another one has it in technical services. So instead of each project getting the eyes of one partner, they get the eyes of all partners, who all have a vested interest in every project.

Not a member yet? Learn!  Be empowered! Join us!