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Last Update: Wednesday June 23, 2021

Key Idea: Force Change

Ron Altoon and Jim Porter tell Hattie that it is harder to build a business than a building.

Key Question:


You can't just keep doing what you're doing.  You have to adapt to the market and your own personal goals.

Q:   What has been the hardest part about growing a business for Ron?

A:   Doing the kind of work he wants to do. Ron and Jim had multiple experiences before they started Altoon + Porter so they learned what they wanted and what they didn't want. However, just like so many of us, when they opened their doors they took the jobs they could get. After seven years of doubling revenues year after year, Ron was restless because he wanted to do international work and he wanted to do some institutional projects.

Then they did the very hard thing. They just stopped taking projects they didn't want. They started the research to go global. Fortunately, the solid reputation and good contacts developed over the first seven years helped make the transition as smooth as could be expected. Now, even bigger and better, Ron is happy because they are working around the world and they are doing some institutional projects.

Q:  Should Ron and Jim have started the company with the goal to go global therefore turning down American projects?

A:   They could have done it that way but it may have taken them longer to get going. Remember that their first project was in Washington DC for the federal government. This gave them a credible first year.

What  we can learn here is that we have the power to change but it does take courage and time. If you stop doing the kind of work that represents most of your cash flow in order to do something new, be prepared for some lean times before the new strategy brings in new business.

Think about it

What would you like to be doing that you are not now doing?  What changes need to be made to move you in that direction?

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!

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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

Force Change

RONALD: We have been a very successful start-up business. We had tripled the first year. We had tripled the second year. We had tripled the third year, and the wheels were almost coming off. We retrenched and we tightened up, and we were doing first-rate work for top-flight developer clients, mostly in the retail venue. And the consultant that we had engaged when we started our practice had been a sage adviser to us. I called this man on the phone, and I said, `We're approaching our seventh year. I'm having the seven-year itch.' `Why am I not happy?' And he said, `What would make you happy?' I said, `You know, as much as I enjoy doing these wonderful commercial retail buildings, I was really trained to do institutional buildings. I had practiced on projects overseas in our former life. I'm missing that. I'd like to do an occasional public job, and we just don't seem to be getting there. And there doesn't seem to be a lot of support for that because we're thriving on what we're doing.' So I'd written a memo my partners, resigning.

HATTIE: Oh, great.

RONALD: And I've given them a seven-year down ramp, because it took us seven years together to build it. I figured I owed them seven years out the door. And I said, `If we're not there in seven years, I want you to know right now that I'm going to go do something else.'

HATTIE: Were you angry? Were you upset? Were you sad? Did you...

JIM: Challenged, challenged.

HATTIE: You didn't get a knot in your stomach?

JIM: No. No, no, no. I think the frustration is that, you know, we've sort of got this figured out, so now what? You know, let's find another windmill. So, what do we do? We start playing catch-up. All of our competitors in the big firms have been overseas. By that time, there's a clear interest in Yankee ingenuity, especially in Asia. Asian cities want everything we have in this country.

HATTIE: The mixed-use spaces, the retail areas with hotels and restaurants and cinemas and all that. They want that.

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