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Stephen Skinner of UrbanArch Associates says a willingness to adapt to the changing climate while staying true to the core principles established by himself and coowner Brian Bullard were the deciding factors that kept his company afloat during the recession. “People appreciate those in the industry that haven’t compromised their principles,” he says. “We have a broad range of experience along with a very diverse client base and have still been able to maintain a smaller, more boutique-style design environment.” According to Skinner, those who survived were the ones who knew how to adapt and didn’t wait for jobs to fall into their laps. He also credits the surge of “weekend warrior” homebuilders, developers and commercial contractors as a contributing factor to the oversaturation of the market that led to the 2008 downturn. “Before 92 JULY 2013 |

the recession, everyone jumped in trying to make their fortune,” he says. "People were out here making money hand over fist without trying very hard or even being good at what they did. The demand was that great. When things slowed down, they didn’t know how to react or adjust because most had never seen a downturn before.” Skinner’s by-any-means style of business management has also helped the company grow from a modest start out of his house in Olive Branch in 2002 to his stylish new office on South Main Street in Memphis. “With Memphis in particular, the residential and commercial markets had completely dried up,” he says. “But we found that the best way to find new work during slow times was to not wait for it to come to you. Sometimes you have to be proactive and go out and make a project happen.” The new office, with its graffiticoated interior and Spartan design style, fits right in alongside the small niche of artists’ studios in downtown Memphis. In addition to commercial work, UrbanArch has designed many estate homes throughout DeSoto County geared toward the more affluent citizens of the fastest growing county in the state. This diversity in operations brought a steady stream of work that would carry the firm through tough times and beyond. “I have found that most small firms focus on a specific specialty in either residential or commercial design – we don’t. We currently have thriving commercial and residential departments,” he says. “When the economy tanks in one area, the other is there to pick up the slack.” While UrbanArch held out longer than most during the crash, the lingering effects were definitely felt. “Prior to the recession, the industry was going like gangbusters — we had quite a backlog and it took us a while to get to the end of that because our projects can take up to a year or more,” he says. “Unfortunately, some in the industry didn’t have a backload and felt the effects much sooner than that. We found that we had to be willing to do what the competition wasn’t. “ In addition to maintaining a healthy backlog of work, UrbanArch adopted a policy early on to take on projects that many other local firms avoided. “From the very beginning, we have made it a point to treat all of our clients with the same level respect and care regardless of the project size or type,” he says. “It also turns out


Five that Survived the Crash  
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