Reflections on MLA’s Merger with Dunaway and the True Value of Teamwork

August 27, 2018Dunaway Blog, News

By Tim Hair, PLA, ASLA

West Texas Regional Manager | Associate Principal

“Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.” —Henry Ford

It’s difficult parting with something you made and created from nothing. Whether it’s a piece of furniture, a painting, or as in our case a small but growing design firm, the time and effort put towards turning that creation into something wonderful fosters deep memories and strong emotional attachments. It’s difficult to distance yourself from the grassroots work and sweat equity you and your team put into the work.

It’s been more than a year since Mask Landscape Architecture merged with Dunaway Associates, and despite the time that has passed, those memories and attachments are still very strong. The ethos of working together in a smaller office, along with the higher highs and lower lows of being closely involved in all aspects of projects, financials and staffing, are just a few aspects that have been hard to let go. There’s also the sentiment of identifying with something that’s “yours” and yours alone.

Those memories are part of a past of which I am truly proud. However, they’re being replaced with new and different experiences, ones that are even greater and more impactful. We’re working with incredible teams, and we are involved in projects with scopes far beyond what I could ever have imagined. I’m learning at a faster rate than I thought possible. The idea of what formerly was “mine” has shifted to what is now “ours.”

Yet I still get the question: “Why did you sell your office and join a big firm?” When we first joined the Dunaway Associates team, my answer would have been, “To learn the business at a higher level and be a part of bigger projects,” followed by standard talking points such as benefits, stability, a child on the way, etc.

While all of these replies are true, my answer to that question has changed over the past year. Now it’s about leading a deep and talented team and watching employees grow and succeed. It’s about the evolution of a longtime Fort Worth company that’s adapting to a range of challenges, including the sharing economy, smart cities, and shifts in priorities among clients and younger employees. It’s about taking what we’ve learned about design and engineering in North Central Texas and applying it to jobs and projects throughout the state. It’s also about internal competition and constantly reevaluating the way we think about what we do and who we are.

It’s exciting, and it’s rewarding, but in a different and much bigger way.

By: Bryan Mask, PLA, ASLA

San Antonio Regional Manager | Associate Principal

As I look back on the past year, I’m reminded how the people we meet from day to day can change our direction both professionally and personally.

I have to admit I was a bit apprehensive about a proposed merger with Dunaway Associates. So many thoughts and crazy ideas churned through my mind as we traveled to Fort Worth to meet with the company’s executive team. When we arrived, we were led into a room with 15 people — which, at that time, felt like 500. But what happened in that moment was beyond what I could have ever imagined. I met some of the friendliest, most genuine and intelligent people with which I have ever interacted, and my apprehensions quickly faded. In that moment I knew that these were people with whom I wanted to build and grow a business.

Through the next several months we negotiated the merger between our small firm and Dunaway. Looking back, one of the greatest aspects of the merger is that it granted Tim and me the opportunity to grow professionally amongst a larger community that was even more conducive for success.

As the merger was being hammered out, my wife kept asking me a difficult question: “Why would you work so hard to create something that was all yours and then give it all away?” It was a fair question; however, during our first Dunaway Associates Christmas party even she confirmed that MLA had made the right decision by joining Dunaway.

It’s been more than a year since the merger between MLA and Dunaway was completed. We continue to challenge ourselves professionally and forge the direction in which this company sails onward. Yet one faithful constant remains: The people.

Together, we’ve discovered a simple truth: It’s not about how big or fancy the corporate offices are, or the size of a company’s name on the building. What truly matters are the people inside, the people who occupy our space and time in the minutes between morning and evening. That’s the true value of a company, and the value of the people at Dunaway far outweigh the worth of the company in gold.