Firming the Firm's Foundation

June 30, 1998 · by DesignIntelligence

Cincinnati-based FRCH has a new strategic plan that includes hiring about 110 workers over the next two to three years, according to Lauren Lawley. “This is a deeply rooted, fundamental shift in how this business is running,” said Kevin Roche, FRCH D

Cincinnati-based FRCH has a new strategic plan that includes hiring about 110 workers over the next two to three years, according to Lauren Lawley. “This is a deeply rooted, fundamental shift in how this business is running,” said Kevin Roche, FRCH Design World-wide’s president and new chief executive officer. Roche took on his new title in May from FRCH founder and Chairman James Fitzgerald in the company’s first changing of the guard.

The leadership transition includes a new, flatter management structure and an expanded management committee. In addition to the restructuring, Roche and his new team’s top priorities include taking on more business and expanding FRCH’s range of services. “Right now, FRCH has more opportunities to take on new business than it has to staff to handle the projects,” Roche said. He expects to add approximately 85 workers to the Cincinnati headquarters, 25 more to the New York City office and eventually hopes to add a third office on the West Coast.

A design for employees with an international background and the difficulty in attracting top design talent to the Midwest have put FRCH on a worldwide recruiting search. Roche said the company is planning to expand its range of services to include more marketing and communications work, as well as handle more clients in the entertainment, financial services and hospitality markets.

As part of the new strategy, Roche said FRCH is interested in looking to acquire small, boutique organizations that will expand the company's areas of expertise, geographic presence or client base. “The industries and client base that we founded this company on have changed dramatically in the last 10 years,” Roche said. “That change requires a renewed vision and approach.”

“The period leading up to a founder’s retirement is one of the riskiest times in a company’s history,” said Dett Hunter, who helped FRCH plan its leadership transition. Hunter said the new, flatter structure will play an important role in keeping the company focused on and relevant to its rapidly changing markets.“The key is for the organization to be flat so you have more points of contact with the market,” he said.
Roche said the broader management committee will serve this purpose and act as a proving ground for employees he sees as potential partners. In the next phase of the plan, members of this committee will be invited to share ownership in the firm.
Roche acknowledges the magnitude of the changes he is making at FRCH, but said he is confident they will move the company forward. “It’s like a new business emerging, with a foundation and a history most new businesses and entrepreneurs don't have to take advantage of,” Roche said.

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