Wow, it’s hard to believe that stok is 10. A decade feels like a significant milestone to me, though stok’s resident canines tell me it’s actually been around 70 dog years already. In that time, we’ve been fortunate to work with some incredible people. They say pride is one of the seven deadly sins—if that’s the case, then I sin when I smile with pride for the “green yield” we’ve proven possible, the passion of stok’s silly yet sophisticated creative thinkers, and our resilient and equitable organizational structure.
You may know that I founded stok after my dad and I encountered discouraging inefficiency when we built his dream house together. Back on my first-ever job site, it was that 30-yard dumpster full of once-valuable resources that neither of us could understand sending to landfill. I foresaw a better way.
So, thanks Dad. That Economics / Finance / Entrepreneurship education you sponsored now employs 35 passionate eco-stewards across two states, with plans for national expansion. Of course, as I packed up my life in September 2008 to move West and start a business, I probably could have used the “Son, it’s going to be harder than you could ever imagine” advice.
The dark days of the Great Recession were an interesting backdrop for a new business. It went something like this: breakfast was discount coffee and a can of tuna, followed by pitch, pitch, network, pitch, network, and code the website, while my pit bull Miley groaned for me to get some rest. Then I did it all over again. When I couldn’t afford rent, I figured it out. When we signed Rita Hernandez at Ghiradelli Square as our first paid project, we figured it out. When Danny Murtagh and Pete Back allowed us to pitch next to likes of HOK, Huntsman, and 12 other industry big dogs, we figured it out.
“If you want to make an impact and change something for the better, have the guts to tell yourself you can figure it out, and when you slip, ask for help.”
The point is, if you want to make an impact and change something for the better, have the guts to tell yourself you can figure it out, and when you slip, ask for help. An incredible group of stakeholders helped us reach this milestone. While we’re incredibly grateful to work with Fortune 500 clients whose visions we admire and can get behind, we owe a whole lot to the people who helped us realize early on that our dreams were way bigger than our old Environmental Building Strategies brand could ever contain. Today, stok owes its vibrancy and success to the High Quality Individuals (HQIs) we hire and the cherished personal relationships we maintain with our partners.
These partners led us into material health, global supply chain sustainability, consulting engineering, corporate design guidelines, and eco master planning. Then about a year ago we committed to take on institutionalized commercial real estate service verticals by providing third-party project and construction management services. Our ideology behind this is the same as it was in 2008—there must be a better way. Welcome to the future of stok, where you now have a complete array of services at your fingertips.
“While the stodginess (which is 100 percent a word) of the real estate business remains intact, we believe the murmurs of a different tomorrow—from robotic construction to big data and digital design—allow stok to differentiate itself and shine, all while having one hell of a time.”
It all starts with distribution of all decision making into fully transparent groups called Pods. This system allows even our junior creative thinkers to have a voice while remaining sympathetic to those with demonstrated merit. This non-linear structure breeds innovation, and not just from the so-called “Chief Innovation Officer” we’d never hire.
Our Culture Pod remains the most “fun,” while the Money Pod coaches those that may be future fiduciaries of stok, or one day, their own business. Two percent of all profits go to charities of our collective choice, while our Membership & Distributions Pod determines how and where the rest should be allocated.
Lastly, we recognize the generational shift occurring in business and corporate and commercial real estate corners. While the stodginess (which is 100 percent a word) of the real estate business remains intact, we believe the murmurs of a different tomorrow—from robotic construction to big data and digital design—allow stok to differentiate itself and shine, all while having one hell of a time.
But as we evolve, our core remains. You’ll still see our team commuting to projects on bikes or skateboards, and the intensity of our ping pong tournaments hasn’t abated. The costumes still come out and often result in impromptu dance parties. Our annual stoksgiving team dinner is going strong, and each new team member is still “blessed” with an honorary rap name (mine is aptly “Eminem”). The triumphs, challenges, and shenanigans in between are all the result of a passionate team that puts authenticity first.
With my fondest memories of the past, I write this overflowing with excitement and optimism for a future where stok will introduce a strategy for remarkable leadership diversity, expanded services for corporate outsourcing, and investments into hard assets, proving we do actually walk the walk. While the future of business and real estate leads our thoughts, our family, culture, positivity, and an exuberance for tomorrow will remain at the core of stok’s soul.