Shlemmer Algaze Associates
Nelson Algaze and Rick Shlemmer founded Shlemmer Algaze Associates (SAA) in 2000 to fill a growing niche in southern California’s construction industry. More than 13 years later, the business operates out of six locations, with five in southern California and one in New Jersey. Altogether, SAA employs 130 professionals, specializing in diverse design services to meet the changing spatial needs of clients.
The team is dedicated to delivering forward-thinking, integrated design solutions. SAA works closely with clients to identify the functional needs of a space, as well as the marketing and corporate identity goals. SAA takes a unique approach to such challenging projects.
“Most of our work is in-house to some extent,” Algaze explains. “We have a mechanical and electrical engineering company but they are not really subbed out because they are our firm. We work with different consultants. We control the companies. We own them and hand select the people. Everything is done under our umbrella.” SAA’s subsidiary companies include Construction Management Partners Group, as well as Vision Mechanical Services. “They’re separate, but integrated,” Algaze notes.
SAA operates in six core practice areas: consulting, planning, design, documentation, the team’s design studio think tank, as well as a specialized projects group. “With corporate interiors, we represent buildings and landlords,” Algaze explains. “We meet with tenants to plan a space around their needs. We help market buildings in that way. We take old buildings and make them look newer. We also have a group that does large manufacturing facilities.”
The company’s diverse capabilities have attracted major customers. The crew has worked at manufacturing facilities, office buildings and airports, among other locations. The company’s clients include major partnerships, such as Beacon Properties, Green Dot Corporation, Hyundai, Sony and the University of Southern California.
The team has been involved in a number of projects over the years, with recent work including: the Gulf Stream Project, a 500,000-square-foot aviation building in Savannah, Ga. The crew also recently wrapped up a 400,000-square-foot consolidation floor for Energy in Southern California. “We reconfigured the space from 20 floors down to 14 by modifying work standards,” Algaze notes. “We were able to reactivate their system to make simple changes.”
A recent trend for the business has been repurposing spaces. “We reposition old buildings to be a new kind of workplace,” says Algaze. “We are seeing a lot of buildings getting repurposed, such as converting old office buildings and making them more energy efficient and lighter. We are also doing a lot of cold consultation. With the California building codes changing, handicap access has become a big priority. We help our clients get ahead of ramifications to get current buildings in compliance before it becomes an issue.”
One of Algaze’s personal favorite projects has been a historical renovation in downtown Los Angeles. “This building was the first women’s club in Los Angeles,” he recounts. “It had been vacant and abused for years. One of our clients bought it and we went in and evaluated what we have been starting with. They are looking to make it a music entertainment venue. We also provided engineering services to look at the base systems and how they are going to be upgraded. We have to look at this from many different aspects: historical, technical and marketing.”
A Different Approach
One of Algaze’s favorite parts of the business is his team’s willingness to go the extra mile for customers. “I worked for 22 years with a traditional design firm,” he says. “Clients would come to us asking us to provide additional services and the owner was very opposed to that. The company was not innovative and the model we used to provide services was not effective.”
When he and Schlemmer founded the business, they analyzed the way other businesses operated and went about improving on structure. “We found that stacking services was a good idea for our clients,” he says. “So we did that. Once we started it, it came natural. Our clients were not a source of money but a partnership. Appreciation of clients is what it’s all about.”
To ensure the company is meeting goals both for productivity and service, SAA performs a flat analysis. “Out of that we come out with a strategic plan of what we accomplish,” Algaze explains. “Money is important but it’s not the only thing. We hired a family management counselor to help our managers communicate better. Our business is all about people; we work with people, our clients are people. We have to better our people to provide better service. Our team members need to see meaning in what they do. It has been a positive approach and it keeps us ahead of the game. We are looking for continuous improvement. Everything is a learning opportunity and nothing is ever perfect.”
As the team strives for constant improvement, SAA continues to grow. In the coming years, Algaze and his team are looking to increase its relevant practice areas. “Clients are asking us to do more branding for them through a graphic design approach,” he explains. “We do what we have to do to make things more relevant. It is always a matter of trying to understand what our clients’ businesses needs are. Service is becoming more important.”
Part of the shifting approach is taking older projects and repositioning them. “A building is the most expensive solution to a business problem,” Algaze notes. “Before you commit all those resources, we look at it and decide if it is the best way. There are limited resources in the world, but we can repurpose resources we already have. We have got to be open to community needs and changing demographics.”
While Algaze and his team are looking ahead to continued growth, he sees the changes as more incremental than sudden. By properly managing growth, SAA ensures it is around to continue to meet the needs of clients. Shlemmer Algaze Associates remains people-focused, a trait that continues to attract work from repeat clients and new ones across the country.
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