The Zweig Letter: Building Community with Jay Edwards
Written By: Liisa Andreassen, The Zweig Letter Correspondent
Date: June 1, 2021
After serving as the firm’s COO since 2015, Edwards was named president/CEO of Parkhill in 2019. He takes pride in developing relationships and building community.
“We focus on being an open and transparent business,” Edwards says. “It starts with the board, partners, and associates and trickles down to the rest of the staff. To have successful change management you have to have trust. You have to tell the ‘why’ behind change and communicate that change is happening for a reason. Change management has to be very deliberate and when people embrace it, energy comes from it.”
A conversation with Jay Edwards.
The Zweig Letter: You were COO for several years prior to becoming CEO. Did you find that position helped to prepare you for your current role as CEO? Please explain.
Jay Edwards: As COO, I worked alongside the CEO for nearly four years prior to moving into this role. It was a somewhat seamless and easy transition. We brought in an outside consultant to help as well. We’re now in a growth strategy mindset and have reorganized the corporate structure in the last year. The COO is more internally focused and I’m more management-oriented.
TZL: How do you anticipate COVID-19 permanently impacting your firm’s policy on telecommuting?
JE: We already had a small percentage of remote workers – about 10 percent. We’d invested in technology so it was easy to transition to 100 percent remote working. We’ve recently conducted surveys to see what people want moving forward and we’ve learned that about 15 percent want to return to the office, full-time. Most people find that they’re more productive at home. While there’s some stuff they miss, they prefer more time at home. The future will likely be a hybrid model. We’ve been researching what future offices will look like too – more collaborative spaces. We see the future of the office taking on a role that serves to preserve and maintain the company’s culture as opposed to a place to work. It will be more of a cultural and social hub, so we don’t see a cultural erosion.
TZL: How much time do you spend working “in the business” rather than “on the business?”
JE: I’ve always worked on projects and enjoyed developing relationships. I still maintain a percentage of “in” – probably about 15 percent to 20 percent. I like staying plugged in. It keeps me grounded. I had a mentor who told me that I should approach the firm like it’s my project. That made a lot of sense to me.
TZL: Trust is essential. How do you earn the trust of your clients?
JE: Trust plays into our overall mission statement: “Building community by creating inventive, relevant built environments together.” It’s nine words altogether, but when you take it apart, it’s meant literally. It hits that sweet spot as we find the words balance to create trust.