Culture by Design

K2M Design
Written by Jessica Ferlaino

K2M Design®, Inc. is an award-winning, entrepreneurial design firm focused on Building Relationships Based on Trust and Results, creating the Power of 2: People and Projects. With a unique culture and leadership model, K2M’s architects, engineers, interior designers and asset managers are engaged and empowered; as a result, both the people and the projects they undertake thrive.
Building trust with an intentional K2Mr brand (people)
K2M Design is driven by people and projects, according to Marketing Manager Stephanie Cieszkowski. “We take good care of our people, so in turn they take good care of our projects which leads to the care and nurturing of our clients and relationships. When you have people who like what they’re doing and like who they’re doing it with, they want to do a good job. They’re invested in the project, invested in the company.”

The company has devised a plan for sustainable long-term growth, which starts with good hiring practices to find employees who are a good fit and possess the skill sets necessary for the firm’s diverse disciplines.

“Our biggest asset – our people – is what we market, so having the right inventory of the right people is critical to being successful in this business,” said Chief Experience Officer Kristin Cloonan. “We know what a ‘K2Mr’ looks like when we meet them.” For K2M, it all goes back to its core values: Be Good, Go Forward, Learn and Lead, and Nurture Relationships.

To attract and retain industry-leading talent, K2M has invested heavily in the company culture, making sure the right resources, training and professional development opportunities are available.

“Scott [Maloney, president of K2M Design] was intentional in developing a very specific culture by defining what that culture looked like and what it felt like. We know what characteristics and traits people would already possess if they are going to be successful in the K2M environment. So when we recruit and look for talent, we know what we’re looking for,” explained Cloonan.

Executing effective projects
Relationship building is a critical component of K2M’s project selection process. The firm, “strategically chases projects,” Cieszkowski noted. “We make sure our faces are in the right places and try to meet the right people, and talk to the right people before the project kicks off. Having nine offices and serving a variety of target markets, it’s a challenge, but we’re working on it all the time to make sure our people are connected.” The result of this relationship building often leads to repeat business with clients.

K2M has flourished under an entrepreneurial system of management. “That’s the secret sauce: the visionary keeps you moving forward, pushing the envelope, but our integrator actually takes those ideas and makes them happen,” said Cloonan.

Client satisfaction is the primary objective. “We have a great visioning process, where we discuss critical success factors that are going to make a project work for them, not for us, and not for our portfolio. At the end of the day, K2M is not a one size fits all design firm; our K2Mrs are empowered to meet the client need, whatever that looks like for them,” said Amanda Wunzin, Knowledge Manager.

The process enables K2M “to truly define what’s going to work for the client, not now, not in five years, but down the road in ten or twenty years, however long they envision staying in this particular facility. This process works in nearly every market we touch.”

Being farsighted extends beyond projects to the company’s growth. It has grown intentionally, and the firm has a clear vision for the future and how best it can get there.

“When we grow, we grow for the right reasons,” explained Cloonan, noting that K2M has grown “strategically through strong partnerships and acquisitions that take time to really make sure they are the right fit for K2M’s culture.”

“We have a vision for 2024,” Cloonan explained. “We know what we want to grow to,” which is to be a full-service mid-sized firm with two-hundred and fifty employees across thirteen locations. The feat is attainable, and the company is well on its way.

K2M Design has ninety employees and nine office locations including Key West, Key Largo and Marathon, Florida; Cleveland and Columbus, Ohio; Charlotte, North Carolina; Baltimore, Maryland; Rogers, Arkansas and Indianapolis, Indiana, in addition to several satellite offices.

According to Cieszkowski, each location is tactically located and has, “a passion market that they know in and out. They know the people, they know the players; each office has something unique to offer.”

While it is a nationally-focused firm with strong local and regional ties in the communities it serves, K2M has an international presence for clients like NASA through its facility maintenance division, K2Mfacility.

Because offices are spread out geographically, technology has played an important role in connecting the firm. The company has made significant investments as a strategic differentiator. “Each one of our offices works seamlessly together because we have made intentional upgrades. Core spending in our company is making sure our technology is on point,” explained Cieszkowski.

“We’re guided by our vision and our core values but we allow each one of our locations to be individuals within those guidelines,” said Cloonan. “We have the same philosophy when it comes to health and wellness – we allow each office to take and interpret how they want and do what’s best for them.”

K2Mrs Empowered and Engaged
Culture and wellness are geared to meet the needs of the employees in each of its offices with everything from lunchtime yoga, walking meetings, 5K walks and runs, wellness challenges, stand-up desks and other initiatives. Employees are not only encouraged to participate, but they are also given the time and opportunity to do so.

The same approach is taken to community outreach, which complements the culture at K2M. Outreach is primarily led by employees and supported by company leadership. Many causes benefit from the firm’s philanthropy. From helping the homeless and work with Habitat for Humanity to supporting inner-city schools and charities like Ronald McDonald House, employees have participated in countless enterprises that help to build the communities they call home.

The company’s mentorship and training programs ensure that its professionals remain engaged, continue to gain knowledge and feel valued by the firm. It does not prescribe a one-size-fits-all approach. Mentorship helps to bridge the gap between experienced professionals and the younger employees and offers a medium through which experiences, knowledge, and institutional memory can be shared.

The firm’s leadership understands the value that comes from professional development opportunities, so employees also have the opportunity to attend training sessions like project management boot camp. “It’s a two-and-a-half-day boot camp we send our project managers to. We have sent close to thirty project managers in the last two years, and we have another group of five coming up,” noted Cloonan. Programs like this are part of how the firm remains on the leading edge of the market.

K2M has been recognized for its unique projects, having won numerous design awards including receiving (IIDA), (ASID), Green Building Council and other project-specific acknowledgements. K2M is also a six-time winner of NorthCoast 99’s Great Workplaces and a nine-time winner of Weatherhead 100’s Fastest Growing Companies in Northeast Ohio.

The company continues to be selected for notable projects like Key Marriott in Cleveland, the Westminster Village North senior living complex and correctional institutions like the Ohio Reformatory for Women Lincoln housing replacement.

“The Lincoln housing replacement is a historical housing replacement, but a unique thing about this project is its sustainability features. It is one of the first LEED – we’re hoping for Silver or Gold – certified facilities for the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Corrections,” said Cieszkowski.

As K2M continues to make its vision for 2024 a reality, the firm’s founding mission of Building Relationships Based on Trust and Results continues to be the main focus.



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