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Andrew Fell

Andrew Fell

Founder/owner | Andrew Fell Architecture and Design | Class of 1983

Just you wait, Andrew Fell predicts: Post-coronavirus pandemic, many workplaces won’t resemble the ones employers and employees have come to know.

At Champaign’s Andrew Fell Architecture and Design, “we are personally fortunate in that we already had employees who worked solely remotely, so our shift to that operational scheme was most likely less traumatic than for many other businesses,” its founder says.

“I think the need for physical office spaces, both large and small, will be diminished as employers and employees continue to streamline the process and begin to increase their trust in the work-at-home model,” knowing “that when done well and appropriately, this method of business is beneficial and more economic for everyone.

“I don’t think ‘the office’ will ever be quite the same.”

Here’s more from Fell, a Morrison native who earned his undergraduate degree in architecture from the UI in 1983 and a master’s in architectural design two years later, also from the UI.

— My one unbreakable rule of the workplace is ... take care of yourself first. You are a better and more productive employee when your life is gratifying and well-rounded.

To that end, if your job ever becomes the most important thing in your life, you will be fired.

— The last luxury in which I indulged ... was to be my VW bus. When I lost the last one to our daughter’s Panamerican travel adventure, I found another ‘work in progress’ to occupy my time.

Thankfully, it is now nearly ready for some adventure of its own.

— My business role model is ... every boss I ever had. While I learned a great deal about business from each, I also learned something from every one of them about what not to be as a boss.

For me, those were more impactful lessons.

— The hardest thing about being a leader is ... finding just the right people and then believing you made the right choice. This means you must hand over tasks that previously were selfishly yours to complete — and trust that they will get accomplished and accomplished correctly.

Simply leaving someone alone to do the job you hired them for is often the most trying aspect of directing the team.

— I’m up and at ‘em every day ... typically about 6:15. The reality is that I get up when our dog decides he’s too hungry to wait another minute and forces me to get out of bed.

— My exercise routine ... currently consists of renovating a little house. It occupies my time and makes me sore in places I forgot about.

— My philosophy on meetings is ... always bring someone else to listen and take notes.

This is beneficial later when we go back to design work as things are often heard differently by different people and the design portion of our work often can be very interpretive and personal. Bringing everyone involved leaves as little as possible to be lost in translation.

Besides, my handwriting is so atrocious that no one else in the office can read it.

— My favorite moment of all time in this job is ... always the next project we get.

— I can’t live without ... my family. Every one of us has their own very different interests and drives. I love participating in their passions.

If I am thankful for anything in this ‘stay-at-home’ season, it can only be that we are together, enduring it with the comfort of each other.

— I’m frugal in that ... I clean the office. Certainly not my favorite task as the boss.

— The biggest business risk I ever took was ... quitting my job with no idea of what would come next, and believing in my own leap of faith.

It was possible only with the unwavering support of my family and the help of countless other friends and professionals.

— The most beneficial college class I took was ... anything with Jack Baker. He was an artist, a genius, a mentor and a gentle, joyful man.

I am fortunate to have been able to call him a friend for more than 20 years.

— The worst job I ever had ... is a tie. My first job, at six, was mouse catcher for the neighboring houses in rural northwestern Illinois, where I got 5 cents a mouse.

And one summer during college, when I worked at a drugstore during the day and a canning factory at night. College was expensive.

The factory was loud, dirty, unbelievably hot and extremely boring. It wasn’t necessarily the ‘job’ but working 90 hours a week that made it the worst. Thankfully, that prepared me for the reality of eventually owning my own business.

A quote I heard from my friend, Andy Timms, has always rung true for me: “When you own your own business, you only have to work half time if you want. It doesn’t matter which twelve hours of the day they are.”

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