As part of my series about the “How Business Leaders Plan To Rebuild In The Post COVID Economy”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Christian Giordano.
Christian is driven by a quest of disruption and innovation. He approaches each new undertaking — be it a design project, a business initiative, or an industry‑wide effort — with a desire to push boundaries, do it better, and solve tough challenges.
Throughout his efforts, he brings a balance of more than 25 years of experience working within the building industry along with an innate ability to think progressively, often times far beyond what others in the industry are thinking or doing.
It is this quest that brought him to Mancini more than five years ago. Leveraging the firm’s 100‑year‑history spanning architecture, interiors, and planning, Christian saw a unique opportunity to recalibrate the firm’s approach — emphasizing technology to transform the way designers across disciplines work — while capitalizing on its deep New York City roots and proven technical ability delivering built work. He set ambitious goals for the firm to revolutionize the way things are done and opened the call to action to every team member — from design to finance and from operations to marketing — to see that vision come to life. A year after joining the firm, he was appointed President and in 2017 became its majority shareholder. In all this time, he continuously pushed limits to elevate the firm by activating this vision.
Today, under Christian’s leadership, Mancini totals more than 90 designers across two regional offices — two‑and‑a‑half times the 35 designers in a single New York City office when he joined the firm in 2013 — all circling around the vision of being a technology‑first design firm. Each person is inspired to push the boundaries of technology to deliver better design solutions, better results for the firm’s clients, and better ways of doing things for the industry.
Today, Mancini continues to be recognized as an industry‑leader, pushing more and more boundaries to the brink of reinvention, thanks to Christian’s big vision and tireless efforts. One of many recognitions for this work was the firm being named a finalist at Commercial Observer’s Inaugural Innovator Awards in the Construction & Design Tech category among technology firms and start‑ups, not among other design firms — the ultimate confirmation that Christian’s big vision and ability to see it delivered is truly changing the way things are done.
Thank you so much for your time! I know that you are a very busy person. Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’ and how you got started?
Since I was a child, I always wanted to be an architect, because my mom loved to renovate our houses. In turn, my hobbies were LEGO and I enjoyed building models. I did my undergraduate at the University of Miami and then my master’s at UCLA where I studied with industry legends like Frank Gehry. When I moved to New York, I worked for Swanke Hayden Connell Architects and worked my way up. I joined Mancini about five years ago and was appointed President within a year. In 2017, I bought the firm from the previous generation of owners along with my partners.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?
Early in my career, I worked for an architect who specialized in residential. I had to go over to one client’s house and measure his enormous home. I didn’t know much about the client who had mentioned in passing that he was flying to Hawaii later that day. Hours later, I was still measuring and I apologized to him that it was taking such a long time. He said, “oh that’s ok.” I said, “but I thought you have to catch a flight.” He kindly replied, “we do, but we can leave whenever we want.” I later found out that he was the Founder of United Healthcare, one of the wealthiest men in the world! I was struck by how humble and kind he was to me. The lesson I learned was that you never know who you’re with and I admired his humbleness in spite of all the success he had achieved.
Is there a particular book that you read, or podcast you listened to, that really helped you in your career? Can you explain?
My favorite podcast is The Tim Ferriss Show, because it’s an escape and feels like a nice break from the news. We have similar approaches to business, what’s the 10% that will give you 90% of your results?
Extensive research suggests that “purpose driven business” are more successful in many areas. When you started your company what was your vision, your purpose?
When I acquired Mancini Duffy, our purpose was three-fold — to create amazing design, solve problems, and push boundaries within design, technology and our overarching profession.
Do you have a “number one principle” that guides you through the ups and downs of running a business?
My guiding principal is and always has been to move forward. My mantra is keep going, just go! There’s a book title that encompasses what guides us at Mancini Duffy, it’s called What Got You Here Won’t Get You There.
Thank you for all that. The Covid-19 pandemic has affected nearly every aspect of our lives today. For the benefit of empowering our readers, can you share with our readers a few of the personal and family related challenges you faced during this crisis? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
The balancing of school, two working parents, and no athletics for our daughters has been challenging on the personal front. The biggest challenge is that we moved houses in the midst of the pandemic! I’ve addressed the challenges by continuing to work out and run.
Can you share a few of the biggest work related challenges you are facing during this pandemic? Can you share what you’ve done to address those challenges?
In terms of work-related challenges, we transitioned over 80 of our employees to work remotely from home. Our design files are large and cumbersome, so we adjusted by moving our powerful super computers to people’s living rooms and apartments so they can continue to work efficiently.
Many people have become anxious from the dramatic jolts of the news cycle. The fears related to the coronavirus pandemic have understandably heightened a sense of uncertainty, fear, and loneliness. What are a few ideas that you have used to offer support to your family and loved ones who were feeling anxious? Can you explain?
When we initially transitioned our team to work from home, the four co-owners of Mancini called each of our employees to ensure they were properly set up at home and reassure them about the transition. We’ve maintained our familial company culture by holding “All-In” meetings with the entire company twice a week to support our team remotely and keep the spirit of Mancini alive. We chat, play games, and share personal stories. I’ve really gotten to connect and learn more about our staff through these meetings.
Obviously we can’t know for certain what the Post-Covid economy will look like. But we can of course try our best to be prepared. We can reasonably assume that the Post-Covid economy will be a trying time for many people across the globe. Yet at the same time the Post-Covid growth can be a time of opportunity. Can you share a few of the opportunities that you anticipate in the Post-Covid economy?
I envision several opportunities for our business to grow and pivot. Most notably, our clients will be looking to re-imagine their workplaces — from offices to restaurants. We’ve already started working with some of our NYC-based restaurant clients like Boqueria to redesign the spaces for Post-COVID safety while also maintaining their signature dining aesthetics.
How do you think the COVID pandemic might permanently change the way we behave, act or live?
I think we will value being home more. I have never eaten dinner with my family this much since I became a father many years ago. I think we’ll yearn for more of that priceless quality time Post-COVID.
Considering the potential challenges and opportunities in the Post-Covid economy, what do you personally plan to do to rebuild and grow your business or organization in the Post-Covid Economy?
I’m looking into new market sectors that we will actively pursue like industrial distribution and the suburban office market. I think there’s also an opportunity for us to grow within the mall business. What will malls look like Post-COVID? I’m looking forward to working with our teams to rethink those spaces in the future.
Similarly, what would you encourage others to do?
I would encourage others to empower designers to solve a lot of the challenges that we’ll face Post-COVID.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“How you do anything, is how you do everything.” This quote is relevant in my life because design is about the big moments, as well as the details.
How can our readers further follow your work?