Lee Powers

Age: 55
Firm: Convergence Design

Convergence Design was born in adversity. All achitect staff who work here are former Populous employees, and we all were set aside during the Great Recession. I knew there was basically no chance I was going to hook on with another firm in early 2010. The architectural market here was as depressed as anyplace else. I’d always talked to myself about starting my own firm, and I thought now’s my chance. We’re located in a 100-year-old building in downtown that was the livestock exchange, where all the cattle brokers used to work.

We don’t buy into the notion of work/life balance, because we think it presents a false dichotomy. We’re seeking to integrate work and life in a seamless whole. You don’t compartmentalize. If you’re working on a report at midnight you don’t feel as guilty, you don’t say this is me-time I’m giving to the company. It works the other way, too. We have people at our office who have to run out and pick up a kid at daycare, and that’s fine, too. We don’t want them to feel guilty either. [Sometimes] they bring their kids back to the office, and the kid just works alongside the parent until it’s time to go home.

We still don’t have office hours. My wife—she’s my bookkeeper—and I usually arrive at the office sometime between 8:30 and 9:00 a.m., sometimes earlier, sometimes later. I like the flow of the day. It’s the opposite of a clock-watching culture. There’s a level of trust involved that people are going to put in a full day’s work. Architects tend to work more than eight hours a day anyway, so it’s not really an issue. People go home when they feel like it’s time to go home, and that seems to work well.

I’m an empty nester, so I don’t have the kinds of commitments I had 10 years ago. Now I have time to volunteer. I’m in a radio comedy troupe that performs weekly on Sirius satellite radio.

I also travel a great deal. Virtually all of our clients are out of town—from Florida to Canada. When I first started Convergence, I thought I was going to be Mr. Local Architect, designing the bank and the school and the church in Kansas City, but instead I’m traveling all over North America doing stadiums, arenas, convention centers—anyplace where large groups of people are likely to gather. So for me, a day at the airport is as typical as a day at the office. —As told to Alex Hoyt