President & Chief Operating Officer
Neumann Monson Architects
Chief Operating Officer of the Year – For-Profit
Nominated by Kevin Monson, Chairman
As an architect and leader of Iowa City’s acclaimed Neumann Monson Architects, Tim Schroeder has made a career of building things. But one of his most successful projects in recent years wasn’t a building at all.
Named the firm’s operations chief in 2012, Mr. Schroeder has been leading Neumann Monson on a “six-year cultural evolution,” according to Chairman Kevin Monson, as it transitions from founder-led to purpose-driven. That included learning to embrace vulnerability, feedback and critique on a deeper level than ever before, and making the client experience the firm’s top critical objective. Alignment and engagement has been improved, and client relationships have been strengthened, thanks to new production standards and continual feedback.
His work has “laid a strong foundation for ongoing success,” Mr. Monson said. “The firm’s transformed culture is open, trusting and transparent.”
Like many things in design and construction, transforming the firm’s culture was a slow, step-by-step process, as Mr. Schroeder tells it. Neumann Monson, like many companies, gave employees annual top-down reviews for many years. It first broke that cycle in 2013 by introducing anonymous reviews of the firm’s leadership, and then introduced transparent 360 reviews “as our appreciation for direct conversation grew,” he recalled.
In 2014, the firm turned that concept toward clients with a voice-of-the-customer tool that invites criticism in order to align goals early and course-correct often.
Neumann Monson’s transformation has earned it national attention, and honors from the Professional Services Management Journal for client service for four years running. Of the 300 architecture firms using the same voice-of-the-customer tool to measure client satisfaction, Neumann Monson is ranked in the top 1 percent.
“Looking back, this has been quite a transformation,” Mr. Schroeder said, adding “it’s one that is ongoing – it requires constant vigilance.”
The firm’s high-performing culture has helped power it to the top ranks of the region’s A&D firms. Since 2013, Neumann Monson has received 24 state American Institute of Architect recognitions, and 14 American Institute of Architects regional recognitions. That exceeds any other firm in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The firm has grown from six to 21 owners, and its work is now featured in design publications around the world.
Mr. Schroeder has also emphasized the importance of social and environmental stewardship among his colleagues. He and his team dedicated pro bono design services for Iowa City’s Cross Park Place, a 24-unit permanent home for the chronically homeless with around-the-clock support services, and donated more than 2,800 hours of volunteer time to celebrate the firm’s 40th anniversary. Ms. Schroeder also advocated for his firm to sign onto the voluntary 2030 Challenge, a global initiative asking the A&D community to commit to designing carbon-neutral buildings by 2030.
It’s a big task, but one that Mr. Schroeder already knows his firm can tackle.
“My biggest point of pride is the family we’ve assembled,” he said. “Our people are engaged, passionate about their contribution and aligned behind our mission. That makes every challenge we face that much easier to overcome.
– Adam Moore