The Next Generation Leadership: Gus Fischer

John Webre

June 8, 2022

“Throughout our 23 years of working alongside each other, Gus has always been able to call things out for what they are. This clear-eyed commitment to the truth has allowed him to navigate projects through challenging waters.”

The following is the second in a series of five blogs focused on the leadership transition at the firm.

As I begin the process of retiring from Dreyfuss + Blackford Architecture, I reflect on the firm and the impact we’ve had on our community and the industry; and I think of Gus Fischer, who has been at the foundation of many of our most important projects. Passing a legacy firm on to the next generation has been a long time in the making, and Gus has been a cornerstone to making that transition a success.

Dwight D. Eisenhower once said, “The supreme quality for leadership is integrity.” This supreme quality is core to Gus Fischer, one of the five principals that form the leadership at Dreyfuss + Blackford.

Integrity is the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles. Throughout our 23 years of working alongside each other, Gus has always been able to call things out for what they are. This clear-eyed commitment to the truth has allowed him to navigate projects through challenging waters. One of the finest project managers I have ever had the pleasure to work with, Gus has repeatedly demonstrated the clear vision required to lay out a plan and skillfully execute it with large teams, never losing sight of the core mission of the project. He has always been the first to candidly call out “the elephant in the room” – or to identify rocks in the road and puzzle out how to either remove them or work around them. This aptitude for execution of projects has allowed the rest of us to sleep well at night knowing that things will be done right, and problems will be solved.

To illustrate the kind of impact Gus has had on the firm and the Sacramento community, I can think of no project more emblematic than his contributions to the Museum of Science and Curiosity (MOSAC). After many years of starts and stops with changing project parameters and funding levels, Gus stepped into a guiding role in its final version.

SMUD Museum of Science and Curiosity is the Sacramento region’s newest STEAM learning attraction.

The existing 100-year-old power plant that formed the framework of the project had a basement that was originally planned to be used for exhibits and mechanical equipment. At one point Gus recalls standing on the adjacent levee and looking out on the water level of the Sacramento River which was a full 15’ higher than the basement floor elevation. His conclusion was that the expense to make the basement serviceable with the constant risk of water intrusion and flooding did not serve the project, and a solution that abandoned the basement and realigned the resources to build a significant above ground architectural addition would be much more beneficial for the client. The next day he called together the project team and there was an immediate pivot to development a new solution, which resulted in prominently featuring the planetarium dome as the iconic feature of the new addition. It is that kind of clarity, firmly grounded in years of experience, that has made Gus’ impact on our work so important to the durability of our reputation.

The wisdom that Gus has generously imparted to all who work with him has given the firm a breadth of project management talent that can only come from careful mentoring. His leadership style is day to day, in the trenches. This hand-in-hand approach provides a deep project management capacity, allowing the firm to grow and flourish. It is core to our ability to bridge into the future with emerging leaders. This unique capacity has allowed him to have a deep insight into the firm’s talent needs. It is why he is leading the firm’s hiring of new talent. He fully understands what our teams need and keenly tracks each team member in their career growth.  With these abilities, he is key to building the right team, tailored to each unique project.

Gus has helped move the firm forward in our ability to track our performance. As the firm’s CFO he has a 360-degree view of our capacity needs and our financial performance.  He has helped develop tools to understand and fine tune our workload, our capacity and our job cost tracking. These are fundamental elements to developing a “dashboard” on the firm’s vitals.  Managing the operations of the firm comes naturally to an innovative problem solver like Gus.

Gus doesn’t seek the spotlight but instead strives to have a positive impact. It is his impact on our work and the community that he most relishes. His steadying effect on the organization is essential to the success of the firm as we transition to the next generation of leaders.

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