NBJ Case Study: Architects Gobbell Hays Partners build business with environmental projects


Ronald Gobbell, left, and Steve Hays of Gobbell Hays Partners Inc. have been business partners for the past 35 years. “We’ve become best friends over the years,” said Hays, who noted that it was “helpful that we got together young before we were molded,” making it easier to collaborate and work together.

When a recession hits your industry, it pays to be nimble.

That’s how Gobbell Hays Partners Inc., a 35-year-old Nashville-based engineering and architectural firm, navigated through recent tough times for the commercial construction world.

When its clients around the globe started putting building addition and expansion plans on hold, the firm led by architect Ron Gobbell and engineer Steve Hays made a decision to shift its focus.

“We went from doing nice photographic architectural additions and major renovations to working on keeping buildings open,” Gobbell said.

That meant concentrating on environmental issues (mold, asbestos, indoor air quality) that could force a business to close portions of its building.

“If a client has to close down a section of a hotel or hospital, they stand to lose a lot of revenue,” Gobbell said. “Our job is to get them back up and running quickly. That way we were able to keep our engineers busy dealing with mold issues. And our architects worked to figure out why they had moisture problems and how to fix it.”

The strategy paid off.

“We didn’t have to have layoffs like most firms did, because we did very well over the last four years,” Gobbell said.

It wouldn’t have worked without flexible and adaptable employees, traits the company looks for when hiring, Hays said.

“Being nimble is essential,” Hays said. “We do a lot of cross training.”

In 2012, the firm posted about $17 million in revenue. This year, it expects to reach $21 million. Hays and Gobbell anticipate growth to continue as the firm repositions to take advantage of bigger opportunities.

“We are really excited about 2014,” Gobbell said. “We hope to get up around $30 million as hospitals and hotels start to move forward with major additions and renovations that they have had on hold for the last four or five years.”

Gobbell and Hays believe the environmental work the firm did in recent years has strengthened its relationships with clients and will lead to bigger projects.

“It’s like that joke, if a camel can get its nose under the tent, the camel is going get in the tent,” Gobbell said. “Well, we’ve got our nose in several tents.”

Written by: Nevin Batiwalla, Staff Reporter, Nashville Business Journal
Photo credit: Nathan Morgan, Nashville Business Journal

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