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Earles Architects and Associates marks 25 years in the business
By Tarina Hargrays

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Earles Architects and Associates ( EAA ) have been going strong for a little more than 25 years.

Dan Earles, the principal and owner of EAA, is a Detroit native who has worked for several architect firms until 1991, when he decided to start his own firm, EAA. The mid-sized firm consists of 19 people and, since its founding, has branched the furnishing company SEAATS.

Earles has always had a passion for architecture. "When I was a kid I used to sit and draw floorplans for fun," he said, laughing. Earles confessed that he still has the first floor plan he drew in the fifth grade.

Earles' love of architecture and design allowed him to build a company that has thrived for more than 25 years.

When it comes to staying successful in an ever-evolving market, Earles explained that diversity is the key. EAA's core focus is commercial office interiors; however, EAA works with retail, restaurant, healthcare and industrial office spaces. It also helps that Chicago is constantly expanding ( according to Earles ), so there are new spaces to design and furnish.

Earles explained that EAA also owes its success to its core values. "We're client-focused, responsive, resourceful, dedicated and we're driven to excel," he said. According to Earles, EAA believes catering to clients' needs in a timely and efficient manner has also played an important role in making EAA a prosperous firm.

Achieving these core values requires a like-minded team. Earles said he believes his team is successful in carrying out these values because they're a "work family." Building healthy relationships inside and outside of the workplace seems to be an important theme for EAA members. Earles even talked about how he's to take his team members to a Star Trek premiere soon.

Earles' appreciation for team-bonding stems from recent work experiences. As for workplaces that weren't very welcoming, he said, "It's been very important to me to maintain a place where people want to come to work and that they enjoy what they do." He said his motto for EAA's team is "What you put out is what you get back."

Throughout EAA's 25-year run, the firm has encountered a few speedbumps. For example, Earles explained that 2008's effect on the market hit them. EAA also experienced difficulties during its founding year, 1991. However, Earles reiterated the fact that keeping EAA's business ventures diversified has helped them throughout the years. Earles said the biggest obstacle is a common one—the flow of business; sometimes the firm is extremely busy and other times it is slow. However, business relationships seem to help in this regard. Earles believes that doing a good job for clients has helped EAA because those clients seem to come back and remain loyal to the firm.

Making strong business connections with the right people is something EAA takes pride in. With that in mind, EAA obtained its LGBT Business Enterprise ( LGBTBE ) certification in 2014 through The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce ( NGLCC ).

In order to become LGBTBE-certified, NGLCC has to verify that qualified businesses are majority-owned by LGBT people, allowing LGBTBE-certified businesses to have access to numerous contacts and networks that are partnered with NGLCC.

Earles said that he wanted to get EAA LGBTBE-certified in order to further diversify the firm and open more doors. Becoming LGBT-certified, Earles explained, was a way to "give more opportunities to diversity suppliers." Earles also said he believes that being certified gives EAA the chance to connect with corporations and companies it wouldn't normally encounter. However, since the certification is so recent, Earles explained that these opportunities are still in the making.

Earles, a part of the LGBT community, explained that this year he hopes EAA can use its newfound connections from the certification and NGLCC to create more business opportunities.

EAA currently has its main office located in Chicago; however, the firm has recently branched out in northwest Indiana. Earles said that he doesn't see EAA becoming a mega-firm in the future, adding, "Sometimes when you get to that bigger stage you lose some of the intimacy and those personal connections with clients."

When asked where he hopes to see EAA in the next 25 years, Earles said that he hopes the company he started 25 years ago in the spare bedroom of his apartment will "sustain itself and live past [him]." Earles accepts the fact that the hardest part of achieving this goal will be finding people with the same passion and love of architecture and design. However, he claimed to have a few people in his corner that he believes will carry out his mission.

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