The Secret of Their Success
By Leigh Savage
Mark and Lura Godfrey, co-owners of Greenville-based LMG Architects, have seen firms caught in the crosshairs of the coronavirus pandemic, but say they are as busy as ever despite the downturn.
“People see this as a time of opportunity,” Mark Godfrey says. “Money is cheap, and people have projects that have been on the backburner.”
LMG specializes in both commercial and residential architecture, a blend that has allowed the team to weather difficulties that hamper firms that focus on single sectors.
Right now, retail is slowing, but residential is growing, he says. “We’ve had an average of 30 to 35 percent growth in revenue each year. This year, we are positioned to meet or exceed our revenue from last year, even with the pandemic.”
The company’s project breakdown works out to approximately 30 percent commercial office, 30 percent restaurant/retail, 15 percent single-family residential, 15 percent planning/interiors and 10 percent industrial.
In addition to steadying revenues, the firm’s diversification also allows the company’s married owners to focus on their own spheres of expertise - while continuing to collaborate when needed.
Lura Godfrey focuses on the residential side.
“Especially in single-family residential, a lot of people say they have never worked with an architect,” she says. “But we are approachable and easy to work with, and our clients end up being friends. I just ran into one at Costco.”
Lura says interest in residential projects has been so high that she’s had to refer some clients to other architects. She’s a believer in helping other businesses whenever possible, which has led to many productive partnerships.
“The key for us is, life is too short, so don’t burn any bridges. We work well with others, even if they are technically our competitors.”
Mark Godfrey agrees. “There are a lot of startups, and we all have a friendly attitude toward each other,” he says. “There are several firms we share leads with. We have found there is plenty to go around. We ask for help, they ask for help, and you don’t see that with bigger firms.”
On the commercial side, which Mark Godfrey heads up, the company offers new construction, renovations, additions and site planning. He considers the restaurant Kitchen Sync on Laurens Road, which LMG designed, to be “a big launching project” for the commercial business, leading to an influx of additional work. Other recent projects include The Wine House on Haywood Road, Landrum Farmers Market and Rocky’s Hot Chicken Shack, set to open in Greenville in 2021.
“We like working with small businesses,” he says. “We want to be partners, and always do what is in the best interest of the project.”
The Godfreys both grew up in South Carolina and met as Clemson University undergraduates. Mark earned his master’s degree in architecture from Clemson in 1998, while Lura earned a bachelor’s degree in design before earning a master’s in architecture at Washington University in St. Louis. They got married and moved to Atlanta.
LMG has been operating since 2014, but an earlier version of the company was born in Atlanta in 2005. Lura Godfrey operated LDG Design there, focusing on single-family residential work, while Mark took various jobs focused on commercial architecture at larger firms.
They moved to Greenville in 2006 with a vision for eventually starting their own firm. “The firm I was working for got bigger and felt more corporate, and that was not what I was looking for at all,” he says. “I didn’t need anyone to tell me how to do it anymore.”
In 2013, he and Lura agreed that she’d take on as much residential work as possible and he would begin the process of leaving his job and transitioning to LMG. The transition was fairly smooth, since they had been considering the idea for a while, but they still had to iron out a few details about who took on what responsibilities.
In the end, Lura handled the paperwork - getting an LLC, insurance and the like - while he worked his commercial connections.
“Mark is definitely more technical, putting together commercial drawings and considering every detail,” she says. “He is very good at business development.”
Lura handles the residential projects and also assists in commercial projects with her design skills, advising on proportion, finishes and colors.
“It’s funny, people say, ‘How can you possibly work with your husband?’ But we don’t work together very much. We work on very different projects,” Lura says.
“We’re still married,” Mark jokes. “We do work on different things, and it’s separated into residential and commercial. That’s the secret to our success.”
Monica Floyd, a project designer/planner/manager at LMG, appreciates the family atmosphere the Godfreys instill at the company. “I think the work/life balance exhibited by Mark and Lura is the underlying foundation of the firm,” she says. “We work hard, but have flexibility for family.”
Lindsay Lawhead, a project designer, also appreciates that she gets to see projects through from start to finish - which she wasn’t able to do at larger firms. “I was always taken on and off jobs during different phases of projects,” she says. “At LMG, I get the opportunity to work more holistically.”
The Covid-19 pandemic added additional togetherness for the Godfrey family as they worked from home - often at the dining room table - while their two boys, ages 12 and 9, did their e-learning nearby.
Now they are back in their office on West Stone Avenue, just a block from their home, tackling projects large and small. “Our mission statement is to be approachable and conscientious about how we design,” Lura says. “It’s not about ego, it’s about design.”