“Seeking center in the business world”
By: Vanessa Weiner and Jennifer Jordan
Kris Bradner is no stranger to seeking balance in her busy life. As an entrepreneur, Kris has worked with her team to keep the company culture healthy and run the business efficiently. These are no small tasks, especially when combined with her other priorities: rearing her children, pursuing passions, making time to exercise, and trying to squeeze in a date night with her husband every now and then. Being a working mother is a daily juggling act, and at times, it’s hard to keep all the balls in the air. It’s important to Kris that even at her busiest she remembers to regain her center by carving out a bit time to reflect on all she is doing in order to make skillful, future-oriented decisions.
When Kris and her partner started Birchwood Design Group in 2011, now Traverse Landscape Architects with offices in Boston and Providence, they were on a tight budget and tried to save money wherever they could. Those early days where stressful, to say the least. “Our first office was in a cold rehabilitated mill building in Olneyville,” Kris said. “Often we would just work from a coffee shop or from home.” Now a leading landscape architectural design firm with a team of 8 landscape architects, designers and project managers, Traverse grew organically due to its talent, dedication and market demand.
In the early years of growing the business, Kris pursued many opportunities to build the company’s portfolio and establish name recognition. Doing so required extensive networking. This wasn’t always easy for her, but Kris grew to enjoy meeting new people and understood that cultivating individual relationships was a key to success. She joined a Women Principals Groupthrough the Boston Society of Architects, which provided her with additional support and resources. “As a female small business owner, I feel like I’m not so alone when I can share struggles and successes with other women,” Kris said.
Reflective by nature, Kris recently took a step back and realized that while still a small company, Traverse Landscape Architects is in it’s seventh year – an important milestone for small business owners. She wants to remain a viable and competitive firm for many more years to come. Kris and her partners recognize that they will need to make changes to stay current with market trends and a widening audience, and become a truly resilient business that can both endure and remain flexible.
Last year, Kris and her team sought the services of a business coach and a rebranding firm to help them think through long-term strategy and plan for the next stage of the firm’s growth. Together, they agreed upon rebranding – always a risky proposition for a small enterprise. Kris and her partner s knew the time was right for a bold change. This required Kris and her team to work through challenges and grow in trust — with the coach and with each other. In the end, the process strengthened the entire team’s engagement in their shared purpose – a commitment to ecologically sensitive design and a truly collaborative partnership with their clients.
Kris appreciates how often she was able to find and return to her center during this intensive process by approaching big decisions mindfully and taking the time to reflect with her team at critical points throughout the firm’s growth. Her strong self-awareness allowed her to know when she needed to step back and listen, and when she needed to put herself right in the middle of a challenge and move through all the distractions to achieve a desired goal.
Kris’ intention for 2018 is to stop worrying about the things she cannot control. Her confidence in her team and the successful re-launch of her business help her to sleep better at night, and feel good about the time and energy she devotes to her many other priorities. And, she remembers that only by stepping back to center was she able to make this palpable shift forward.