Executive Spotlight Q&A: Fritz Embaugh
Photography by Don Kadair
Position: CEO and Director of Operations
Company: Plus One Design and Construction
Family: Wife, Tia, and two children: August, 14, and Nina, 13
Hometown: Freedom, Pennsylvania
Education: Bachelor of Architecture from LSU, 1996
You’ve owned your own company for about 12 years now. What do you know now that you wish you’d have known back when you were starting the firm?
People are the life force of our business. Our team members, subcontractors, consulting engineers and strategic partners are critical to our success. Ensuring we have the right people in each of these roles has a large impact on our success or lack thereof.
Your company is known for progressive, innovative building designs that are far removed from the traditional architecture seen in south Louisiana. What is your design philosophy?
Be smart and responsible with the opportunities our clients afford us. Every project we are involved in is an opportunity to tell our client’s story and educate those who may see or experience the space, that different isn’t something to be afraid of and in fact can be wonderful. Great design doesn’t have to be more expensive, difficult, or harder to attain.
In addition to being an architect, you’re also a licensed contractor. What do you find more fulfilling, designing buildings or constructing them?
It’s hard to say which I enjoy more because both have made me better at the other. But I can say the most fulfilling experience of anything I do, is having clients not only compliment the final product but also the journey we went through together to get there.
Aside from those you’ve designed, what are your favorite buildings in Baton Rouge and what is it about them that appeals to you about them?
Three come to mind: 1) The Shaw Center. It was groundbreaking for Baton Rouge and really serves to anchor the energy of that part of downtown. 2) The New State Capital. Having had a chance to work with the Capital Architect many years ago I was able to experience the building more than most. The artwork that is integrated into the structure has always captivated me. Combine that with the time it took to design and build this structure and it is quite an impressive building. 3) Louisiana Art & Science Museum. It has a subtle but sophisticated design sensibility to it. The details and vistas that are part of its design truly make it special.
You served in the Marine Corps between 1989 and 1995 before starting your professional career. What did you learn as a Marine that has helped you as a business owner?
Never give up. Just because you’re down doesn’t mean it’s over. Stay strong, stay focused and be tenacious in your efforts. All will turn around before you know it.
What kind of jobs did your parents have when you were growing up and how did their work experiences shape your outlook on what kind of career you might want to pursue?
My parents, like many in western Pennsylvania at the time, were hard working blue collar folks looking for their break. My mom worked at my school in the cafeteria and my father was a mechanic. After the steel implosion in Pittsburgh through the ’70s and early ’80s put them both out of work and my family into bankruptcy I recognized that hard work alone doesn’t pay off. Their example through this experience also taught me that there are always other opportunities to pursue. Just because you’ve hit the bottom doesn’t mean it is over.
What was your first job and what was your takeaway from the experience?
I was a newspaper delivery boy. I didn’t think through having to ride my bike every day in western Pennsylvania between October and April. Not ideal conditions to work in. Sometimes you may love the work you do, but the environment you work in is caustic, or not the right fit. Feel free to make a change from where you are to pursue a better environment for what you love doing. That is essentially how Plus One started.
You’re taking me out to a business lunch in the Capital Region. Where are we going and what do you recommend I order?
There are too many options for me to list. Probably the ones I frequent the most are the ones if find to provide the best quality with the best price. Sushi Yama is consistently awesome. The Cubano or Big Pig at City Pork. The KGB at Curbside is a great burger in a fantastic space. J. Alexander’s has an all‐around great menu. Jolie Pearl’s Blue Cheese or Brie and Bacon oysters are my favorite’s there. The burger sliders at District Donuts. Plate lunch at City Market is good any day of the week. Pulled pork sandwich at Beau Soleil. I could go on, and on and on. Baton Rouge has really become to evolve into a great foodie destination considering the size of the city.
What’s your usual morning routine to get your day off to a good start?
Nothing really special, but consistency is what I need the most. I usually go for a walk/exercise right after I wake up. Then I enjoy eating breakfast with my family and catching up with blogs and social media. Finally, after I’ve done carpool (if it’s my day) I stop and grab my iced coffee on the way into the office.
What’s something about your job that might surprise people?
Most people are aware I am an architect, but it has only been recently that folks understand that I am a contractor as well. The unique designs that Plus One puts out grab a lot of attention at times, but the construction side of what we do is often what makes those opportunities possible.
What are your hobbies, or your favorite things to do in your free time?
Free time? I don’t have much of it, but what I do I usually split between LSU and Pittsburg Steeler football, traveling and time with the family, playing tennis or softball and watching movies. I could spend too much time watching movies if given the time to do that.
What’s the best vacation you’ve ever taken and what’s the next vacation you’re planning or hoping to take?
We’ve been fortunate to travel a lot and bring our children with us. The most memorable was a few years ago over Mardi Gras. We booked a skiing trip to Steamboat Springs, Colorado, for our family and had the best time. We’ve gone back twice since then and it was equally as fun. We are exploring another skiing trip in the spring again, but might also take a trip overseas.
You’ve been asked to make a short playlist at a party. What are we going to hear?
My daily groove is a Pandora station I made a few years back. I usually am listening to that if I am at my desk or traveling in my car somewhere. It is an eclectic mix that includes a variety of ’80s genres, ’70s funk and disco, older R&B, traditional outlaw country and then some current top 40. It never gets old … unless you ask my wife.
What’s the greatest personal or professional obstacle you’ve had to overcome, and how did you do it?
Recently I had the chance to spend two weeks in the back country of New Mexico with my son. Over that time we traversed over 100 miles, summited two mountain peaks and carried everything on our backs that we needed for the trek. It was reminiscent of my time in the Marine Corps, but getting to spend it with my son and witness him overcoming those obstacles was very special to me.
Can you name someone who has had a great impact on you as a leader, or someone who has been a mentor to you in your life or career? How have they changed your outlook?
My wife has been the greatest influence in my adult life. I haven’t met many people who have displayed stronger convictions, integrity, honesty and sense of loyalty than she has. I believe I am a better man and business leader having her in my life. Her opinions and input are invaluable to me.