Building a Legacy in Urban Planning: Insights from Founder Greg Brown

Building a Legacy in Urban Planning: Insights from Founder Greg Brown

Greg Brown, founder of B&A (formerly Brown and Associates), shares his experiences and wisdom gained over decades in the planning industry. His journey, starting from the inception of B&A in 1989, offers invaluable lessons for aspiring planners and entrepreneurs alike.

The Beginning

Greg Brown’s motivation for starting his own firm came from a desire to create a company grounded in integrity and client satisfaction. Reflecting on the early days, he emphasized the importance of honesty and transparency. “Just tell the truth. It is the easiest thing to remember down the road. Do not lie, do not misrepresent because you need an approval. Your integrity allows you to stay in business for 30 years.”

Navigating Challenges in Urban Planning

One of the major challenges Brown faced (and planners continue to face) is balancing the preservation of natural environments with the need for development. In his work on the Arbour Lake Community, for example, he negotiated the delicate balance between retaining natural features and meeting the developer’s efficiency goals. This often meant working closely with parks departments and other stakeholders to find a middle ground that satisfied both environmental and developmental interests.

Evolving Density in Urban Development

Over the years, the conversation around urban density has shifted dramatically. Brown noted that 30 years ago, communities were built with much lower densities compared to today. “Developers were always working to get higher density on their properties, while politicians and the public often pushed back. Ironically, today the roles have reversed, with planners and politicians advocating for higher density to address affordability and supply issues.”

Stay Humble and Overachieve

Brown’s advice for maintaining a successful career in planning revolves around humility and exceeding expectations. He stressed the importance of not seeking the limelight for oneself but rather focusing on achieving results for clients. “Stay humble and exceed whatever the expectations are for you. If you’re not looking for the limelight yourself, you’ll build a reputation based on integrity and hard work.”

The Importance of Teamwork and Deadlines

Effective teamwork and meeting deadlines are critical to succeeding in the planning industry. Brown stated that achieving an 85% completion on a deliverable to meet a deadline is often more important than striving for a perfect product initially. The nature of the industry is such that your first go at a project will rarely be the same as the approved, finished product so striving for a perfect product initially is futile if it means delaying a client’s deadline. “Get it down fast. You’re an intelligent person, so just do it and produce it. Then let other people edit it and modify it, particularly the client.”

Final Thoughts

Greg Brown’s career offers a roadmap for aspiring urban planners and entrepreneurs as his learnings ring true in almost any industry. His emphasis on honesty, humility, and teamwork, combined with a willingness to adapt to changing industry demands, has allowed him to build a legacy in urban planning. As Brown aptly put it, “Build your reputation and keep it with integrity. Stay humble, and you’ll continue to grow personally and professionally.”

For those entering the field, Brown’s insights serve as a powerful reminder of the values that underpin long-term success in urban planning.

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