Chapter Twenty Six
Great Man - The Maestro (FSK)
HBE is an incredible Horatio Alger story. Fred Kummer started the company as a young man. Just 30 years old, Fred started a construction company with little more than a dream. His wife, June, is an architect. The two of them must have been thoroughly convinced they could make a go of it. June and Fred met at the William B. Ittner architectural firm in St. Louis. Fred was fresh from the University of Missouri at Rolla and June was a graduate of Washington University’s architectural program. FSK has been known to compare himself to Fidel Castro, as they both came into power at roughly the same time. The funny thing is, like Castro, many of the people whose lives he effects secretly hope for his overthrow or perhaps even his demise. I didn’t meet Fred until he was over 70 years of age. I was hired to head up his marketing efforts for design-build divisions in 1998 at HBE. In the three years I worked at HBE, (the first time – I did two tours at HBE), I learned a lot about FSK. In 2005 I returned to HBE as Vice President of Marketing and picked up where I left off. (Fred, still running the show, grilled me and eventually made me an offer - to return to the company.) Fred has a unique approach to how he and his company apply design and construction as a single product bundle. The company Fred started, it seems to me - after some ups and downs in the first ten years, began to see the value of narrowly targeting the healthcare field. Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s the company really took off. (Along the way the company also built a division devoted to the design and construction of financial facilities. AND the company built a chain of owned and operated Hotels – Adam’s Mark Hotels & Resorts) The real story of Fred Kummer can hardly be told without an appreciation for what a colorful character he truly is. And it’s hard to get a good handle on it without talking to some of the various people he has placed in responsible positions within his firm. As the Maestro of the design-build process, FSK proudly installed a statue of an orchestra leader in front of his office. The Maestro is a perfect allegory for Fred himself, as he sees himself, coordinating and signaling every note from every musician in his band. (The company has over 500 employees – highly educated and technical people – architects, engineers, etc.) Indeed, those in his organization learn quickly that this is his show.
Fred is a great man. His rumpled genius persona is not a function of age. By all accounts FSK has been the master builder and final word on every structure for as long as he’s been in business. He is feared by even his highest-ranking lieutenants. That doesn’t explain his personality, his success and his peculiar charm. He is an enigma. Like a rattlesnake, he hisses quietly luring you into his office. “Come in. Sit Down. Hissssssssss” and then - without a moment’s notice he strikes as
if for no particular provocation. It is inexplicable.
This is the an excerpt from the book that can be found in downloadable PDFs on website www.morganstudioeast.com