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My New Normal: Pinnacle Structural Engineers President Adam Cryer

This series aims to capture a moment in time, talking to men and women in commercial real estate about how their lives and businesses are being transformed by the coronavirus pandemic.

Pinnacle Structural Engineers President and co-founder Adam Cryer used to have a short commute to the office. That commute has shortened even further, now that he is working from home.

Pinnacle Structural Engineers President Adam Cryer, working from home with canine colleague Beau.

Cryer founded Pinnacle Structural Engineers in March 2005 with his business partner, Donald Greive, while still enrolled as a postgraduate student at the University of Texas at Austin.

Since then, he has served as engineer of record on over 400 projects, including healthcare facilities, churches, schools, financial institutions, retail centers and office buildings.

Cryer was also featured in Building Design + Construction’s Class of 2014 Forty Under 40, cementing his reputation as an emerging industry leader in Houston.

Like many other cities, Houston is operating under a "Stay Home, Work Safe" order, which came into effect at 11:59 p.m. on March 24. Individuals have been instructed to stay at home unless performing essential activities, such as shopping for groceries or to work in specific, essential jobs. At this stage, the order is slated to end at 11:59 p.m. on April 3.

Cryer is adapting to the new normal of working from home, though he still occasionally stops by the otherwise-empty office.

Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life. 

Cryer: Our entire staff is able to work remotely and have been doing so for almost two weeks now, so I spend some days working from home and a day or two each week in the office to perform some of the basic functions still needed there. It is eerie driving to work with the streets relatively empty, and seeing no one in the building or on our floor on a weekday, everywhere feels like a ghost town. 

Bisnow: How are you transitioning your life and business to the homefront?

Cryer: My wife and I have a home office that we often work from, but we’re not accustomed to working from home at the same time, so the kitchen table or the couch has also become a makeshift office of sorts. We have three dogs and they are certainly happy about this whole situation, with some midday staff meetings replaced with 10-minute breaks for requisite ball chasing in the yard. Also, like many, I’ve gained an aptitude for opening things with my elbows when not at home.

Bisnow: What is the state of your business at the moment?

Cryer: To date, we have seen little-to-no impact on our previously scheduled deliverable project deadlines, so work has remained steady. However, we anticipate that the inevitable impact of the economic downturn on our industry will relay itself to some degree, as projects either going on hold or canceled altogether. We know that it will be important to embrace the changes that are coming to how business is conducted in the coming months, rather than fight them for the sole purpose of reverting to the old way of doing things.

A real challenge for HR staff will be figuring out how to codify remote work options for employees.

Bisnow: What is your greatest business concern right now?

Cryer: Our ability to serve our clients has been unaffected, so my biggest concerns are vanishing backlog, and doing our best to support and retain the talented staff we have worked to assemble over time.

Bisnow: What was your lowest low and the highest high these last few weeks?

Cryer: The lows come from acknowledging fears of what could be necessary from a business perspective, including potential furloughs, layoffs, etc. The highs come from the hope and belief that mankind (and the city of Houston in particular) loves to answer the call and work together to come back swinging whenever circumstances demand that we do so.

Bisnow: What are you doing at home to keep your sanity?

Cryer: Get outside, go for a walk at lunch, pick up the guitar occasionally, throw on a collared shirt to help keep as much of a work mentality in place as possible.

Bisnow: What have you learned about your business or the industry in the last few weeks?

Cryer: Our world’s shift toward technology-based coordination and growing reliance on e-commerce have been magnified tenfold by this crisis, in just a matter of weeks. As long as people can continue to work safely, it is obviously of great importance that we all do our part to march economic progress forward and maintain the flow of commerce to the greatest extent possible, for the sake of supporting the American workforce and its families.

Adam Cryer's personal work-from-home assistants snoozing on the job.

Bisnow: How do you think the coronavirus could permanently affect the way real estate does business?

Cryer: I think personal interactions, including business interactions, will be affected, to some degree, forever by this pandemic. This is the first biological disruption on a global scale that most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Although this scenario has always been something that was “on the table,” now it is a risk that is real and tangible to all of us. It seems inevitable that changes will be made across the table. There is also a human-to-human component of work that is missing for now, and we will need to reconnect with that in some way, but it will be different going forward.

Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about today? 

Cryer: I am hopeful that we see inspiration arise from this crisis, and that we see the best emerge in people, as we largely did during Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. Taking positives from situations like these are so important for being ready for the next crisis … knowing that society will lift itself up, and that government will act effectively and swiftly to alleviate the potential fear and pain of its people, gives us hope when the next inevitable crisis emerges.