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My New Normal: MVE Partners President Matthew McLarand

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.

These days, when Matthew McLarand isn't working with his team on designing skyscrapers and mixed-use projects in California, he's catching his son's fastballs in the backyard or helping his daughter practice ballet in the living room.

McLarand is the president and director of design at MVE + Partners, an architecture, design and planning firm based in Irvine.

MVE + Partners' Matt McLarand with his family

McLarand spearheads the company's business development efforts and oversees a team of architects that designs commercial, mixed-use, multifamily and high-rise residential projects.

Last year, the Orange County chapter of the American Institute of Architects awarded MVE's design of the Newport Beach Bayview Mixed-Use Center its 25-Year Award. The annual award recognizes architecture in Orange County that has stood the test of time and changed people’s lives. 

While he is balancing work life and family responsibilities, at home to his children, he's just a dad. He's catching 70 mile per hour fastballs and watching his daughter perform pirouettes on a makeshift stage in the living room. It is his new normal. 

"In all of the madness of what's going on, I'm finding that we're sitting down as a family together and interacting in ways more pre-pandemic," McLarand said. 

Bisnow: Describe your work-from-home life. 

McLarand: I’ve been splitting my work between home and our corporate headquarters in Irvine. MVE + Partners has implemented a telecommuting plan based on an infrastructure that was substantially in place prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Our firm has transitioned to working remotely remarkably well utilizing technology that allows project teams to continue to work collaboratively, communicate and manage by expanding platforms that were already part of our day-to-day routine thus making learning curves easily mitigated.

As a business owner who began working remotely in Asia around 2010, we realized that technology was allowing our business to be less dependent on working directly from our office, and since then have proactively sought platforms that allow us to expand on this premise.

MVE + Partners' Matt McLarand

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

McLarand: Each of us are transitioning in different ways, as is evident in our many streaming meetings taking place from home, where a child is heard in the background or a dog is barking.

But clearly people are adapting, work is progressing and hopefully this crisis is helping us develop tools to become better leaders, managers or, in our firm’s case, architects.

At home, there are all these variables. It is much more disruptive. There are five people in the house, three kids, my wife and myself. There's the burdens on who is on the internet and the capacity and bandwidth. What's the noise level? There are different activities going on and you're trying to mitigate the chaos but also enjoy it. 

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

McLarand: It's not as robust. We had a really great first quarter this year. Economy was really strong and we were doing well into second quarter before the shutdown. We are fortunate to have a back log of work in place. We have projects in place that have a reasonable timeline to it. While it's not as robust, there are projects that have been put on hold, but there have also been opportunities that continue to come in. This morning, we had two new job numbers for projects. We're fortunate that our work can be done remotely and there is still a demand in this crisis from our clientele. 

Bisnow: What is your greatest business concern right now?

McLarand: First is the welfare of our firm’s people. They are our greatest strength and asset. As our work continues to progress, their health is paramount, because nothing gets done without them. My first concern is them. Clearly, my other concern is that we continue to find more [business] opportunities. 

MVE + Partners' Matt McLarand's daughter watches a video to practice ballet.

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

McLarand: Outside of seeing the tragic loss of life and heartbreaking global suffering; for me, the low is in the isolation from colleagues and the limitation of interpersonal interaction. That is the worst part in this. How horrible the global suffering is. Also this isolation. The work we do is very collaborative. There is nothing like being in a room with someone and connecting with them.

The high is seeing individuals come together, spread compassion, adapt to adversity and overcome in unity. Our team has rallied. There is a general spirit of our people. I love the can-do attitude. There is a united competitive spirit that drives them to succeed. It just gets me excited; seeing people take on new responsibilities and new roles and continue to deliver great service and great projects. 

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

McLarand: Generally, my family and I are trying to maintain some semblance of a routine. My kids have school classes online. My daughters who dance at the American Ballet Theatre William J. Gillespie School at Segerstrom Center for the Arts have converted our living room into a makeshift studio and have been taking interactive streaming classes from instructors locally and in New York.

My son has been practicing a 60’-6” separation in pitching, doing backyard batting practice and calisthenics. And my wife has been ensuring that the routine is maintained, be it health, fitness, education, cuisine and for my work. That being said, occasionally a good headset and streaming online or reading a book helps to maintain sanity.

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

McLarand: As it relates to our business, the effects of COVID-19 have furthered the gratitude I have to be part of a team of exceptional talent that works together and has the foresight to plan and overcome adversity.

I've also learned about the adaptability of the firm. We've been talking about expanding into other markets and other locations geographically. We've had concern about how to control the project and oversee the work and interact with teams. This crisis has created a new framework and lens that there is an opportunity for a remote work office, obviously staffed with the right people.  

Bisnow: What are you most hopeful about today?

McLarand: That somebody finds a cure to this and that we get back to normality. I want to watch my son's baseball games and my daughter's live ballet performances, and all the wonderful events. We want to go out to restaurants and interact with people. As a society, we want to get back to normality and in that normality, the economy and business is growing again.