Luckett & Farley may be one of the oldest architectural firms in the country, but it operates with next-generation people practices. 

From its in-house leadership institute, to its employee-ownership — the company’s talent philosophy is much more cutting-edge than you might associate with a 163-year-old company.

If their seven consecutive wins of “Kentucky Best Places to Work” isn’t evidence enough, perhaps the recent hire of Susan Pittman to the role of Vice President, Talent & Organization Development is.

L&F Best Places to Work 2015, “We’d pushed company culture up the curve pretty far, I think, but my skill set was depleted. We’d exhausted our hand.” says Ed Jerdonek, company president and CEO, “We were missing that secret sauce. We needed a game-changer.”

According to Jerdonek, Pittman has been just that. “She’s been a tornado since she walked in the door. She’s really been a catalyst to take us to the next level.”

A game-changer

Susan’s career includes a combination of industry and academics — she’s held roles in human resources and organization development at YUM!, USX, and Formica North America, and taught these subjects at the University of Georgia and Valparaiso University, among others.

The path that led her to Luckett & Farley really began about 14 years ago when she and two partners founded a consultancy called the LAMP group.

“We focused on leadership and org development, but also on building intentional cultures that would help drive business results,” says Pittman. “It was really fun.”

What started as a regional consultancy soon became national and then international. Clients included AEGON, Floyd Memorial Hospital and E.ON US (LG&E). And the client base became mostly C-suite level executives — among them, Ed Jerdonek of Luckett & Farley.

In 2012, an opportunity at Yum! led her to leave the LAMP group. She became the Director of Yum! University and traveled worldwide given her responsibilities for global talent development.

Years later, Pittman and Jerdonek — who’d remained friends and colleagues — began discussions about a possible role for her at Luckett & Farley.

“We’re in the people business”, Ed Jerdonek, President & CEO

“I’m not sure exactly when it occurred to me”, says Jerdonek, “but I came to the realization one day — we’re not in the architectural/engineering business, we’re in the people business. We just happen to be providing these services.”

So he began a search for someone who could help enhance the company’s culture and philosophies — namely creating the best “environment, culture and reward structure — not just in the industry — but throughout Louisville.” Jerdonek kept coming back to one name: Susan Pittman.

After all, Pittman had helped establish, lead and design the curriculum for the Luckett & Farley Leadership Institute years before. She’d also helped define its “employer of choice continuum” — a common-sense philosophy both she and Jerdonek describe simply:

“If we hire and retain best talent, we will acquire and retain best clients. The best clients will bring us best projects. The best projects will be the most fulfilling work — and pay the best — which leads to satisfied, engaged and well-paid employees.”

A culture of leadership

One example of this is the Luckett & Farley Leadership Institute. Now in its sixth year, the 10-session course spans eight months and averages about 12 people per class. Employees have to apply and be accepted into the program, which covers ‘soft skills’ like “engaging in crucial conversations,” “trust” and “building a collaborative environment.”

Quote-Friends“The talent we want to attract and retain wants a sense of purpose in their work and wants to grow in their roles,” says Pittman. ”These are people who want to do cool projects, become thought leaders and experts in design and thinking.”


And that isn’t the only investment Luckett & Farley makes in its people.

The firm is also 100% employee-owned. Called an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (or ESOP), everyone who works at the company is part-owner. In fact, that’s what “employees” there are called: “employee-owners.”

“It’s a vehicle for our employee-owners to create wealth”, says Jerdonek. “I’m not talking about a paycheck. I’m talking about the creation of wealth. It’s much different.”

People priorities

“We have strategies right now that impact every part of the talent life cycle,” Pittman says.

This includes innovations around the company’s internship program, mentorship programs for young talent, even touting what Louisville has to offer to candidates.

“Louisville is an underrated place to live,” says Pittman. “Once people get here they understand our great art, the growth downtown, that it’s a walkable city. Millennial talent wants to live, work, and walk around downtown. Louisville is living up to that expectation for sure.”

Passing the culture baton

“The caliber of the people we have at Luckett & Farley. That’s the achievement I’m most proud of,” says Jerdonek. “It sounds funny coming from an architect — most would tell you I designed this or that building — but as president, it’s what I’m proudest of.”

Jerdonek continued, “And Susan has taken that and sparked a fire. She understands engagement and the employee value proposition much better than I ever did. I can’t wait to see what she does in the next year or two.”

Always looking for great talent

Join a company with next-gen people practices. Grow as a leader and build wealth at Luckett & Farley! Check out the current opportunities.

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