SF Business Times: Design Your Own Destiny

By Allyce Bess, Business Times Staff Writer

Sunday, August 8, 1999, 9:00pm PDT

When Sady Hayashida was a boy playing with Legos, building model airplanes, and excelling in elementary school art classes, his father told him he should be an architect, not an artist, so he could make big money.

Hayashida became an architect, and has since learned that his profession involves working long hours, solving countless problems and making a lot less money than most people think. But Hayashida isn’t in it for the money.

“I like to draw,” said Hayashida.


Emeryville-based Hayashida Architects just celebrated its 20th anniversary and expects revenue of $1.4 million in 1999. Although Hayashida is talented both at drawing and business, he really owes his success to his wife.

After graduating from UC Berkeley in 1967, Hayashida got his start as an apprentice at Whisler-Patri Architects in San Francisco. In 1974, he joined the design department of San Francisco-based Victoria’s Station Restaurant Corp. where he worked his way up to assistant director of architecture. Although he had two small children, his wife urged him to resign and start his own business in 1979.

“She took on an extra job to keep the cash flow going and the family going,” said Hayashida. “She said when your in your 40’s and 50s, you don’t want to look back and wish you had done something with your life.”

Hayashida set up a desk with a drafting board in his Berkeley living room and used his contacts from the Victoria’s Restaurant Corp. to build his business. Hayashida started out designing interiors for McDonald’s and moved on to other chains like Taco Bell and Boston Market, in addition to other restaurants, residences and offices.

Hayashida said it was difficult to balance the artistic and business aspects of running an architecture firm.

“I loved interacting with clients and solving their problems,” said Hayashida. “But then I’d have to give them a bill.”

The business gradually grew by itself. Hayashida now has 15 employees, some of whom have been there for more than 10 years. Hayashida says his employees are loyal to him because he is loyal to them.

“When times are tough, we keep them, and when they have family problems, we let them take care of it,” he said. “If you don’t care about your employees, then they won’t care about you.”

One of his few regrets is not taking more advice from his employees. One employee who Hayashida should have tried to retain left the business because of a personal conflict with Hayashida.

“My ego got in the way and I couldn’t see the value of his contributions,” said Hayashida. “In order to expand your business, you need to see who the resources are within your organization and listen to the people who could give you some insight.”

In addition to keeping his ego in check, Hayashida hopes to start focusing his energy on developing more business strategies.

Entrepreneurship only goes so far before it dead ends

“We’re now making plans to grow and to market ourselves which we should have made years ago,” said Hayashida.

Hayashida Architects is looking to double its net profit within the next five years and intends to take on more public works projects and to continue expanding its work for chain operators.

But it’s hardly accurate to say that Hayashida has reached a dead end. The firm was recently ranked as the 19th-largest architectural firm in the East Bay by the Contra Costa Tri Valley Business Times. Hayashida, however, is wary of patting himself on the back.

“I’ll never be able to feel that we’re completely successful because it’s an ongoing process,” said Hayashida. “I’m here right now and I’m doing what I’m doing.”


Entrepreneur: Sady Hayashida

Revenue: $1.1 million in 1998; $1.4 million projected for 1999.

Employees: 15

Founded: 1979

Startup capital: None. Whatever I made in my last paycheck

Background: Graduated from UC Berkeley in 1967 with a degree in architecture, worked as an apprentice at Whisler-Patri Architects, and as assistant director of architecture at Victoria’s Station Restaurant Corp.

Elements of success: Developing personal relationships with clients and being loyal to employees

Words of wisdom: “Entrepreneurship only goes so far before it dead ends.”

Key challenge: Marketing, strategizing

[link to original article]