Gary Aulik, president of Aulik Design Build, still wins over clients the same way he did 40 years ago when he was rollerblading around the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes looking for construction jobs: He draws them a picture.
“Nobody does that anymore because of all the digital platforms available — am I a dinosaur or a unique commodity?” he wonders. “When you hire my firm, you get me and my 40 years of experience working closely with each client to understand their vision and dream. I like to put those dreams into some communicative element — a sketch or a floor plan — before I have even charged them a nickel.”
When the aha moment arrives, like with a current client who realized not only was Aulik sketching them an image of their future house in real time but he was drawing it upside down so they could understand it across the table, he knows they’re onto something — together. In an era of building bigger homes and bigger businesses, he has focused his energy on maintaining his boutique businesses and building better projects and relationships, one sketch at a time. “That sketch becomes a trust that you understand the client’s vision,” he explains.
That isn’t to say he doesn’t lean on his team of talented architects and designers to use the latest in modeling and animation software to bring a dream home to life. “It’s a match made in heaven,” Aulik shares.
His artistic approach hasn’t curbed him from embracing the future: “We are designing LEED-certified, GreenStar and zero-energy-ready homes, sometimes in very challenging environments,” he notes. And he’s seeing growing interest in innovative construction techniques, on- or off-grid. “I haven’t allowed my brown paper bag persona to prevent us from looking well into the future and finding environmentally sensitive, sustainable techniques,” he adds.
This cancer-surviving husband, father, grandfather, photographer, bonsai practitioner and artist is not slowing down anytime soon. “I’m sure I’m one of the luckiest guys I know,” Aulik concludes. “I get to do what I love to do for people I love doing it for with people I love doing it with. When you get to do what you love every day, work doesn’t feel like work. It’s what you look forward to.”