Paul Haden & Jack Haden of C2 Collaborative: “A family business brings its family values to the business”

Paul: A family business brings its family values to the business. The ethics of honest work, respect for our team’s families and their role, and an emphasis on supporting company goals are key. It’s different in that it puts family first and recognizes that we all, as a family, impact our clients, environment and communities. […]

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Paul: A family business brings its family values to the business. The ethics of honest work, respect for our team’s families and their role, and an emphasis on supporting company goals are key. It’s different in that it puts family first and recognizes that we all, as a family, impact our clients, environment and communities.

As a part of our series about 5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business, I had the pleasure of interviewing Paul Haden and Jack Haden.

Paul Haden has 45 years of experience as a landscape architect and planner for a variety of public and private sector projects. He has planned and designed numerous institutional, residential and commercial projects in California, the nation and overseas. This work has included neighborhood, regional and local park planning, streetscape and trail design, commercial, residential and civic design guidelines, single and multi-family housing, shopping centers, office and industrial buildings and recreation facilities. As founder and president of The Collaborative West, Inc., and the re-branded C2 Collaborative, Haden directs the schematic, preliminary and final design functions of the firm.

As an integral part of the new generation of leadership at C2 Collaborative, Jack Haden is instrumental in the expansion and increased profile of the firm. Haden has extensive experience in master-planned community and urban infill development visualization. Since joining C2 Collaborative in early 2013, he has led the company’s production and operations. Haden is responsible for the strategic vision of the firm, increasing its profile and ensuring work is completed at the highest level.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit more about you. Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

Paul Haden: Growing up, my father and I always worked in the yard together. After trying my hand at a few different majors throughout college, I went home and sought his advice. He suggested landscape architecture, and I’ve never looked back — what amazing advice!

Jack Haden: Growing up in the industry, spending weekends on construction sites and working summers at C2 Collaborative during my time in school, landscape architecture was not my ultimate plan. After graduating college and spending time overseas and on the east coast working, I came back home to Southern California and answered my calling to join C2 Collaborative.

Can you tell us a bit about your family business and your role in it?

Paul: I founded the business in 1987, after a call from a friend to redesign the rooftop garden for the Transamerica Building in downtown Los Angeles. I’m currently the president and design director of C2 Collaborative.

Jack: C2 Collaborative is an internationally recognized landscape architecture firm that is known for its elevated design and exceptional service to our clients. We’ve worked on everything from the planning of thousands of acres of land at the base of the Sierra Mountains to designing roof terraces on top of high-rise towers in China. My role encompasses a little bit of everything at C2 Collaborative, but my primary focus is the firm’s operations, business development and project oversight.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began this career?

Paul: I began my career working with a terrific landscape architect, Courtland Paul. Thirty years later, a client asked if they could bring in a particular consultant to work under my direction for a special project. To my surprise, it was Court; he was the consultant they brought in to work for me and it felt like I had come full circle. He’s a great man and brilliant designer and it was an honor to work alongside him again.

Jack: C2 Collaborative has worked on a number of projects that have played a role in American history, from a site in Long Beach, where thousands of women during World War II came to work for the war effort and played a part in the Rosie the Riveter movement, to the runway where Howard Hughes’ famous Spruce Goose took its maiden flight in Playa Vista.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Paul: Early on, I was attempting to figure out how to price my services. Having not worked for other firms, I did not know the methodology; the lesson learned was to price my services to the value my clients received.

Jack: My father was an English major prior to landscape architecture, and one thing that happened every week for about three straight months early on in my career was my father would call me into his office and on his desk were printed emails that I had sent to clients or architects. He would then proceed to sit with me to critique my use of language and punctuation in my letters. Let’s say that while I did not welcome these interactions, my writing improved immensely. I have not had one of those meetings with my father in a very long time.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

Paul: Two things stand out most about C2 Collaborative: 1) We put emphasis on the idea that work is personal and 2) we outperform our competitors in design and innovation. I walked into a project meeting a few years ago and there were roughly 30–40 people in the meeting, many who I’ve known from previous projects. I stepped into the room and an architect friend shouted across the table, “Paul, I saw the Lakes project and I knew it was you…great job!” This kind of greeting has followed me throughout my career.

Jack: C2 Collaborative stands out for multiple reasons, but I think if you ask our clients it would be two things that come to mind most often. The first being the ability to elevate their vision, lifestyle and feeling for a project or community that in turn adds value. Second would be C2 Collaborative’s personal approach with its clients. We try to sit down with our clients on a regular basis, outside a conference room and in a more casual setting, to speak with them about our work, but mostly to get to know them on a deep, personal level. Our clients, in a lot of cases, are our friends as well.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

Paul: Yes, our office is a lab for new projects, including mixed-use retail, entertainment and residential. Our focus is to connect people, even more so now amid the current pandemic. The idea of making space personal, flexible, livable and renewable is key.

Jack: Yes, we are working on several exciting new projects. The one that stands out is a mixed-use project in Virginia. It will feature a baseball stadium at its core, with large plazas, public parks, community gardens to host events, concerts, art fairs, local school functions, farmers markets and overall better connectivity to bring the surrounding communities together to celebrate. There will also be a great art program that will have designated spaces for local artists to showcase their work.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Paul: I’ve worked for some great leaders, one of whom was an urban planner, Mike Doty. He stressed the importance of multi-layered spaces and how the designer must define the edges of that space, whether a park, a city block or an entire town. He also insisted on great letter writing. Both of these pieces of information have served me well throughout my career.

Jack: Besides my father, Paul Haden, and longtime C2 Collaborative principals, Tom Masline and Chris Fortunato, who have been integral to C2’s success, I’m grateful for Niki Wu. She and I have worked countless hours together on projects all over the world, including Egypt, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and China. Niki’s unwavering work ethic is contagious. While working with Niki on our projects in China my knowledge and appreciation of other cultures grew. I started to be able to recognize certain Chinese characters and we now celebrate two New Year holidays.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

Paul: We have practiced landscape architecture not only in the U.S., but throughout Asia, the Middle East and South America. Our place-making has contributed to the fabric of the cities and towns we’ve worked in. Personally, I volunteer at a homeless shelter for men in my spare time as an additional way to give back to my local community.

Jack: I think the places we create bring people together — public parks, community centers, trails and urban plazas bring families and communities together to celebrate, play and discover more.

Ok thank you for that. Let’s now pivot to the main parts of our interview. How do you define a family business? How is a family business different from a regular business?

Paul: A family business brings its family values to the business. The ethics of honest work, respect for our team’s families and their role, and an emphasis on supporting company goals are key. It’s different in that it puts family first and recognizes that we all, as a family, impact our clients, environment and communities.

Jack: I define a family business as a company that is founded by a person or family and that business succeeds to a future generation. I think growth and expansion is the goal for any firm; in a family business, I feel the drive to make that happen is amplified and more personal.

In your opinion or experience, what are the unique advantages that family-owned businesses have?

Paul: First, I wouldn’t use the word “advantages.” To start a business is pioneering — to work, watch it grow and thrive is incredibly satisfying, and in many ways exciting.

Jack: I think the advantages of a family-owned business are the opportunities to connect with people and clients on a more personal level; sometimes you meet a group and it feels like you are old friends. I can’t tell you how many of our clients and architects we work with that have family members involved in their business.

What are the unique drawbacks or blind spots that family-owned businesses have?

Paul: Each family member in the business must establish and execute their role based on their abilities, not because of family position.

Jack: I think one blind spot for a family business is that the personal side of business is always more personal. For both the good and the bad, I know when things go south it is not easy to have tough conversations with loved ones.

What are some of the common mistakes you have seen family businesses make? What would you recommend to avoid those errors?

Paul: If it’s a start-up business, hire your family like regular employees, with no special considerations.

Jack: I think coming into an office as a second-generation family member, you need to show up, work harder than anyone else in the building and really prove yourself as a valuable asset to the company and your peers.

What advice would you give to other CEOs or founders of family businesses to help their employees to thrive?

Paul: Establish company values and goals and live by them, be clear in communicating and set regular individual and team reviews/discussions.

Jack: Value each employee — place them in a position that will play to their strengths, remember the human side of business and everything will fall into place.

How do you define “Leadership”? Can you explain what you mean with a story or example?

Paul: A good friend of mine is a firefighter and described firefighter’s actions as follows: “We charge into a burning building while others rush out.” Courage under fire is key; that is leadership.

Jack: Leaders are the ones who you can count on day or night, rain or shine and everything in between — leaders show up and make things happen.

Here is our main question. What are the “5 Things You Need To Run A Highly Successful Family Business”? Please share a story or example for each.


A strong, capitalized business plan
I have the best CFO I could find.

Effective and continuous marketing
All work has sales, if it’s you and you’re good at it, great. If not, hire someone and live by the phrase, “market when you’re busy.”

Build an internal team that can succeed
Know early on the personalities and skillsets necessary for each of your company positions.

Be able to adjust to the changing marketplace
Certain companies require higher rates of innovation to stay competitive — know yours.

Know your competition
If you fail to see where your competitors line up, you will lose market share.


Commit to your core values
I still have C2 Collaborative’s original core values framed in my office and read them almost every day.

Build a strategic business plan 
Know your business in and out, understand your competitors and where there is opportunity for growth.

Hire great people you can trust and count on
Almost every senior staff member at C2 Collaborative has been with us 10+ years and are some of the most intelligent and dependable people I have ever met. It doesn’t matter if we are working on a site overseas the size of Switzerland or an urban retail street in Sacramento, our people get things built and we have fun doing it!

Remain passionate
To run any successful business you need to be passionate about your trade and work the extra hours to become a master of your craft.

Never give up
There are challenges in any business, and some may seem insurmountable, but you meet these head-on and never say die.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Paul: “Be passionate about your work.” This has been a rule in my career, and this applies to all aspects of what I do.

Jack: “Try to do the right thing and everything else will fall into place.” — Bert Selva, president and CEO of Shea Homes

We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

Paul: I would have loved to talk with Pablo Picasso. Today, I think Frank Gehry most closely embodies the sheer inventiveness of Pablo.

Jack: Elon Musk — what a brilliant guy and a global game changer. I think it would be fun to do ‘cars and coffee’ in a new Tesla Roadster with Elon, but only if I get to drive!

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the greatest amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

Paul: I believe that consumerism is ongoing, so how do we participate in renewing and restoring our resources? One idea would be to ask all coffee companies to give back a donation from each cup of coffee sold. Fill this Earth’s cup and spread this ideal to every business.

Jack: A movement to change the way we educate our youth to better prepare them for the workforce and help them find an industry they are passionate about. Each high school student should tour/intern in offices of different industries to see first-hand what different career paths might look like. Everyone deserves to have a career that they love and can support their families with.

How can our readers further follow your work online?


Instagram: @c2collaborative

LinkedIn: C2 Collaborative

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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