Doing Well by Doing Good


“Think of giving not as a duty but as a privilege.”—John D. Rockefeller Jr.

Rockefeller Jr. had the right idea! This week I’m going to talk with you about a topic that is less about best design practices and more about doing the right thing: giving back. Most of us are busy chasing sales milestones, building our own business or making that next deal—all natural and all good. However, I strongly believe that you can do well by doing good, both in business and in life.

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For as long as I can remember, giving has been a part of my world. My own parents have strong beliefs about being charitable, even if nobody is watching. Whether it was donating funds or time, they always led by example, giving as much as they could to causes they cared about and helping others they encountered along the way. Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and the American Heart Association are just a couple of causes that come to mind. I’m sharing these not because I want to boast about who my parents have helped, but because I’m hoping one of these will inspire you to do the same.

My parents’ philosophy undoubtedly made an impact on me, even if I didn’t know it back then. For instance, as a young father, I watched the daughter of one of my closest friends be diagnosed with—and then bravely battle—Crohn’s disease. Immediately, my wife and I wanted to help others who were living with Crohn’s and colitis and got to work giving what we could, helping to raise money for the organization, attending events and increasing awareness. It felt like the most natural thing in the world. While we are being recognized by the Crohn’s & Colitis Foundation of America next month—a true honor—seeing the organization make headway in improving the lives of those with these conditions and getting closer to finding cures for them are the real “awards” worth celebrating.

Giving has become part of our family legacy and something I’m proud to say we model for our own children. Some of my happiest memories are of donating a day as a family to paint inner-city schools with Publicolor and working alongside my wife and my fellow Young Presidents Organization (YPO) members to rebuild a house in New Orleans. Lately, I’ve watched my children give back freely and on their own. One, who will intern at Spector Group this summer, spent his college spring break in Honduras helping others in need. Another helped build a structure out of cans to assist a food pantry in Manhattan through Canstruction. The details are less important, but the lesson is the same (and here I’ll quote my own father):

“Everyone benefits when you give—most importantly, the recipient.”—Michael Harris Spector, FAIA

That belief guides my firm and the kind of people who are in my inner circle. As I write this article, I’m excited to announce that we are in the process of organizing a company-wide charitable event at Spector. I hope everyone will give freely, in whatever way they can.

Scott E. Spector, AIA, is a principal at Spector Group, one of New York’s premier architecture and interior design firms and a leader in corporate tenant and building owner-based design. The award-winning company has affiliate offices nationally and internationally. To date, it has completed more than 1,500 projects.