Matthew Bechtel, 34

1 Posted by - October 15, 2015 - 2015, Lee-Collier

President, MJRDB Architecture

When Matthew Bechtel was in second grade in the small town of LaBelle near Fort Myers, the teacher’s husband was an architect who came to speak with the children about his job.

“He gave us all some paper and his tools to draw our own house,” says Bechtel. Then, the architect made blueprints of all the children’s drawings.

“I was hooked from that day,” Bechtel remembers. “That blueprint hung on my bedroom wall until the sun deteriorated it.”

After earning his degree from Florida Atlantic University, Bechtel started working for Sheeley Architects in Fort Myers in 2004 and became an associate in the firm.

Ten years later, in 2014, Bechtel started his own firm with his wife, Jennifer Bechtel, another 40 under 40 winner. “I always envisioned that I would have my own business,” he says.

But with three children and just two projects to start, Bechtel was nervous about going out on his own. “It was all kind of a gamble,” he says.

Still, the economy was recovering and this seemed like as good a time as any to launch his firm. Today, Bechtel has 15 active projects ranging from single-family homes to commercial buildings and apartments. “It’s gone better than I could have imagined,” he says.

Bechtel says he’s careful to avoid bringing work home, and Thursday evenings are reserved for playing bass guitar with his church band. “We started to make a conscious effort that work stays at work,” he says. “We’ve been pretty successful at that.”

— Jean Gruss

Q&A

Name: Matthew R Bechtel

Age: 34

City of residence: Fort Myers

Twitter handle: @architectMRB

Employer: MJRDB Architecture

Title: President

Birthplace: Ohio

Years on the Gulf Coast: Raised in LaBelle since age 5, moved to Fort Myers permanently after college in 2005.

Marital status/children: married, wife: Jennifer. Our children:  Hannah, Timothy and John

Alma mater: Florida Atlantic University

Best place to network: At my kids’ events (baseball, softball, etc.)

Coolest business experience: In late 2014, a potential new client called and said he was referred to me by another architect in town. When I asked who, I was shocked to find out the referral came from an architect whom I had never worked with previously or even met. After receiving three referrals from the same architect, I called him to thank him for the work and to ask why he was referring people to me since we had never met before. He said that a set of my drawings had been given to him by one of his contractor friends for his thoughts. He said that after reviewing my drawings, he was impressed with the well-thought-out design, completeness and level of detail of drawings for that particular project and knew that anyone he referred to me would be in good hands. It is hard to put into words the gratification I felt after receiving such praise from an established contemporary in our local field of architecture.

The most important business lesson I’ve learned: Having a college degree doesn’t mean you know everything. You have to be humble enough to say I don’t know and willing enough to learn. Find a mentor to make the learning process a better one, and never stop learning.

One website that makes your job easier: Leepa.org, especially aerial imagery that provides needed info such as flood zones and wind exposures.

One community group you’re most involved with: Life Ministries Church, LaBelle.

Favorite off-hours activity: Playing bass guitar

Two people, dead or alive, you’d like to have dinner with: Moses, Frank Lloyd Wright

What you would be doing if you could pick another career: Nothing! I’ve wanted to be an architect since the second grade.

Most adventurous thing you’ve ever done: Spent two weeks in India on a mission trip.

What’s at the top of your bucket list: Visit Alaska

What new skill would you like to learn: Play the piano

Who would play you in a movie about your life: Chris Pratt

If I had a magic wand I’d:  “…make it blue.”

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