Howard Graf, President
“Be good, try hard and have fun,” Graf tells his children each morning.
What one factor is most important to success?
I think the most important thing for success is to be honorable in everything you do. Give it your best effort, and be honorable.
What do you look for in an employee?
I look for someone who is going to give it their best effort everyday. There are going to be ups and downs along the line, they’re not going to know everything, but they’re going to give it their 100% effort everyday to do the best job they can.
What’s the best way to save money?
Spend less than you make. It’s easy to say, it’s sometimes hard to do, but live within your means. Money can’t buy you happiness, to quote a song. Live within your means, and in the end you’ll do fine.
What’s the best way to spend money?
I don’t see anything wrong with buying things once in a while that are a treat to yourself. The treat might be the equivalent of an ice cream cone for a six-year-old, it might be a CD for a 22-year-old, and it might be something else for a 45-year-old. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with buying that treat for yourself every once in awhile. In part, that’s why you work so hard, and it’s good to enjoy some fruits of your labor.
What’s your greatest pleasure?
This is easy, I love being with my kids. I know that sounds corny, but my kids are great. Being with my kids is so much fun. I have a 13-year-old, an 11-year-old and a 9-year-old and they’re terrific.
What’s the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
In the summer, the first thing I do when I wake up is I go outside and walk around my house in the backyard. I love doing that early in the morning—taking a walk outside for five minutes, looking at the trees and the new flowers that have come up.
How do you deal with stress?
There was a big article on stress in The New York Times this week, on what makes some people live longer than others. After the basics, like non-smoking and things like that, it really is how they deal with stress. My wife and I both have careers, and we’re juggling that all the time. I think the key to it is to laugh a little bit every day, and enjoy the positive things that come out everyday.
What one lesson do you hope to pass on to your children?
My wife leaves for work before I do, so I get the kids ready for school. When they walk out the door I give them three things to do: “Be good, try hard, and have fun.” If you do those three things, even if you’re fifty, if you try hard in whatever you’re doing, you’re honorable, and you have some fun every day, you’ll have a productive life. So it’s three things, if you’ll allow me.
How do you bounce back from adversity?
The key really is to try and learn something from it, even if you can’t immediately see something beneficial from it. Just get back on the horse and try again, just keep trying—it’ll eventually go your way.
What’s your favorite thing about Queens?
The ten people in my office, we come from seven different countries. That’s pretty amazing. We were joking about it, I don’t think that would happen anywhere else in the U.S. And we all get along, and we’re from all over the place. Sometimes I take my family out to eat in Queens and we go to the different ethnic restaurants, and you can find all different varieties here. There’s so much here to take advantage of.
The son of a Polish immigrant who stressed the importance of education, Howard Graf is one of the founding partners of Graf & Lewent Architects. He has served as president of both the Queens and New York State Chapters of the American Institute of Architects. He also provides design and planning consulting services for the Queens Chamber of Commerce and The Flushing Council on Culture and the Arts among others.