Peter Ogorek dreamed of playing in the NBA.
And, at 6 feet 6 inches tall, with interest from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, he thought he had a shot.
'But,' he laughed, 'I quickly found out I didn't have the talent to do that.'
By the end of his freshman year, life had made other plans. And the son of an aircraft mechanic began looking at other opportunities.
He landed on architecture.
It's an interest fueled by his father, Bert Ogorek, who maintained and restored planes while raising a family in the shadow of a small airport in Naperville, Illinois.
'I've always had an interest in how things go together. How do they work? How do they keep the heat in and the cold out?' Ogorek said.
It helped that Ogorek had some experience with building, as well.
'My dad never hired anyone to do anything,' Ogorek chuckled. 'When the house needed a new roof, we put on our work clothes and put on a new roof. When the addition went up, we put on our work clothes and put up the addition.'
So, it wasn't a great leap for Ogorek to pursue building design by the time he got to UWM, where he earned his bachelor's and master's degrees in architecture.
Today, he owns Perspective Design, a nine-employee architectural firm he started in a partners' basement in Milwaukee in 2002.
'We couldn't afford office space. We couldn't afford desks and chairs. It's kind of the classic American story: start in your garage or basement and emerge as a successful business.'
These days, they're above ground in an office in Wauwatosa, but that start-up mindset remains.
'We're not large enough to be able to absorb people who are not billable toward projects,' Ogorek added. 'We don't have receptionists or accountants; everyone is a production-type person, everyone is architecturally trained. We all work on projects.'
And while their focus is mostly commercial, Ogorek said they take on almost any kind of project.
'We are specialists in being generalists,' Ogorek said. 'We don't do single family homes, and we don't do nuclear power plants. But we try to do everything in between, from small interior office remodeling projects to multiple building sites.'
It helped them survive the recession, although Ogorek said it was still a time for tough choices.
'We had too many people and not enough projects, so one of the hardest things I ever had to do was layoff people. I knew their families. I had to lay off people I considered friends and who were instrumental in our company. It was hard. Either one or two had to go or everyone had to go.'
Fortunately things have rebounded from 2009, when Ogorek estimated the company saw a 40 percent reduction in revenue.
But those days are not forgotten.
'I still think about that. It's always a roller coaster; you either have too much work and not enough people, or not enough work and too many people,' Ogorek said.
JUST THE FACTS
BUSINESS: Perspective Design Inc., 11525 W. North Ave.
CO-OWNER: Peter Ogorek
TYPE OF BUSINESS: architectural firm
PEARLS OF WISDOM: 'Obviously the industry has not been very strong for the last seven, eight years. We've had to become very good at watching every penny.'