MCL Construction worked to change that by putting the construction contractor at the project table from start to finish.
"MCL was probably the leader in changing the way business was done in Omaha," said Ken West, an architect with the DLR Group.
Two other Omaha architects agreed.
Keith Basham with Holland Basham Architects and John Sova with RDG Planning and Design both described MCL as a leader in developing a "team approach" when it comes to large-scale projects.
It worked to everyone's advantage. MCL was able to advise the owners about various costs and materials while the project was coming alive on the design table and - in return - MCL didn't have to go through the usual bid process.
"Bob (Carlisle) was out at the forefront on this," said Basham, referring to one of MCL's co-owners and original founders.
The three laughingly noted that they are all competitors and that typically they wouldn't be sitting at the same table together on a Tuesday afternoon. But, when it comes to MCL Construction, beer and a few good hair jokes at Carlisle's expense, they were happy to join forces.
Turns out, Carlisle's secret weapon is his follicles, including his dearly beloved mustache, which is no longer with the company.
"He's got awesome hair," said Basham, dripping insincerity. "He could really lock you in, with that hair and that pornstache."
"Oh yeah. He was always working on his mustache and combing his hair," Sova chimed in, as he proudly fingered his own facial brush.
The three architects have worked with MCL Construction on various projects since the company got its start 30 years ago, when Carlisle and former co-owner Jim Meyers orchestrated an exit from Hicks Construction.
The company had success written on it from the start, in large part, because it placed an emphasis on hiring some of the best people in the business. And, because they worked to ensure its customers were happy at the start, during, and after a project was completed, the three architects said.
"They had good people from top to bottom," said Basham.
"They were known early as having some of the best superintendents," said Sova.
And, Carlisle, Meyers, and Gary Leapley - another co-owner - had a plan on where and how they wanted the company to grow.
"They had a vision of who they wanted to become," said West.
The MCL plan was established early one. The idea was that Carlisle and the other owners wanted a future in the business and they wanted to build a company that would stand on its reputation.
Carlisle refused. "Bob said, 'no.' This is my company and I'm going to be around for a long time and I want to work with these people in the future."
Sova and the other architects said MCL established a reputation as a company that would stand behind its work and schedule. When a superintendent at MCL Construction says they can get a project done by a certain date, architects and others can trust their word.
"They can do it in a timely fashion and do it well," said West.
MCL has not only led the construction trend in working as a team, but the company has been at the forefront of an idea that owners have come to love: MCL will write a check if they finish a project under budget.
It's an idea, said the architects, that has set MCL apart from some other contractors.
"If they come in under budget, they give it back to the owner and the owners love it," said Basham.
After they got up from the table this Tuesday afternoon, after rehashing old war stories, the three architects made it clear that MCL Construction had become one of Omaha's biggest construction companies by putting an emphasis on building relationships within the Omaha business community.
They also agreed that Carlisle's hair deserved the credit.
Yes, they were back to carping on Carlisle's hair, before they suddenly veered to tackling his pearly whites.
"He was big on flossing early on - early on," Basham dryly observed.
"Yup, a big floss guy," West agreed.
Teeth and hair, let's leave it there.
Part 1: Jim Meyers
Part 2: First In The Field
Part 3: Nancy Benson