When Jim Tippmann became chief executive of FRCH Design Worldwide a few years ago, he was different from other people who held similar positions in his field.

"I'm a businessman by trade, which is not typical in this industry," Tippmann observes. "Often times, firms like ours are led by designers or architectural professionals."

Tippmann joined the downtown Cincinnati firm more than 15 years ago, growing through the operational side of the business. He led many of the strategic initiatives that have helped FRCH morph from a corporate interior planning company into a successful "” and international "” architecture, design and brand consulting firm.

"The regional market we were competing in was very competitive," Tippmann says. "The ability to go into retail allowed us to have clients over long horizons. We saw that [retail] was a way to create and expand our business."

The emphasis FRCH places on retail is paying off. "We've had an opportunity because there's essentially been a renaissance of retail in Cincinnati," Tippmann notes. "We've had a significant boat of business here "¦ in the Kenwood Mall, Forest Fair Mall, Eastgate Mall and Anderson Towne Center renovations."

Tippmann says that retail has taught FRCH to take a consumer-oriented approach to design, where they determine the customer and the needs the customer might have. This mentality also helps develop the business in other ways. "We are really taking the retail emphasis to a new level. We are building upon that retail expertise, and we are entering other categories. The first places we are going are things close to retail, like hospitality, restaurants and financial institutions."

Tippmann stresses that while retail is an important part of the company, it isn't the one aspect that defines it. "We are fundamentally, once again, an architectural design firm." He adds that all of the components of FRCH "” including customer-focused branding, interior design, graphic communications, environmental graphic design, resource design and architectural rollout "” have played a role in making his company an internationally known business.

Just recently, FRCH assisted the developer who wants to bring a Beer Hall of Fame to this city once famed for its breweries. The tactic FRCH used: They shipped a dry ice cooler with all the information to beat out the other five cities competing. Innovation and creative thinking, states Tippmann, make all the difference. "One of the benefits that we have is that [we] change with the changing environments of our clients. We're not typecast into something."