Subscribe for 33¢ / day
John Cisco

John Cisco

John Cisco is the CFO at SB Architects, but that doesn’t mean he spends all day crunching numbers.

“I do just about everything whether it’s loading the dishwasher, dealing with human resources or negotiating with a bank or insurance companies,” Cisco said.

“Whatever needs to be done.”

“I feel much more challenged dealing with people and all the things it takes to run a business.”

SB Architects is located in San Francisco, but Cisco lives in Napa.

1. What was your childhood ambition?

I grew up during the Apollo missions so I wanted to be an astronaut and travel beyond the moon and explore other planets.

2. Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?

I’ve always been the Cisco Kid.

When I started high school (the song) “The Cisco Kid” by War came out. I loved it.

3. What was your first job?

My dad and a family friend started one of the first recycling centers in Honolulu, Hawaii in the mid-1970s. It was my first summer job while I was in high school.

4. How did you get into the architecture industry?

Most of my career has been with hotel development/management. I was working for Auberge Resorts and opening the Calistoga Ranch when I first met Scott Lee and Bruce Wright of SB Architects.

SB Architects was designing the resort.

I was very impressed how they approached the design challenges of this very unique resort. Scott also met one of my Auberge co-workers, Tracy Herk, now Tracy Lee, Scott’s wife.

Back in 2007/2008 Scott was looking to “beef up” the accounting department to keep up with the huge growth the firm was experiencing. Tracy suggested that Scott hire me and the rest is history.

As for myself, about 70 percent of SB Architects’ business is in high-end hospitality which is something I still remain very passionate about, so this eased the way for me to take this twist in my career path.

5. What is the biggest challenge your business/industry has faced?

I took the position with SB Architects in February 2008 and Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008.

After the Lehman Brother’s bankruptcy, the bulk of our clients stopped work and many projects were literally “deadbolted” overnight.

Survival was the biggest challenge that we faced but we survived by making the tough decisions on reducing staff and leveraging our global connections to keep the firm afloat as the domestic economy recovered.

6. What’s on your to-do list?

I am one of the forward thinkers for the firm looking at succession planning of a new ownership group down the road.

I also continue to look for ways to enhance the analytical tools we use to manage and grow the firm as well as looking out for next economic downturn that is somewhere in our future.

7. If you could change one thing about your business/industry, what would it be?

I would like to see the architectural academia spend a little more time on the student’s ability to take client input (and) clearly articulate their vision in design for a particular project.

Architects that master this ability are able create something incredible for the client as well as advancing their careers.

Of course, as a numbers guy, I would always like to see curriculum based on what is involved in running a business.

8. Which three people would you most like to have dinner with?

Winston Churchill.

Carl Sagan.

King Kamehameha I.

9. What’s something people might be surprised to know about you?

Having being born and raised in Hawaii.

10. You have two teenagers. What’s your advice to your own kids about choosing a career?

Pick something that you are passionate about and go for it.

Cisco can be reached at 415-673-8990 or


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.