A syncopated rhythm beats along in a conversation with Daryl Metzger and Rob Smith as they finish each others' sentences and meet on the downbeat with their thoughts.

They have followed that soundtrack for 17 years as partners in Architects Smith Metzger. They'll keep the beat for another four or five years as they wind down their roles with the firm, which merged July 31 with Sioux City-based Cannon Moss Brygger Architects (CMBA).

Metzger and Smith have kept the news fairly quiet in recent weeks as they brought their 10-person staff up to speed and notified clients and business partners. The reaction has been positive.

As Bankers Trust Co. President and CEO Suku Radia told the partners, "It is not important to us the banner you are flying but the people we work with."

That new banner is CMBA | Smith Metzger. 

Architects Smith Metzger was created in 1998, about 15 years after both men formed partnerships with two men who were 15 years their elder, Smith with Scott Stouffer and Metzger with Ron Walker.

When it was time to find new partners, they met with other designers. Smith noted that with most he knew "before I finished my first glass of water" that the relationships would not work out. With Metzger, there was an immediate connection, at least after the "third martini," Metzger said.

"I think we were focused and knew what we wanted," Smith said.

Since 1998, they have built a practice focused on design work for nonprofits, colleges, financial institutions, corporations and custom homes. They are the design team for the reconstruction of the former Polk County Convention Center into the Wellmark YMCA.

Kent Lutz, who has been with Architects Smith Metzger since the earliest days of the firm, has invested in CMBA | Smith Metzger and will be part of the leadership of the Des Moines office.

CMBA was formed in 1912 and has 50 employees. Its other offices are in Grand Island, Neb., and Spencer. The firm has specialized in the education, health care and public sectors. In 2014, CMBA was named one of the Best Firms to Work For by ZweigWhite.

Smith and Metzger said they realized about 18 months ago that they "might not want to be coming into work every day" over the next few years. Smith is 63 and Metzger is 62.

They sought a mergers and acquisitions specialist to assess the business and to "try and understand what we've got," Metzger said.

"Starting a business is really easy, as opposed to finding the end," Smith said. "When we started in 1983 the only thing you really had to buy was an IBM Selectric." "... with a round cartridge," Metzger said. "... a drafting table and pens," Smith said.

They did not want to "wind the business down to zero," both men said, repeatedly. Doing so wouldn't be fair to their clients, business associates and employees.

"We have a great team," Metzger said.

While still evaluating the business, Smith and Metzger went to a job fair at Iowa State University. By coincidence, they had lunch with CMBA principals. Eventually, the conversation turned to succession plans. CMBA was in acquisition mode. A match was made.

They signed the papers on July 31.

"I came to work on Monday and nothing was different," Smith said. The only change was that the partners understood they had created a sustainable business.

"I didn't want to go out feeling like I had taken advantage of people," Metzger said.

A complete transition to CMBA will be completed by Jan. 1, 2017.

Smith and Metzger plan to stick around, possibly up to five years, until they have divested their ownership shares.

They can agree another point. "The next five years will just fly by."

Editor's note: Rob Smith is an IowaBiz.com blogger, writing about sustainable design. Click here for a link to his blogs.