2020 has started with a bang at PAD studio! In the first week of the new year we have received two successful planning outcomes, submitted four tenders for exciting community and residential projects, been longlisted for the RIBA McEwan Award, interviewed for a new PAD studio team member and been published in a magazine.
Throughout 2019 I undertook a programme of structured mentoring with Amanda from Yensa Mentors yensamentors.wordpress.com – a life and business coach who specialises in working with architects and other creative professionals. (if you are interested, I wrote a blog on my journey with Amanda here https://www.padstudio.co.uk/blog/a-journey-for-growth/). As a studio we worked with Amanda to review how we could articulate the spirit and values of our practice better, culminating in PAD studio’s Commitment as a Creative Collective:
“Our vision is to create beautiful, lasting and life enhancing architecture for all. We believe we can do this whilst sustaining both the environment and an innovative profitable business."
My mentoring experience assisted in the writing of a new 5-year business plan for PAD studio. Whilst I thought we had already had a business plan, last year I realised that what we actually had were some vague goals, without a strategy on how we were going to achieve them. Furthermore, whilst we keep meticulous timesheets, we did not (if we were honest) have much analysis or understanding around our profitability as a practice across the different work stages and sectors that we work in.
The process of writing a business plan was initially intimidating, is certainly not something that we are taught in our architectural training. I enlisted the help of the PAD studio team to undertake a rigorous analysis of the business; which, in true architect’s style, became an all-consuming task that was then translated into a series of clear pictorial diagrams to make the information informative and beautiful. After all, we all love diagrams.
As we had not done this analysis before, I was terrified of the reality that the information may reveal. I had made (inaccurate) assumptions about the jobs that were profitable and those that were not, we learned which Work Stages which made losses and those where we could be efficient and therefore profitable. Whilst a frightening prospect initially, I quickly discovered that this knowledge is exciting and empowering. A detailed understanding of your profitability enables you to make very important decisions about future growth strategies. Furthermore, I learned that the PAD studio family are a hugely dedicated and efficient team, achieving this within the PAD studio company ethos of good life/work balance. We do not work exploitative long hours; we are flexible we are supportive and yet we manage to win major National awards and make a profit. Result!
Now, moving forward into 2020, the proof of the pudding is of course in the eating and as the new year commences, we look forward to working towards our business aims, building on the experience that we have gained in new sectors over the last few years. Currently, we have several restaurant projects, new community and leisure buildings and an exemplary one-off Paragraph 79 project (with another in discussion) on the drawing board, enabling us to further our research into environmental design practices whilst creating beautiful contemporary homes.
We are being more selective over the smaller projects that we take on, but we will continue to ensure we have a range of interesting work within the office at different scales. We will also continue to work pro-bono on chosen projects for charitable organisations as we believe that it is important that great architecture is accessible to everyone. Our long-listing for the Artist Residences at spudWORKS in the RIBA MacEwan awards was a wonderful surprise start to the year; PAD studio undertook this project for no fee and helped the charity to deliver several studio spaces for artists use, for a very low budget.
We currently have a new website in development, and we will be working hard to disseminate Our Commitment as a Creative Collective – watch this space. From a personal perspective, I am excited to begin my research into a PhD, ‘The Feminine in Architectural Design’, whilst continuing to be a supportive, fun and loving mum to my two children and managing a life balance that allows me to be the best person that I can be in all areas of my personal and professional life.