Finding time to focus on the future can be difficult for established businesses which are busy delivering for their clients and doing their day job.

Recognising this, Launceston based architects Parkes Lees have taken advantage of the support offered by the Cornwall & Isles of Scilly Growth & Skills Hub to develop an exciting new direction for their practice.

Established in 1912, and one of the longest running architectural practices in Cornwall, the firm has a well-deserved reputation for providing high quality architecture and building design services. While the team has considerable experience in delivering contemporary design, low energy builds, conservation work and traditional builds, Director Mark Kemp was aware that the practice had been run in the same way for a number of years and decided it was time for a change.

“We pride ourselves on providing good quality designs which suit the requirements and budgets of our clients,” said Mark. “While we certainly did not want to change this aspect of our business, we did want to look at how we could build on our strengths and add new elements to what we can offer to clients in the future.”

Mark was doing some work for a client when the local planning authority advised him to contact the Growth & Skills Hub to see if they could help his client with a planning issue. After discovering the kind of support available through a range of European Structural & Investment Fund (ESIF) funded programmes, Mark passed the information to his client, and then phoned Growth & Skills Hub back and asked if they could help him as well.

Since that phone call seven months ago the practice has received support in identifying its digital support needs, and in assessing the training needs of staff.

“We were visited by an IT expert from Superfast Business Cornwall who analysed our digital requirements, including our software and hardware, and then came up with two options which we are currently considering,” said Mark. “We then worked with one of the Skills Hub team to identify training opportunities for those members of staff who were not already involved in specialist professional training programmes.”

As a result of the analysis one member of staff is now doing a project management course which will support her in planning resource allocation in the practice, while another will take part in a leadership and management training programme.

With support from the Growth Hub, Mark was also offered 15 hours of executive coaching through the Transform programme which he is using to work with all 11 members of staff to develop a new business strategy and marketing campaign for the practice. He is full of praise for the support the practice has received from the ESIF funded programmes.

“The executive coaching has been incredibly useful in encouraging us to look at where we are now and what we currently do, and then to consider where we want to be and what we want to be in the future,”he said.

“After an initial session with a coach from Oxford Innovation, I set up a sub-committee of members of staff from the practice to create a new vision for the practice. After a number of challenging workshops we now have a much clearer idea of what we want to do in the future and are developing our new business strategy to help us achieve it. It has resulted in a planned name change for the firm and we are looking forward to launching “Place Architects Ltd” in the next few weeks.”

Mark is very clear that all businesses could benefit from this approach.

“Our problem was that we were so busy actually running the practice, it was very difficult to find the time to think about how we might do things differently. It was fantastic to have someone come in and help us to develop a new business strategy and vision for the future.

“The whole process has galvanized the entire practice and everyone is very excited about where we are going. By investing in staff and setting clear goals and a vision for where we want to be in three years time, we are confident that there is a very bright future for our practice and we are looking forward to working together to get there.”

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