A patient reality
What a week! Even with the most optimistic and positive outlook, the current environment seems to be conspiring against enterprise with even the weather in the UK continuing to be wet and gloomy. We are all aware of the emotional curve that you go along, as a consequence of change, but this week feels like the trough as the reality and challenge of establishing a new business with new service offerings, sinks in.
The first indication of the challenges that face, was feedback to our website www.atorusconsult.com. We are consciously trying to avoid placing our offer in conventional box or a traditional label. The obvious consequence is that some people are asking what it is that we actually do!
However, the complex nature of the market, the trading environment and the legacy of selling our partnership business – Davis Langdon – to a Wall Street listed corporate – AECOM – continues to impact on our own 1st steps as a new business. There were some highlights over the week but will save that news to last…
Eurozone crisis – again!
In addition to the UK weather – the wettest on record for April – the continuing volatility, sovereign debt exposure, Presidential elections in France, Queens speech in the UK with further pressure on the coalition to deliver strong leadership rather than compromise for the remaining term, has all reinforced a lack of confidence and depressed sentiment in the market.
With all of these factors (and more) impacting on the economy, our target market appears to be proving resilient in certain areas with two leading architectural firms showing growth in their financial years (2011/12). The challenge remains in respect of identifying areas of opportunity, a willingness to change and modify systems, processes and culture to be prepared for the market growth that we believe will return in the closing part of 2012 and into 2013.
As I indicated, on a personal level, the value of our partnership shareholding in Davis Langdon LLP was compensated for, by AECOM, with AECOM shares fixed at a $value though with no ability to trade those shares until April 2012. Furthermore, we were liable for Capital Gains Tax (CGT) on that value in January this year, without actually have realised the gain. UK Inland Revenue recognise the gain being realised at the point of sale which was October 2010. Such are the joys of such a normal, but complex transaction.
On a personal level, we purchased an old Victorian Isolation Hospital building in 2007 (a small one – 2 wards and a kitchen!) and with the move to Abu Dhabi to establish the Davis Langdon office, we deferred our plans to re-develop our home until our return from the Middle East. With the original plan to save any profit share from the DL business and use this to fund the work on the house, the economic crisis and the dramatic fall in trading conditions resulted in no profit share / bonus being realised. The perceived upside of the disappointing vote to sell the business was that a value for my equity share would be increased with a gain realised from the AECOM shares. All very well if the share value increases above the fix point but of course, that is all dependent on the market at that point.
As it has turned out, we have completed the design work for the house and are in the process of getting tender prices returned from some builders. However, having suffered from a protracted planning process and complications with Ecology (bats) the narrow window within which we are permitted to undertake the work has expired so will have to wait now until Spring ’13. Coincidentally, AECOM published their Q2 results noting poor performance in their Government Management Services, combined with a global collapse in equity markets, the shareprice has lost over a third of its value from the fix price that was set for us back in October 2010.
So, despite my issues with the common pipestrelle and his cousins, my project fund is not in a healthy place so a deferment to next Spring is needed anyway.
BIM Show Live 2012
I attended thus UBM event in Islington on Wednesday, which was my first visit to such an event and was interested to see both the mix of delegates, content of presentations etc in comparison to other similar events that I’ve attended and participated in, in other continents.
With over 500 delegates, mostly from design disciplines, I was struck by the general mood of the conference around the technological, process and cultural challenges that Building Information Modelling (BIM) presents. It appears that most designers are now operating, in part, in a 3D world and sense that with a BIM Manager, their work is done (in the majority). I sense though that the true gain and benefits of multi-dimensional modelling have not been fully explained, understood and grasped as an opportunity for an industry which desperately needs to innovate and improve overall efficiency.
With the technology and associated training in place, the revised processes and management required to co-ordinate and share models are being developed to a Stage that is recognised at Level 2 BIM. However, to progress towards Level 4 BIM and the reality of Integrated Project Delivery (IPD), those processes and management techniques will need to develop further and most importantly, the cultural changes required across all participants in the the commissioning, designing, procuring, manufacturing, assembling and operating environments will need to accelerate to ensure technology remains the support act, not the lead.
My former colleagues at _space, now branded as BIM.Technologies, shared some interesting insights to the opportunities that Technology can now present. With relevant and appropriate reference to other industries the application of proven technological hardware and software into the built environment will only increase. Some of the notions and hypothesis presented may seem far fetched but with the exponential increase in mobile data and communication devices, we are already living and operating in a world of big Digital Data. If we and our industry do not move to understanding, adapting and exploiting these advances then someone else will. There are already clear signals in the marketplace with the growing appetite and capacity to invest from the Technology Co’s with the likes of google, IBM and others investing heavily in both harvesting and manipulating data and processes with technology to provide real-time benefit for clients. Until artificial intelligence can trully mimic the human soul and mind, we may face the threat of only being able to provide that creative edge whilst Tech Co delivers the overall asset, more efficiently and effectively that ourselves.
A birthday celebration
I missed the 2nd day of the BIM Show Live as it was my youngest daughters 5th birthday on the 10th May. Molly is a delight and one of the rewards for returning home to Durham, is that I can enjoy the value of spending quality time with my family. A great end to the week and reinforcing one of the biggest “Why’s” for changing career direction and establishing our new business. Her birthday party with 20 other friends was terrific and Spenymoor Council’s innovative Pink gym was a great success!
Reflecting on the week, one filled with highs and lows, proves that the challenge is great for us. With external forces determining the most challenging trading environment since the 1930’s, the demand for efficient, leading, confident and innovative offers into the market is clear. Combine those attributes with strong relationships underpinned by trust and opportunity exists. This is the reality of this time so patience and determination are key.