It’s been a week since our official launch and a week filled with a range of experiences that will provide an indication of the journey over the coming weeks and months.
Any business book that has a chapter on business planning / start-up will include advice on the steps that should be followed when considering a new business. For us (and http://www.atorusconsult.com), we set out the foundations for the new business – the what and why followed by the how and when.
We then set out our plan for success:
- Planning the plan – our vision, goals and objectives
- Building the strategy – our approach, tactics and projects
- Market Analysis
- Business Plan – concept, market and financials
- Leadership style
- Culture and brand
Our initial target set of clients was established and contact made back in January, to test our thinking and offer. We then established our ‘business rules’ for the business and our personal values and motives for the business.
With the launch of the business, we are now in practice mode not theory and the reality is certainly proving to be both exciting and challenging, as expected. We are already looking to modify our website in response to the feedback that we have received. Most constructive criticism revolving around the basic question of “So, what do you do?”
A new business though, combined with a new concept in delivery and operation, has a number of challenges that are not easily surmounted and certainly not delivering income as yet. We anticipated this in our planning phase, so are not perturbed but are listening to our potential clients and seeking to hone our offer. As Alan Sugar indicated on this weeks “Apprentice” BBC1 TV programme, you need to be ‘smelling what’s selling’.
From more esteemed thinkers, Harvard Business Review also released some pertinent advice during the week, with the headline “Considering a Start-Up? Think Again.” http://blogs.hbr.org/cs/2012/04/considering_a_start-up_think_a.html. Great timing, eh?!
Well actually, I was uplifted after reading Oliver Segovia’s blog, and having passed the test for not being a ‘vanity entrepreneur’, we will continue to press on with conviction and passion.
“As founders can attest, what you encounter deep in the start-up trenches will be far from your mental projection and expectations of the future. The harsh reality is that being a founder is more an exercise in psychological readiness. In the intense ups and downs you’ll be going through, your emotional maturity will matter more than your skill set. It requires having the social intelligence to pick the right cofounder. It’s learning to live with lower pay and higher sacrifices in exchange for a very uncertain future benefit. It’s being responsible for the people in your team, taking the blame when they screw up, but sharing the credit when they succeed. It’s juggling to manage your team, customers, investors, and strategic partners all at once. It’s learning to balance the freedom creativity required to prosper with the operational discipline to hit the next milestone. Layer this on top of the usual personal and family pressures, and it’s hard to see how any sane person would choose this path.”
Looking then back over the week, variety was certainly the order of the day.
Designers, Developers or both?
I was interviewed by Iain Withers from Building magazine (UBM) on Tuesday 1st May (our launch day), for a small piece in the news section covering the launch of the business. This follows a similar interview with Denise Chevin for Construction Manager magazine, which will be published later this month. Great coverage though and the piece managed to top the Building charts! Pleased to continue to have the support of our media friends who appreciate the content that we provide and the relevance to their readership.
Wednesday was spent in London meeting with Sheppard Robson Architects and understanding, in further detail, their current business and strategic plans for the future. I sense an opportunity to engage with this well managed, disciplined and focussed firm – we just need the right opportunity and trust to be in place to overcome the questions that are currently being debated.
From Camden, we headed east to Angel to meet with the delightful, Roddy Langmuir of Edward Cullinan Architects. ECA are involved in a competition in Abu Dhabi and I was interested to understand their team submission, approach and lessons learned. Again, through conversation, a couple of opportunities arose which revolve around taking a developed concept to the market, specifically targeting clients who are struggling with current or traditional convention which is frustrating their ability to deliver against a market need. We were encouraged to see an excellent architectural firm, with a passion for the power of space making and detailing, taking an innovative approach to their core strength, capability and experience and applying that to a clear market opportunity within their market.
Finally, we then headed down into the City to meet with Paul Langham, who we both worked with in the UAE. Paul is now a Development Manager with Stanhope, delivering one of the most prestigious projects in London currently.
From a personal perspective, Stanhope were always seen as one of the most progressive and innovative developers when I worked at Davis Langdon, through their introduction and adherence to Construction Management and their leverage of a preferred status supply chain through partnering principles. Stanhope, their leadership and team are the perfect client for atorus and I hope that through personal connection and recommendation, we can gain some face time to share our collective ambition and determine the common ground, that I’m sure we have.
Reflecting over the day, on the way back north to Durham, there is a balance to be struck in our business through the provision of current, high-quality and relevant insight to enable businesses to achieve their current objectives. The current economic climate and trading conditions restrict the vision beyond the short-term, particularly amongst architects. However, Developer clients have a pent up need to see innovation and progress in their developments mindful of the lead-times involved in their developments and the requirements of the market when these assets are available – 2014/15 now. Work over the coming weeks, particularly on the business performance offer, will be marketed to such clients where competitive advantage can be introduced now with results accrued during the development process and recognised at the point of either institutional transaction or leases being signed.
Customer is King or Queen
Thursday saw me back up and out for the early train, this time to Oulton Hall, nr Leeds.
The North-East branch of the Chartered Management Institute held a 1-day Conference with the title “Leading in a Changing World”. The highlights of the day were Dr John Bird speaking around the inspiration for starting The Big Issue and the implementation of that idea with Gordon Roddick. They are now celebrating their 20th anniversary with increased global coverage and social development / service being provided to those generally rejected by the system. Tony McCandless from Dell, also covered the change that has happened in the world over the last 20 years and the ways in which our thinking and mode of business has changed as a consequence. Change is inevitable but our approach and attitude to change is a personal choice in which the example of a leader can have a profound effect.
So, reflecting on the last 4 weeks of being back in the UK and launching the business, we appear to be reflecting the weather. There is a drought in certain parts of the country (reflecting the north / south divide), the wettest April on record is not replenishing the capacity of the English reservoirs, local elections have recorded gains for Labour at the expense of the Tories – for apparently being out of touch with the common man. Last but not least, Sheikh Mansour’s Manchester City Football Club is now favourite to take the Premiership 2011/12 title – all funded from Abu Dhabi.
We’re off and running and starting to get the heart rate up. Our business model is based on a marathon not a sprint so looking to key milestones over the coming weeks and months to verify our performance and modify our strategy.