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BUILDING DESIGN &

CONSTRUCTION THE MAGAZINE FOR THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY AUGUST 2013 AUGUST 2013 ISSUE 188

BUILDING ON YOUR DESIGN THE INTERIORS GROUP

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INTERIOR FIT-OUTS: THE INTERIORS GROUP

BUILDING ON YOUR DESIGN

THE INTERIORS GROUP CELEBRATE THEIR 25TH ANNIVERSARY THIS YEAR. ANDREW BLACK, CEO AND FOUNDER, LOOKS BACK ON HOW IT STARTED AND WHAT’S IN STORE FOR THE FUTURE

years of success speaks for itself. The Interiors Group, which is independently owned and has offices in London, Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Oman, has secured a reputation within commercial fit-out that is second to none. Headed by CEO and founder Andrew Black, the company welcomes a quarter of a century in business with plenty to cheer. Despite global economic uncertainty and a period of recession, The Interiors Group has strategically placed itself in a position of strength. Evolving with the market has seen the business double turnover in the last ten years thanks largely to successful partnerships, overseas investment, and a shrewd commercial approach that has seen the company remain competitive during a difficult period for the design and interior fit-out industry. Now a much sought-after specialist in office refurbishments and fit-outs it is little wonder that Andrew highlights his experienced in-house team and their ability to listen to clients in order to deliver the best possible solution, as key reasons for success. The company is also noted for

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the enthusiasm of its CEO, which is evident for all to see (“I love a challenge, and the greater the challenge the earlier I want to get up in the mornings,” he says). His hands-on approach and hard-graft work ethic has propelled the business forward, both in the UK and internationally, and now we are seeing The Interiors Group deliver between forty and fifty projects annually. Indeed, ten to fifteen projects are ongoing at any one time along side a special works team providing expertise on projects up to a value of £200,000 as well as a dedicated after-care service for current clients. Contracts, which include category A and category B commercial fit-out along with high-end specialist retail projects, range from £50,000 to £10m. Recent high profile clients include LaSalle Investment Management, Onex, Gulfstream, Cadbury and Getty Images. EXPERIENCE Certainly, The Interiors Group has experience on its side. However, as Andrew highlights, the evolution of the company, and its subsequent success, has come through acknowledgement of a developing market and the ability to adapt in order to prosper.

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The company charts its history back to the late 1980s when Andrew, alongside Roger McKellar, founded the business as the fit-out partner of Roger’s furniture company Total Office Interiors. As the UK’s largest Steelcase dealership at the time, the partnership initially allowed the new fit-out company to tap into an already established clientele prior to the sale of Total Office Interiors in 1989. In 1991 The Interiors Group took on the first Haworth furniture dealership and over the next few years the businesses operated as two separate entities – furniture dealer and fit-out specialist with a growing strength in design and build projects – before the manufacturers themselves wanted an increased stake in the market which forced a strategy re-think. This saw the business focus on design and build primarily, working with third-party providers when necessary but with a concentration on commercial projects delivered through the in-house team. However, the market dramatically changed in the aftermath of 9/11. The impact in America, where the company had many of its clients at the time, was significant. This brought about further evolution within the business. “Throughout the 1980s, 1990s and early 2000s, you effectively had two sectors in the

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fit-out industry,” says Andrew. “One would be design and build, the other would be traditional. You would have your project managers, surveyors, architects and consultants on one side versus the design and build contractors. Therefore, what I wanted to do was court the professional consultant companies directly.” At the time, The Interiors Group had a large team of in-house designers and everything it was building was developed internally. “We had been a design and build company for fifteen years at that time. So we had fifteen years’ experience of dealing with end users. We felt we knew what made an enduser tick. I basically approached the project managers and said to them if we apply our professional skills in conjunction with yours then as project man-

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agers you will be able to, in principle, spend less time on the project. This either means you can charge a smaller fee and be more successful in your bids, or you’d make a greater profit,” explains Andrew. The proposition was to develop enduring partnerships to achieve mutual goals. Key to this was better competitiveness within the market while maintaining service quality and building the foundations for long-term success. The Interiors Group approached many of the leading property agency firms and quickly formed relationships with the likes of CBRE. The model: The Interiors Group would handle design and build, the partner would handle project management. If additional services were required such as surveyors or consultants, these would be sought. This concept quickly proved its

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INTERIOR FIT-OUTS: THE INTERIORS GROUP

THE RESULT OF PARTNERING WITH LEADING PROPERTY MANAGEMENT FIRMS WAS AN INFLUX OF NEW OPPORTUNITIES

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worth. For example, by the end of its first project with CBRE, The Interiors Group had already picked up two more jobs through its association with the property giant. The result of partnering with leading property management firms was an influx of new opportunities. Although The Interiors Group still had its design capability, many of these projects had designers or architects already attached. This focused attention on the build side of the business. The company spent this period during the 2000s ensuring it had the relevant skills and experience inhouse. From contracts managers to site agents, Andrew wanted their technical background to be attune to the administrative protocols of large-scale day-to-day site management, over and above a traditional design and build service provider. This also brought with it reciprocal benefits. The Interiors Group could introduce clients to its property management partners, and in turn, as an ally in the world of construction, the company would find itself as a preferred choice on potential tender lists. By 2008, with approximately eighty per cent of work sourced through project managers and designed by third-parties, the design team had been reduced by over sixty per cent while the company could boast of an enhanced contracts offering. Was it working? The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Within three years turnover had doubled from ÂŁ14m to ÂŁ28m.

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INTERIOR FIT-OUTS: THE INTERIORS GROUP

FRANCHISING By 2008, The Interiors Group was in a position to spread its wings. In the Middle East the construction buzz all seemed to point towards Dubai but Andrew felt the bubble was about to burst. It was therefore a shrewd move to head to Abu Dhabi, a lesser known emirate that was primed for an influx of development. It was this move that helped the company grow through the recession. “When I first went to Dubai I was offered a lot of money to set up a business doing interior fit-outs. The local partners out there thought they could turn us into a £25m business in 12 months. But you didn’t have to be clair-

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voyant to see the bubble was about to burst. When you scratched the surface things weren’t quite what they seemed.” So Andrew concentrated his efforts on Abu Dhabi but stresses that patience was key to a successful transition. “We spent well over a year analysing the market, establishing our network, contacting the people we knew, and developing links with the right sorts of people who could help us – for example, there are a lot of ex-pats doing business in Abu Dhabi who used to be, for instance, property agents, project managers and architects in the UK. By the time we properly set-up, because we had taken our time, most of the market in Abu

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INTERIOR FIT-OUTS: THE INTERIORS GROUP

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Dhabi thought we had already been fully incorporated for many months. It made the start up process that much easier.” The Interiors Group UAE operates as a franchise with regional offices in Dubai and Oman supporting the head office in Abu Dhabi. Its first contract was for the Abu Dhabi government and saw the company carry out a twenty-six-week project on a 90,000 square feet development. This was significant because it highlighted The Interiors Group’s ability to carry out large-scale developments despite being set up primarily to cater for projects up to 10,000 square feet. Three years on and the Middle East operation is turning over £12m with projects completed for the likes of Santander, Getty Images, Herbert Smith and Cleveland Clinic. Establishing success overseas is about having a respect and understanding for the culture but it is also about having the knowledge of the market you are entering, says Andrew. “For us, quality of workmanship is absolutely crucial. What we realised is that this standard was in short supply in Abu Dhabi. If we were to go to America, we’d be competing against lots of companies doing what we do. The difference in the Middle East is that lots of companies are doing it, but it’s been easy to go in there and be the one that does it well.”

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“ESTABLISHING SUCCESS OVERSEAS IS ABOUT HAVING A RESPECT AND UNDERSTANDING FOR THE CULTURE BUT IT IS ALSO ABOUT HAVING THE KNOWLEDGE OF THE MARKET YOU ARE ENTERING”

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INTERIOR FIT-OUTS: THE INTERIORS GROUP There is a confidence within The Interiors Group that is deserved given the hard work and dedication that is clearly evident. Its recent projects in the UK reflect that. Andrew speaks excitedly of the company’s latest work for Havas, having worked with the global media giant on several projects previously. This new project concerned a 30,000 square feet self-contained London office that was in need of total refurbishment. The client, MPG Media Contacts (which is part of Havas) came to The Interiors Group looking for a one-stop shop to carry out all design and build on the project. Taking nine weeks to complete, the refurbishment essentially brought all the client’s services under one roof. Encompassing six floors, the challenging contract had to be completed with minimal disruption to the 300 employees based there. ECO-FRIENDLY The final design delivered the flexible eco-friendly working environment required while echoing the vibrancy of the business. Partnering with architects Jump Studios, The Interiors Group was able to deliver edgy finishes and furnishings to reflect the “cool Britannia” aesthetic of the classic British design. This incorporated a stunning new reception area, a series of meeting rooms, a number of open plan working areas, a production suite and several social spaces. Andrew is also thrilled to be now working with one of the world’s leading real estate management corporations LaSalle Investment Management. “We took a commercial decision to give them a seriously compet-

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itive rate because we hadn’t worked with them before,” recalls Andrew. “Initially they thought we would be also-rans, that we were simply making up the numbers. But we were commercially keen enough to be brought in for interview. The concept and approach we pitched was chosen by their team, which included their architects and consultants, and we got the job. This was a fantastic strategic result for us.” The Interiors Group delivered a practical, stylish and timeless 16,000 square feet refurbishment which successfully met the requirements of the brief to reduce space requirement by forty per cent. Since then, the company has completed four category A landlord re-fits for LaSalle Investment Management on properties they manage. Its most recent was at St Swithin’s Lane in London. This 25,000 square feet project involved transforming a tired building to create an impressive, sleek reception space together with clean, functional office floors as well as dramatically improving the streetscape by extensively restoring the tired façade. “LaSalle Investment Management are a fantastic brand and we love working with them and their teams,” says Andrew. “We have different teams allocated by them for each project and maintain good relationships with all. Consequently, this successful relationship has increased our market awareness with other project managers and architects looking to work with us.” Elsewhere, The Interiors Group has recently completed work on a high-end office fit-out for business airline developer Gulfstream alongside project manager CBRE.

Unsurprisingly, The Interiors Group’s achievements have been recognised. Following a win at last year’s prestigious Mixology awards for the fit out of a head office for a global investment management company, The Interiors Group was back to winning ways in 2013. For its work at Forward Internet Group’s head office in Camden, the company won Mixology’s Commercial Project of the Year. It is an exciting time for Andrew and the company. Aside from his delight at being chosen recently by several new clients for category B fit-outs up to 45,000 square feet, he has his sights on further franchising opportunities in Ireland and central Europe. HARD WORK AND DEDICATION The Interiors Group has prospered despite economic uncertainty. Strategy, investment and international recognition has played an important role in the company’s success but Andrew is quick to highlight the hard work and dedication of his team. “We have a fantastic group internally who have an energy and enthusiasm to constantly go that one step further,” he enthuses. “It may be a challenging goal, but I would like to grow the business in the UK to the point where we could stabilise it at a turnover value of £50m, maintaining the quality, maintaining the integrity, and maintaining the brand. If we’re passionate about one thing more than anything else it’s the brand and what it stands for.” interiorsgroup.co.uk Tel: 020 7495 1885

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The interiors group august 2013  
The interiors group august 2013  

Andy Black , CEO at The Interiors Group celebrates their 25th anniversary. Read more to find out. If you wish to be featured in BDC Magazine...

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