A decade in, time for change…?

Surely, being adept at many things can only ever be considered a good thing. Whilst I agree with this for the most part, I can’t help but hear the words of my old Grandad – ‘a jack of all trades is a master of none!’. He always tried to get me to focus on one thing at a time. (This won’t surprise those who know me well but focus, has never been my strong point.)

10 years ago, when Will and I started Stepladder, Grandad’s advice must have, even if just subliminally, played a part in my decision to make us such a niche creative agency. In hindsight, choosing to specialise in an industry we knew so well, has mostly worked in our favour…Cheers Grandad!

So, a little over a decade in, is this still the case? Does is it still make sense to be so narrow with mergers and acquisitions rife throughout the real estate industry maybe indicating a change in direction? Surveyors buying fit-out companies, fit-out companies getting into architecture, architects starting branding arms; this activity shows that diversification might now be key to sustainable growth, but it also highlights that diversification doesn’t mean we need to stray into different sectors. Instead, having complimentary services sat side-by-side on one (expensive timber) floor is obviously becoming attractive for many time-poor property developers.

For me, spotting this trend lead to the creation of our CGI company Beyond in 2016. Beyond too, has changed and progressed since its inception. What began as a start-up of two people producing photo-real, still images (which is still a massive part of its bread and butter) has now grown and been able to venture into interior design to create the whole picture for developers while they wait for their architects’ final spec. Additionally, there was a time when a static floorplan would just about do a job – we relied on (hoped/prayed) a prospective occupier had the ability to grasp a sense of scale and layout options for the space. With technology forever moving forward, Beyond have moved into AR and VR, from 3D navigation to animated fly-throughs. Now we can provide the imagination with the occupier can virtually stand in and explore the finished project.

If there’s one thing we can all agree on no matter what industry we find ourselves in, it’s that the economy over the last year has been unpredictable and COVID-19 is certainly not helping maters currently. We have really felt the shift in the size of budgets and what some clients wanted from us was a more simplified, no frills form of marketing. An all-singing-all-dancing campaign isn’t a possibility or necessity for some developers and this led us to create the third string to our bow, Studio 185. Designing on demand, 185 services what our agent clients affectionately call ‘the churn’. This end of the property market is fast paced and cost-conscious. 185 focuses on smaller leasing projects and investment/sale instructions. Now just into its second year, Studio 185 has taken on a range of projects in London and across Europe with a talented and industrious team that is growing month-on-month.

The three businesses work in sync on a number of client accounts but also work as stand-alone businesses in their own right. Feedback has been positive. Clients like that we offer choice, know the market inside out, can add value and more importantly get their buildings let or sold. This new collaborative, supportive approach has many benefits, not least, putting the ability to service all of our client’s needs under one roof.

Our plan for the future? To continue to grow the Group horizontally by adding further supporting services – but we will always anchor ourselves in a world we’re passionate about, the world of property.

So, whilst my Grandad was a wise old owl all those years ago, new generations have brought new opportunities and with it new wisdom that hopefully I can pass on.