Architects of Their Own Destiny

Any long-term strategy that fails to include a healthy investment in the next generation of business leaders is missing a vital ingredient. Fortunately, this is not the case at Oxford based award winning, multi-disciplinary architectural practice Gray Baynes + Shew, following the completion of a succession planning process.

Since 2016, business partners Nigel Spawton, Robin Edwards and David Welbourne have been actively involved in structuring the transition of the ownership, management, and control of their architecture practice.  Each of these elements required careful planning, structuring, and implementation, in order to prepare a strong foundation for the practice’s future growth and development. So retirement, when it happens, would not negatively impact the business. 

Nigel Spawton explains. “Two years ago, we made the decision to invest in a succession planning programme. Knowing our own strengths and frailties was critical here, as was ensuring the plan reflected and executed our long-term objectives for the business. So to guide us, we secured the services of renowned architect and creative strategist Eric Schneider. Eric was instrumental in helping us get the organisational structure right, so that going forwards we can continue to improve performance, enhance the client experience and above all, be prepared for anything.”

Nigel continues. “Traditionally architectural practices have not excelled at succession planning, meaning that when partners retired, there was often no one suitable or ready to take over the reins. This results in a loss of energy and focus, often sending firms on a downward trajectory. We were determined this would not happen at Gray Baynes + Shew. We wanted to recognise, reward and promote talent in order to refresh the business and keep it on firmly on an upward curve.”

As part of this process, Gray Baynes + Shew have appointed two partner designates - Fiona Burge and Mark Norton. Fiona, an accomplished Architect and Lead Consultant, will follow in the footsteps of previous gifted female partners, including Judith Ledeboer OBE, Elsa Booth and Jacqui Heslop. Whilst Mark, a talented Chartered Construction Manager, will drive forward our surveying and project management services, a highly unusual affiliation with architecture which in recent years has become an important profit centre.

In addition, four other members of staff have taken up specialist management roles. Lisa De Leon is now Senior Architectural Designer (Sustainability), Sam Wilson and Matthew Bullock are both Senior Architects, whilst Georgia Burt is a Senior Architectural Interior Designer.

All of these appointments display a degree of balance and diversity. Furthermore, they recognise important characteristics including responsibility and accountability, a wish to develop and grow, an ability to innovate and develop strong client relationships, together with an understanding and appreciation of the commercial and financial issues associated with running a practice.

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