The month of June signified the end of our 2nd quarter and half way to the completion of our first financial year of trading as Schumann Consult. So, where are we, what have we been up to, and what does the future have in store?
In the beginning
When we set up our business back in January we thought that we stood a fair chance of succeeding, given our backgrounds and experience as Directors in Davis Langdon and then AECOM. We were cautious, relying on our friends for recommendations and to give us a helping hand to get started. It was always in our minds that we didn’t want to grow too quickly, at the expense of service quality. We wanted a business that was debt free, with low overheads to drive competitive fees, and a model that allowed staff to take some sort of ownership of the business, to give them a feeling of worth and reward, which in turn drives motivation and is a business that people want to work for.
Our primary focus was to go back to our roots, away from the corporate world that we had found ourselves in, and back to putting our Architectural clients first. No more worry of man-hours dictating how much time we should spend on a project, or looking at our profit margins on a project-by-project basis. We are in the business of working with Architects. We know that it isn’t easy. Things change constantly with designs and projects, and we must be flexible enough to cope with these changing demands. Our priority is always to support Designers as best we can in our field, no matter what situation they find themselves in. Arguing about time being spent on a project is simply not acceptable to us.
We had planned to employ our first member of staff somewhere between months 9 and 12, to remain working from home, to look to ‘over deliver’ on some key projects for some key clients, and then to see where we stood. We wanted to be able to create a business model and service that would work, whether the project was a tiny house refurbishment, or a large-scale development. Lastly, we wanted to challenge what we had done over the past 27 years. The industry has changed. The way the industry operates has changed. The way Architects design has changed. Yet, we found that very little had changed in what we do.
Six months in and we find ourselves well ahead of plan and tearing up the rule book.
Where we are
With five members of staff and another Project Director joining us in mid-August, our growth has been quicker than we expected. We are building a team of people who understand the ‘why’ behind specifications and design management, rather than just the ‘how’. With the team beginning to take shape, the addition of our new Project Director in August and perhaps another one or two people over the coming months, we believe that we are putting Schumann Consult firmly on the map, as the ‘go to’ independent business for Specifications and Design Management.
It has not been easy to lose the past, however, and to this day we still speak to people and firms who believe that when they are talking to us they are talking to our previous employers. Of more concern is that when they speak to our former employers they believe that we are still a part of that business. The fact that the ‘Schumann’ name is still being used by those outside of Schumann Consult is causing confusing in the market. We are continuing to educate the market with what we are up to and our new business and it is a challenge that we are winning. A recent article in Building Magazine hopefully helped to explain things, but there is much more to do in the future in this regard.
Nine projects have been completed to date, and we are currently delivering on a further seven at the present time. We are working on projects in a number of locations around the world; for example, the UK, Germany, Abu Dhabi, Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Doha. Some projects have been small, others big, but all with architectural practices that have given us the opportunity to show what we can do and how we can help. We thank all of these practices for giving us this opportunity and look forward to working closely with them in the future.
Nick Schumann is about to start a regular column in the Architects’ Journal discussing all things ‘Specification’, and we are booked to go to the World Architectural Festival (WAF) in Singapore in October. We are also currently giving CPD seminars to Architectural practices, educating young architects in a whole range of subjects, from Specifications to contracts to procurement to name a few. We were listed in BDOnline’s top 100 most useful tweeters in architecture and also placed 4th in their most influential consultants on Twitter, which we feel very privileged about.
We have just taken receipt of our web-based specification Platform, which will allow us to move away from production of specifications in Microsoft Word to a new web-based production tool – a very cool piece of kit that will help us become more efficient and more consistent.
Challenging the Norm
As I mentioned earlier, we have challenged our service and asked ‘why is it like this’ and ‘how can we improve it’?
We have focused on the following:
- Outline Specifications.
- Relevant specifications for the project.
We have just completed our first BIM project and our specifications have been successfully integrated. We are now working on two further projects using the same process. We wrote a blog piece on ‘Specifications in the BIM Environment’ back in March, which discussed the issues at a higher level. We can save the detail of what we do with Specifications and BIM for a later blog article.
We have revolutionised our approach to Outline Specifications, part of which was discussed in our recent blog article ‘Redefining Outline Specifications’. We are currently working collaboratively with a number of Architectural practices to understand the real requirements of an outline specification in 2013, which is going very well.
Lastly, we re-focused our Specification service and looked at a few key items that we needed to implement to achieve our vision of being able to service projects from large to small. We have created a suite of specifications that cater for these different size of project; Minor Works, Intermediate and Full. We say it a lot, but one size does not fit all in the Specification world, and some of the products available in the market simply are not suitable for a wide range of projects in our industry.
At the time of writing, we have further exciting news, which has not yet been released, so it is difficult to talk much about it at this point. We are very excited by this news and believe that with it Schumann Consult will continue to go from strength to strength. We have a new website and branding being launched, so watch this space.
Nick’s dad, Mark’s grandad, successfully completed his parachute jump at the age of 86 in memory of his wife Margaret. He raised well over £1,000 for the British Heart Foundation and we are extremely proud of him. He is still taking donations for anyone interested.
A great end to a great six months…. we can’t wait for the next six months and beyond.
Latest posts by Mark Schumann (see all)
- Specification Consultants required - October 15, 2014
- Nick Schumann talks at Architects Journal #speclive - June 26, 2014
- Schumann Consult opens Dubai Office and appoints Meena Sankar - June 10, 2014