What’s in a name?

A new Insight from Space Group CEO, Rob Charlton

As with many people, I get asked what I do. I think it's part of modern society to be judged by your job or profession - we like to pigeonhole people. For example, when I am asked this question, I find it easiest to tell people that I am an architect - they then make a judgment. Most people have a perception of an architect, which incidentally, for the most part is usually wrong but in some cases however, very right - black polo necks and Le Corbusier glasses are very common!

I believe this judgement is in particular, a baby boomer thing - if you have a degree you’re clever, if you have CSEs – not so much. (If you don't know what a CSE is, ask your grandma or grandpa). Generation X have a snobbery about polytechnics and universities - people who went to poly just weren't clever enough to get into university - for the record I went to poly, I'm not bitter.

I think that Generation Y are really very different. It is much more about outcomes and what they actually do. Generation Y like to explore, they like flexibility. Age is not a barrier - they have enthusiasm and skills aplenty but some things lack experience.

When I was training to be an architect the pinnacle was to become a partner. As well as having to show your worth to the practice, you had to "do your time". I recall one of our partners being unhappy about several people being promoted to Associate because they hadn’t spent enough time delivering projects. He had learned his craft over many years and it took decades for him to become a partner. He retired after working for our business for 43 years. You can't imagine anyone doing that these days.

Not only do I have to define what I do, I have to define what it is that Space Group does. When we were Waring and Netts Partnership it was easy and even with Space Architects, the clue is in the title!

We have become increasingly diverse and it is therefore quite difficult to define ourselves. When I get asked “What does Space Group do?” the same thing always goes through my head “Should I try to explain what we do?”. The answer to this is “probably not” as they are more than likely to fall asleep. So I take the easy option and say we are architects. They then make their judgement and go away happy, but I think that this hugely undersells what we are doing at Space Group.

What I have been grappling with recently is this - are we a design business that does things digitally or are we a technology business which designs buildings? I'm increasingly coming to the conclusion that we are the latter - we generate value for our clients through the synthesis of design and technology. This is our differentiator as I can't think of any others - there aren’t many others in this field, however there are thousands of architects.

As things tighten in the economy in the months ahead, we all need to stand out from the crowd. We need to get away from commodified services which can be bought cheaply and find ways to add value for clients, with services which nobody else can deliver and which they are willing to pay for.

At Space Group we are proud of our innovative culture. If you are constantly innovating it is likely you are challenging the industry so much, there isn't an easy definition as to what you do.

We just do great stuff, with great people which makes a difference.

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