What Are You (Grant Erskine Architects) Currently Working On?
Today, Grant Erskine talks about how what it takes to future proof yourself in architecture by keeping your projects diverse and always being willing to learn. As Grant says, 'If somebody asks you to do something you don't know how to do, you say yes and then you learn how to do it [and although] it makes my staff uncomfortable, I deliberately force them to do jobs that they haven't done before'.
What Are You Working On?
Amy: So what would you say the main focus of your business, right now? What are you working on?
Grant: From day one I've built this business to try and be recession-proof. So, when people say to me, 'What is your specialism? What do you do?' the response is something that I actually talk about when I'm lecturing at universities.
Nobody ever teaches you to specialise. Nobody ever says, 'You're going to be a house architect or a school architect'.
What generally happens is that professionals get pigeonholed. I work very hard to try and stop that. So, our range of projects, at the minute, is everything from you're your multi-let, HMO to buy-and-flip, residential apartments.
We also do quite a lot of very high-end, one-off houses, generally for clients that are going to live in the house.
So, we're converting a big church in Saddleworth into a six-bedroom house with an indoor swimming pool. It's all very sexy, Grand Designs stuff with bridges and glass. It looks proper nice.
And then we also do conversions and shops. We have a few nurseries under our belt, a few care homes.
It's interesting. A lot of our clients are professionals that have a sideline investing in property. So, in a lot of ways, we are their architect for everything.
So, for example, a client in London is a dentist. We've done a couple of his dental practices. We've done a couple of his buy-and-flips. But we've also done his own, multi-million pound, new-build house.
We have most things in our portfolio, which is nice.
Amy: And that shows you've got this return business and your working with this diverse spectrum.
You must be doing a great job for the people that you work with, that they are repeatedly coming back and asking you to work on business projects, personal projects.
And, as you say, it keeps you working right across the spectrum.
Grant: It can be a difficult position to be in but I do it deliberately.
It makes quite a lot of my staff uncomfortable but I deliberately force them to do jobs that they haven't done before.
But it's continued education. It's continued learning, you know? I don't want us to be stale and stagnant, I always want us to be, sort of, fresh and new.
Amy: And you need to be, in architecture. You need to be, of-the-moment and keeping up with the trends.
Grant: Something that always comes to my mind... Richard Branson says this and you see it on LinkedIn a lot. If somebody asks you to do something you don't know how to do, you say yes and then you learn how to do it.
The one area we don't touch is historic work. Because it's it's very, very complex. It's very, very specialist. And generally, you find people who do historic, that's all they do.
So, every so often we'll get a job come to us with, say, a Grade 1 Listed conversion and we'll say, 'Look, it's not really for us', and we'll point the person in the right direction for a company that does it.