Expansion and diversity

Singapore 29th August 2010

Having a lighting design practice is relatively simple when it’s you, maybe with a few staff operating from one office location. But as you grow and become more in demand you start expanding as a logical consequence in order to support the demands of the projects you have in hand. But our business is very much tied in with and sensitive to the world economy so we have to be mindful when expanding and diversifying knowing that there are ups and downs. I lived through the Asian economy crash of 97 and more recently the one from 2008. What is wisdom? What lessons did we learn? What is the best set up for a lighting design practice to weather all economic situations?

In 97 I was relatively inexperienced, with plenty of projects, but in a very narrow market, mostly hospitality and commercial developments all located in and around Singapore with only one project in China. As a result the economy crash hit me very hard and pushed me to the edge of bankruptcy. I got back up on my feet and today China is my biggest market with India second and further projects from Australia all the way to Eastern Europe. Because of the diversity in our project markets, I can say now that our China and India projects pulled us through the recent economy crisis. We were able to maintain our staff capacity though had to tighten our belts.  

Right now we are facing the dilemma on whether to expand or not. Expand in terms of staff, expand in terms of office locations and diversify in terms of project applications. Right now we operate from Australia, Singapore and China, but do we need more offices (clients always push for a local office)? The longer I am in this business, the more I start believing that less is more. A good lighting designer need to be involved in the project from start to finish. I know I can’t run 30 projects as a lighting designer, something has to give. So expansion means finding equally qualified lighting designers who can fully manage a project for me from start to finish while delivering the quality expected.

Those qualified lighting designers I know run their own business, those who potentially could still have a long way to go. So maybe expansion is not the way…?

29. August 2010 by Martin Klaasen
Categories: lighting and the economy, lighting design practice | 2 comments

Comments (2)

  1. Dear Martin, you have an interesting dilemma, one that is shared by many others.

    I have photographed the lighting design projects for public spaces of a great lighting designer who lives in Spain, and is also an old time friend.
    I have shot one of his projects in Spain and a huge project in Ankara, Turkey,( you can see some images in my website, in the “lighting” section), and our discussions about expansion vs enhanced quality seem to echo and mirror what you are saying in your post.

    I vote for quality, as the impact of every project will be stronger, and the branding/marketing may be more easily defined, but I certainly agree that under critical economic conditions, some ” bread and butter” small projects may make a difference.

    I am glad for you that you already tapped the Chinese and Indian markets, and wish you the best of luck with your projects!!

    Jorge Parra

  2. Thanks Jorge
    Your feedback is highly appreciated. It is good to hear as I generally speak of my own experience. Eventhough I suspect or know from colleagues they face similar issues, it is always nice to hear it from others.
    PS: I will check out your website, let me know if you are in the neighbourhood!

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