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…?