Case Studies

Planning your legacy: Grainge Architects

16th September 2017

Based in the heart of Exeter, Grainge Architects was founded in 1990. The company has since grown from a humble team of four to a thriving business of 24 dedicated staff pushing the business forward.

Leaders in their industry

Managed by directors Tony Pollintine and James Brookes, they have become one of the leading architectural practices in the South West.

They have established a strong footing within the community, with a major focus on the local area as well as extending their market reach from South Wales all the way to the Isles of Scilly. Grainge Architects have an excellent reputation and strong relationship with local authorities and trusted contractors. Despite what one might think, they do not follow a signature style of work. Their designs are all about the needs and requirements of their clients, meaning every piece of work is bespoke and unique.

With a broad spectrum of clients, customer retention is something they pride themselves on. Darts Farm are a prime example; having worked with the company on various projects for sixteen years, they have created a strong, ongoing relationship with the farm, working alongside brothers Michael, Jim and Paul Dart.

Grainge Architect’s studio, designed by the company and built eight years ago, offers a great environment for their dedicated team, giving the opportunity for staff to learn from one another. Staff are employed early on in their careers, some whilst they are still studying at university, to ensure they fully adapt and understand the culture and values of the business, helping them to grow with the company.

However, great success cannot prevail without a succession plan for the business. Before the directors move on and retire, sustainability and long term plans need to be put into motion to ensure that their legacy continues.

Planning for the future

Recently, both Tony and James began to ask themselves how they would keep the legacy of the business going after they retire. As with all businesses there are challenges, and in this case Grainge Architect’s biggest challenge was ensuring the smooth transition of succession.

Just over a year ago, Tony and James met with Simon Cole and Mark Neath, specialists at Old Mill, to discuss exactly what it is they can do to resolve their potentially challenging future. ‘Old Mill have first-hand experience of succession planning for their business, meaning it was easy to believe the work that they could do for us.’ explains Tony.

In 2012 Old Mill launched a project which ensured the business would have continuous successors, a project which meant the ownership of the business is shared between its employees and not limited to traditional ownership structures with just a small handful of aging directors.

Simon Cole, Board member and one of the co-founders of Old Mill, commented ‘Many firms in our profession have a business model that sees them restrict their ownership all too often to a small select group of individuals. As a consequence, staff who work hard for many years in helping to build up a business can often see the rewards of this success shared only by a few senior people.’ As of January 2016, Old Mill now have 44 shareholders in the business.

Having just two directors seemed limiting to Grainge Architects and the prospect of having more voices and greater skills pushing the business forward made sense. As Tony explains ‘we can’t rely on a cash cow to appear ready to buy the business – this is too risky. It’s nice to be in control of what happens.’ Using the model that Old Mill adopted, Grainge Architects will be able to continue their legacy by ensuring the company is taken on by the right people; by staff who are architects themselves and think and work on the right level; ownership will be in the hands of business owners with a real passion for architecture and design.

Old Mill have first-hand experience of succession planning for their business, meaning it was easy to believe the work that they could do for us.

Tony Pollintine

Creating a legacy

It may be another ten years before Tony and James retire from the company but, by planning their succession ahead, they have ensured the continued legacy of Grainge Architects and everything they have worked for. They are creating exciting and positive opportunities for their dedicated staff, and peace of mind that their step down into retirement will be a smooth process and will ensure the continued success of the business long into the future.

Are you thinking about succession planning? Get in touch and see how we can help you.