Keeping clients’ interests at the forefront is a key priority for Surry Hills–based ArtMade Architects, who have won Client’s Choice Awards two years running.
When was the practice established and what were its early ambitions? How has the practice evolved over time?
The practice was established in 2000, working predominantly in the residential sector. Director Sherif Saad leads a small team. His early ambitions were quite simple: work hard, commit to always learning, and have the client’s interests at the forefront. For the first ten years the business steadily grew, sticking to its core source of small to medium scale residential projects. Around 2005, whilst still maintaining its place in the residential market, ArtMade was gaining momentum and a reputation in the commercial sector. By 2015, the direction of the business had changed, the team had expanded, and the decision was made to relocate to Surry Hills.
What is the practice philosophy? How does this impact on the way you run it as a business?
The focal point of ArtMade’s ideology is to educate our clients and to delicately enlighten on the disparateness between their dream and reality. Ultimately the decision will lie in the hands of the client. Our role is to assess the risks and inform the client, allowing them to make an informed decision. One of the strengths of ArtMade is that every project is closely monitored by Sherif Saad, thus providing a level of service and experience that is somewhat challenging to accomplish in larger organisations.
Can you tell us about a key project or business initiative that provided a turning point in the life of the practice?
In 2003 we represented our first client in Land and Environment Court; it was quite encouraging to see unfair and unjust determinations reassessed. While the first case was quite daunting, we have now been involved as an expert witness in over twenty court cases with a successful track record to date.
Around 2005, whilst maintaining our place in the residential market, we were starting to gain momentum and a reputation in the commercial sector, attracting commissions from developers and large-scale childcare operators. In essence this was a turning point for the business. We had found a niche in the market. We have been continuing down the track of developing our skills and expertise in the childcare sector in addition to maintaining a residential project portfolio.
What are the biggest issues involved in running the practice in 2021?
COVID-19 was definitely a big shake up for everyone and paved the way for major changes in the way we manage the studio, finding the right balance between REM-O and studio time for the team. I don’t really see this as an issue rather an opportunity to grow and prepare ourselves for the future.
How do you market your practice?
Up until a few years ago the practice rarely did any marketing; we were relying on repeat clientele and word of mouth. In 2019 we rebranded and began to focus heavily on our marketing, identify our unique selling proposition, updating our website and engaging someone to manage it, ramping up our presence on social media and entering awards.
COVID-19 was an opportunity to really put some time and energy into marketing. Our leads funnel has noticeably increased and we are now focusing our attention to nurturing and converting the leads.
What are some of the most important business management lessons you have learned?
Aside from design, there are many other factors and priorities that must be considered. It is the architect’s responsibility to comprehend the priorities, place them in the right order, and ensure the design achieves the desired outcome for both the client and the community.
What have been the biggest challenges and successes in recent years?
Finding a happy medium between client expectations and authorities’ demands always proves to be quite a challenge. Sydney’s high density and exorbitant real estate prices give rise to increased objections, placing pressure on local governing authorities to issue unjust and unfair determinations. In regards to successes, having LEC court appeals upheld has been a success for both ourselves and our clients – uncovering a compromise between a client and authority’s expectations to come up with a happy medium for both parties.
What are the ambitions for the practice?
We have a solid core team who all understand the direction the business wants to move in. We want to gradually add like-minded individuals and grow over the next few years. We are looking to take on larger government work and expand on our project diversity.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting out, what would it be?
You should like working for a firm just as much as they like working with you. Be your own advocate for your career. Find a studio that wants to help you grow and develop your career.
How long have you been a member of the ACA?
ArtMade has been a member since 2016.
What do you see are the main benefits of membership?
The ACA is an intimate group providing invaluable support and advice.