For Melbourne-based Kosloff Architecture, building a positive, healthy practice culture is a key priority, and achieving B Corp status an important step in the evolution of the practice.
When was the practice established and what were its early ambitions? How has the practice evolved over time?
The practice was established in 2017 and is led by directors Stephanie Bullock and Julian Kosloff, along with Associate Emily Gallagher. Our early ambition was to focus on public work as a typology, in line with our belief that every project should have high aspirations in terms of what it can deliver to its stakeholders, its cultural context and the broader community. We were also very keen to pursue authentic collaborations that could deliver beneﬁts beyond the purely commercial.
Directors Stephanie Bullock and Julian Kosloff.
What is the practice philosophy?
Our philosophy is based on three core values that we have used from the outset to drive every aspect of the practice, from long-term strategy right through to day to day decisions – Aspiration, Collaboration and Impact. We have extremely high aspirations not only for our projects, but also in terms of the practice culture we are collectively building. We want Kosloff Architecture to be the best place on earth to work and believe that the legacy of the collective we build together is as important as the built work we produce. Every project, irrespective of scale or typology, has significant design opportunity, as well as the potential to deliver environmental and social benefits. We consider from the outset of each project what the optimum approach might be in terms of collaboration, including how we might collaborate more closely with clients and stakeholders through extensive consultation and co-creation processes. Finally, in terms of impact, we are deeply committed to building a better, more sustainable business model that meets the highest standards of accountability in terms of social and environmental performance. We set annual targets for how we might achieve this, as well as making this information publicly available on our website.
Can you tell us about a key project or business initiative that provided a turning point in the life of the practice?
From the outset we had decided to set up the practice in line with the principles of a B Corp, which is a global movement of people using business as a force for good. It requires meeting the highest standards of overall social and environmental performance, transparency and accountability, and aspiring to use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. We formally completed our B Corp Certification earlier in 2019, and it has fundamentally shaped the practice’s evolution. This ranges from the way in which our company structure has been formulated, which enables staff ownership; our operating policies, which are aimed at ensuring we are carbon neutral; and through a whole range of other strategies including a formal charitable donation policy and the type of work we actively pursue.
What are some of the most important business management lessons you have learned?
Both founding directors had many years’ experience leading other practices, and while this has certainly been helpful, to a large extent we believe our success has been built on a continual desire to rethink every aspect of practice. A willingness to question the way that things are typically done, rather than repeating previous patterns, has served us well to date by allowing us to evolve very quickly and to be nimble in the way we operate.
What have been the biggest challenges and successes in recent years?
Our biggest challenge has to a certain extent been our success – we had a detailed five year strategic plan for the practice that we achieved in under two years, so we have had to revisit our ‘long term’ plan several times in the two years since we started the practice. This has reinforced rather than changed our fundamental direction; however, it has required us to invest substantially in systems and processes to support this rapid growth. It has also led us to extend our growth projections out significantly, so that we can have more informed discussions about what the long-term aspirations for the practice are in terms of size and structure. This has been very helpful in terms of shaping our staff ownership scheme and succession planning approach.
What are the biggest issues involved in running the practice in 2019?
Like any architectural practice our success is entirely reliant upon the quality of our team. Attracting the right mix of people is probably our biggest challenge in the current, very competitive employment market.
How has technology impacted on how you conduct business?
In order to establish the type of flexible and responsive mode of practice that we believe is required to work in the way we prefer, we have invested primarily in cloud-based and collaborative software. Every member of the practice can effectively work remotely, utilising laptops that have been customised to interface with our IT infrastructure, built for this purpose.
How do you market your practice?
We have always undertaken quite detailed marketing analysis of the sectors we are operating in, that considers both our current capability and also the relative attractiveness of each sector. This drives our business development strategy in terms of the types of projects we are pursuing, and the way we do it. It also determines the direction and focus of our other business development activities including sponsorships and industry engagement.
What are the ambitions for the practice?
While we have had significant success in winning the types and scales of projects we have been targeting from the outset, we feel we are now in a position to substantially consolidate this through more extensive collaboration with others in the public, institutional and educational sectors.
Where do you see the business in the next five years?
Our target for the next five years is to continue to grow to reach an optimum size of around 20, and to support this to develop even further our systems and processes, particularly around co-creation, collaboration and consultation, which has been a key area of focus for us, and a significant contributor to our success to date.
If you had one piece of advice for someone starting out, what would it be?
Be very clear about what you stand for, and what you are trying to achieve. If you can articulate this from the outset, it will assist you in realising your ambitions.
How long have you been a member of the ACA?
We joined the ACA very shortly after we launched the practice.
What do you see are the main benefits of membership?
Excellent resources which always seem to be very timely in terms of current issues facing the profession. The professional development seminars are well targeted to the needs of a practice like ours.
What future initiatives would you like to see the ACA pursue?
More state-based events that would facilitate networking and cross-pollination of ideas would be welcome.
Photos: Derek Swalwell