The ’recession-proof’ domestic architecture sector is likely to also be immune to Brexit, writes Lisa Raynes
Are we right to be worried about the impact that Brexit will have on architectural businesses? Possibly. The drop in customer confidence and general uncertainty about the future may lead to budget-cutting and big projects going on hold. However, my experience tells me that the big architectural companies may suffer more than small practices.
I set up my own practice in south Manchester during the last recession, having been made redundant as a result of the economic downturn. I work exclusively in the UK domestic residential market, manage relatively small projects, and this niche has proven to be recession-proof.
Even in uncertain economic climes my practice has always been solvent
My clients rarely speculate on the property market and prefer to improve their houses rather than move. In times when mortgages were harder to secure, refurbishing or extending houses was – and still is – the most popular way of getting a dream home without the hassle of selling and buying a new one.
I don’t work with big, commercial clients who have a habit of paying months after using my services, so even in uncertain economic climes my practice has always been solvent. Not embarking on huge, expensive projects also contributes to financial safety – a small bad debt is not going to bankrupt you, but a big one may send you packing.
It may be too early to judge the long-term impact of Brexit on small practices like mine, but I have reasons to stay positive. The greatest advantage of my job is that I get to talk to different clients every day. The majority of my clients are fiercely in the Remain camp – professionals with young families. Of the 15 customers I talked to about Brexit, only two were pro-Leave.
Regardless of their views and personal circumstances, the outcome of the referendum hasn’t so far resulted in a change of plans for house extensions. With one exception: one of my clients had to postpone his move up North and refurbishing plans as interest in his London property had vanished. This would have been unheard of even a month ago. It is, of course, just a single example and therefore not indicative of a slowdown in the housing market.
I recently changed my business to a franchise
I haven’t noticed a drop in inquiries; bookings for my creative design workshops are coming in as stable numbers as ever. In fact, as I have recently changed my business to a franchise and my first franchisee already operates in Liverpool, interest in Pride Road has grown even more.
I created Pride Road in order to share my knowledge and business model with architects who would like to follow in my footsteps: have a secure job, good income, take pride in their work and have a much better work-life balance. We talk a lot about gender disparity in our profession and how unfriendly it is to women who want to have children, but not much is being done to address these issues.
Women fall prey to economic downturns far more than men, and if Brexit means redundancies in big architectural companies, unfortunately it will often be female architects who find themselves without work. Businesses like Pride Road offer architects a real career option, even in uncertain times, without compromising family life.
Lisa Raynes is founder of Pride Road and a RIBA Council member