Our Director, Genevieve Wells, is a finalist for the Institute of Directors London & South East Director of the Year Awards 2017. We are immensely proud.
We would like to share some of the questions, and answers, for the IoD London & South East Director of the Year Awards 2017, with our readers.
IoD: Briefly describe why you are applying for the award and why you should win; what makes your business exceptional, and how have you contributed to the success, growth and profitability of your organisation?).
Genevieve Wells: Having been made redundant in 2009, I decided to be in charge of my destiny and started up my business, Lewis Visuals. As many architectural companies needed to keep their costs down, I saw a gap in the market for part-time freelancing services. During the first year of business, the majority of my income came from freelancing for other companies.
I then gradually built up my private client database through reputation and referrals. Looking back to 2009 and where we are today – a team of eight – and a multiple-award winning company I am applying for this award hoping to be a role model for many – especially women – who today may be in the same situation I was in.
We have developed our business relationships with commercial developers who provide repeat business, steady long term relationships.
With our private clients, we have focused on higher end value projects which have resulted in fewer but more valuable projects improving quality of work.
We found our niche in small cost effective residential extensions which allowed our customers to stay living in their existing house and environment and save considerable money by avoiding the cost of moving house.
Our sales and marketing process is designed around the ActionCOACH Five Ways. We have introduced formal systems including a cloud-based CRM system to speed up our processes and document our sales and marketing activities. By measuring these we are now able to continuously make incremental improvements.
A key factor in our success has been the growth of our team, who are enthusiastic, believe in our vision, and have all studied hard to earn their qualifications in Construction Technology.
Additionally we have invested in the latest 3D technology in our industry and moved all of our storage to cloud based servers. We can work from anywhere and easily share our work with our clients and consultants. The success of the business has enabled me to buy a property for myself and turn it into a dream home! I should win this award because I have reached outstanding goals, built a skilled team, won 7 awards and proved that ‘young professional women can do it’. We really do ‘transform lives through design.’
Young professional women can do it.
IoD: Please describe your business and the sector in which it operates.
Genevieve Wells: Lewis Visuals is a youthful multi-award winning Architectural Practice based in Farnham, providing expert services throughout Surrey and beyond. We offer an integrated approach to architectural design and combine all elements from conception to completion of each project; ranging from individual residential dwellings to entire housing developments of 200 units at any one time. Lewis Visuals understands the local planning policies to achieve an excellent success rate with planning applications. In this way, we ensure our clients receive excellent value for money.
IoD: Briefly describe your key target customer groups and how you are addressing their needs.
Genevieve Wells: Much of our work is the renovation and extension of existing properties and dwellings for the general public. These range from significant extensions and refurbishments to large properties, the modest single storey extension, enlarging a kitchen or creating an ‘open living’ environment.
People no longer want to have separate rooms, everyone’s time is precious, and they want to spend that time together. Time is so valuable, we are working harder than ever, it’s a faster pace, so quality time is even more critical. We take the time to understand our client’s work, personal and family needs and translate those needs into a design to improve their lifestyle.
We achieve this by gathering full briefs from our customers to understand their requirements and give them design options to consider. Our solutions are cost effective and are the result of extensive technical knowledge to meet the latest building regulation standards combined with the most innovative and sustainable products on the market.
On the other side of the business, Lewis Visuals also works with larger developers creating housing designs and construction packages for large luxury one-off houses to developments of up to 200 units at any one time.
IoD: Please provide examples as to how you are personally helping to shape your industry? How are you involved in the local community, charities etc?
Genevieve Wells: I believe my achievements as a 32 year old female business owner will and have encouraged other young entrepreneurs to follow and make a success of their dreams. As a Chartered Architectural Technologist I have been presenting and educating local schools in architectural technology and the various educational and career routes. We also regularly take on work experience students and help with the progression of their courses.
In the last year I have also been an assessor and a mentor for new candidates applying to be part of the CIAT – Chartered Architectural Technologists. We have also been on the ‘ask the experts’ panel at Grand Designs and The Home Building and Renovation Show giving out advice to the public. I am part of the CIAT South East Region committee, we organised an awards ball in November which raised over £7000 for the charity Youth and Family Matters.
As a team we have also organised wine tasting events in aid of the charity Step by Step and well as Macmillan coffee mornings.
IoD: Please describe the organisation’s approach to corporate social responsibility.
Genevieve Wells: We believe that women and men should have equal power to shape society and their own lives. As a role model to other women, we show that female directors and architectural technicians can do well in the AEC industry.
Lewis Visuals – as a sustainable business practice – cares about the environment and although a small office we have invested in energy saving light bulbs, a new environmentally friendly and smart boiler.
Our biggest step last year was to go 100% cloud-based using CRM and Project Management online and by this reducing our paper use by up to 300%. Additionally, our new copier/scanner is environmentally smart and cost-efficient.
We will promote sustainable design, code for design, BREAAM and actively specify renewable energies. We would like to recommend construction companies setting good CSR examples to our clients. In 2017, as our team grows, we will have a Certified Safety Professional over-viewing work-site assessments and preparing emergency response plans. Other duties include fire protection, regulatory compliance, accident and incident, record keeping, emergency response, managing safety programs, product safety and/or security.
IoD: What is your approach to company culture and welfare?
Genevieve Wells: Our approach to company culture and welfare is through training, coaching and action learning. We preserve our vision and mission ‘transforming life through design’ going forward and growing by encouraging leadership.
The tools we have available requires consistent training, and we aim to keep our staff properly trained.
In October 2016 we moved to new offices in central Farnham where we have invested in sitting/standing desks for each staff member. We are a dog-friendly office and encourage daily lunch walks with our four-legged friends.
Going forward, we are looking into different options for staff benefits in sports or other activities. We have grown very quickly in the last year, and we all need good motivation to lead a healthier lifestyle – Lewis Visuals aim to be part of creating this for our team.
IoD: How have you personally engaged employees and other stakeholders in the aims and objectives of your company?
Genevieve Wells: I have personally trained all staff members to specifically suit and enhance their key strengths. All team members conduct a personality profile call DISC, using this we establish their bespoke roles to formulate individual career progression. We hold regular team meetings where we openly discuss and contribute to the development of the business. Each team member has key roles and they’re valued in the business.
IoD: Describe the systems you have in place to ensure ongoing professional development for you and your staff, and your role in this regard?
Genevieve Wells: Each technician is supported through a Premier School of Building diploma in architectural technology. I also mentor each technician to become chartered with the CIAT. We’re each expected to gain a min 35 hours per year in CPDs Continuing Professional Development. We invite suppliers to educate us on their products on a regular basis. Once a month I hold a design training workshop and a construction training workshop.
IoD: What would you individually consider to be your greatest personal, directorial achievement/s over the last two years and why?
Genevieve Wells: My greatest personal, directorial achievement/s over the last two years have been winning 7 awards, educating schools in architectural technology, expanding the business, moving the business, opening up two new offices, manage my own house extension whilst being a humble and friendly team that produces amazing architectural designs! This has only been achieved because I believe, support and nurture the team. Please see this link, it explains everything.
Iod: Please provide an example of your company’s compliance with best practice, and how you have championed this?
Genevieve Wells: Every member of staff has to be qualified in CSCS Construction Skills Certification Scheme, without photographic evidence of this we cannot enter a construction site. To retain my chartered title with the CIAT my stationary, insurance and evidence of 35 hours of CPDs are inspected annually. The CIAT have set conditions of engagement which we comply with. We understand the local planning policies to achieve an excellent (near 100%) success rate with planning applications. Before any construction work can commence there are various planning and building control conditions that we have to meet, this is the law.
IoD: Please provide examples of where you have ensured the board/senior management team is fit for purpose?
Genevieve Wells: Each team member either has a degree, diploma, chartered-ship of apprenticeship in their relevant field. Their certificates are displayed on the wall in the office for our clients to see.
Good Luck Genevieve!