Business development

We support creative businesses working across the built environment as they plan for the future. We help our clients define their business aspirations and develop the skills required to achieve organisational success.

We advise on practice structures and often sit alongside business leaders as a 'critical friend' advising Boards and mentoring individuals.

Creating a manifesto, planning a business strategy:

There is much more purpose to running a creative business than simply making money.  

We work from first principles to help our clients define their aspirations and then create short and long-term business strategies that help them achieve professional as well as business success : whether they are starting a new practice, or renewing enthusiasm in one that is well established.

No two practices need the exact same attention, so our service is always flexible. Sometimes we only get involved for a few hours, offering strategic advice but, more often, we undertake short bursts of activity to help establish and embed a plan over a number of months.

We have helped the leaders of more than 100 architectural, engineering and design firms plan how to achieve their long-term business aims. We’ve worked with many of the largest, lots of the medium sized and some of the smallest practices in the land.

STEP 1: Gathering information

There are three areas where Colander can help: 


Talk with key people in the organisation, to articulate each person's aspirations so that a strong consensus can be reached


Talk to clients, consultants and others in the industry, to understand external perceptions


Review financial, marketing and business management data to understand critical issues

STEP 2: Agreeing aspirations

Having undertaken practice reviews, we very often get involved in running and facilitating away days or workshops for our clients, so they can consider the evidence and articulate how this might influence their thinking about the future of their organisations.

We have an enviable reputation for helping Partners and Directors establish consensus and enthusiasm for a shared practice manifesto that addresses the fundamentals of both professional and business success. 

STEP 3: Creating a strategic plan

Once you know why you are in business, where you currently sit in the market place and what you hope to achieve, then it is comparatively simple to put together a plan that explains how your aspirations might be met.  

We work with Partners and Directors, design teams and support teams to ensure that actions are aligned and then implemented across the business.

“Colander has helped us to focus on strategic decisions in a way we would struggle to do in the midst of all the normal pressures of running a practice. Caroline is an excellent communicator, very perceptive, and fun to work with.”

— Phil Hudson, Partner, Price & Myers Consulting Engineers

Implementing the strategy:

A sympathetic and responsive management structure is needed to develop or retain a creative culture.  

Having defined aspirations and established a plan, the next step is to create the right business model to enable success, drawing on management and support frameworks that are light-touch but effective.

Management structures

We advise on:

•  Management hierarchies and teams structures
•  Skills and behavioural requirements
•  Job descriptions
•  Job titles
•  Support teams
•  Remuneration and rewards
•  Appraisals for senior people

Succession planning

We help our clients define and measure the roles and responsibilities that are needed at senior level and then nurture the skills, behaviours and expertise that individuals in those roles need to acquire. 

We do this through consultancy advice, as well as through tailored and targeted training or coaching.

Legal structures

We often work alongside tax and legal experts to help our clients find the right ownership structure to enable a smooth transition of power, that allows senior individuals to feel rewarded while ensuring that the business can continue to flourish and grow.

“Caroline’s years of experience of working with Architects gives her a vital insight into their strengths and weaknesses, allowing her to offer cogent and constructive advice across many areas of architectural practice.”

— Paul Monaghan, AHMM

Board level advice :

Because our founder Caroline Cole has many years’ experience working across the built environment – both on the supply and the demand side of the industry – she now acts as a board advisor to selected design focused practices.

In this role she helps overlay a more business-like but still innovative approach to management and operations, without destroying a practice’s ethos or ability to create exceptional architecture. She attends board meetings and helps practice leaders develop robust yet inspiring business strategies, while evaluating the day-to-day in the context of longer-term aspirations and the prevailing market conditions.

Business health checks :

Drawing on our knowledge of benchmarking the profession, and on Michael Holmes’s extraordinary experience of growing one of the UK’s most successful architectural firms, we offer practices a health-check on their business operations.

We help practices review and analyse the strengths and weaknesses of their underlying business trends. To be useful, this analysis needs, of course, to address financial trends but it is remarkable how important marketing activities, client types, project types, staff numbers and skills, R&D activities and so on are to the bottom line and, perhaps more importantly to the satisfaction of those working in the practice.

So, while we consider where profit is ‘leaking’ it is our aim to suggest ways to tighten procedures without undermining the fundamental purpose of most practices: to create great architecture.

Colander has been benchmarking the architectural profession since 2001, most recently running the RIBA’s Business Management benchmarking survey of all Chartered Practices from its inception through to 2014. This has given us unparalleled insight into what does and doesn’t make architectural business work, as well as giving us access to data that has enabled us to establish a series of universal best practice benchmarks for the profession.  

Our Colander Conversation: Knowledge is Power addresses many of the key issues relating to benchmarking an architectural practice.