In its first full year after being rescued by a management buyout, architect makes £240,000 post-profit share

HLM Architects is back in the black in its first full year since being rescued by its managers from administrative receivership.

The company has banked £240,000 from a fee turnover of £8.8m after the implementation of the firm’s profit share scheme. HLM shares its profit among every one of its 130 employees. It has a predicted a fee turnover of £9.2m next year, 90% of which has already been secured.

Chris Liddle, the chairman of HLM, said: “The profit is modest but sustainable. We’ve got some great, strong clients who have stayed with us through the transition.”

The company has also managed to clear its debt, following its problems last year. HLM had merged with its US namesake HLM Design International in 2002 but the merged company failed, so the 10 members of the UK team bought out the UK part of the business in March last year.

Liddle said the venture had fallen victim to the aftereffects of 9/11, which had made it harder to integrate the companies. He said: “I think that it was perhaps a signal to a number of people to take the foot off the accelerator. We have refocused on the things we did prior to the merger.”

The 10 involved in the buyout are now directors. It is a young directors’ team, having an age range of 33 to 54, with six under the age of 44.

HLM has recently expanded into Northern Ireland, establishing an office in Belfast seven months ago. Director Richard O’Neil said the next target was Wales, as the health estates department there was planning a Procure 21-style of framework deal. HLM is pitching for this with Interserve.

Liddle added that HLM was working with 22 other practices on various projects. He said: “The way forward is to share risk. For example, we are working on a major Sheffield Building Schools for the Future scheme with BDP.”

  • Richard Saxon, former BDP boss, has set up a design consultancy.

Consultancy for the Built Environment will advise mainly public sector clients on setting up briefs and helping to choose design teams. The Office of Government Commerce and CABE have said that such advisers are needed for clients that do not have in-house architects.