SME focus — Maverick boss’ methods boost turnover from £400,000 to £1.8m in four years

Trevor Morriss, partner at SPPARC Architecture, has never gone about things the conventional way.

His unorthodox methods were put into play when he won the high-profile commission to create one of Mayfair’s biggest single floorplates – a major refurbishment job on Berkeley Square, for which SPPARC has recently received planning permission.

“I was walking past it one day and thought to myself – they could do with my help,” Morriss explains. “I approached the owner, told him my plans and he thought it was a great idea. We went on from there.”

This type of tactic is typical of Morriss, who, aged 30, hijacked dwindling architect firm Stanley Peach & Partners and, in the space of four years, turned it into a budding commercial practice.

Turnover in 2002, when he joined as a partner, was just £400,000. By 2005, it was £1.8m, with a pre-tax profit of £350,000.

SPPARC is also set to hit the headlines when it receives planning permission later this month for a six-star hotel redevelopment in Belgravia. The £14m scheme, at 20 Chesham Place, is next to Norman Foster’s luxurious development for property’s rising stars, the Candy Brothers, and is certain to establish SPPARC in the luxury building market.

SPP, as it had been known for 112 years before Morriss joined, focused on public sector work, particularly prisons. It had three partners, four members of staff and an average age in the mid-50s.

Since Morriss joined, it has undergone a period of aggressive change. Rebranded as SPPARC Architecture, the practice now has a team of 32, a completely refurbished office and a five-year business plan, and it works in sectors alien to the old firm, including commercial new build and refurbishment, retail and high-end residential.

Recent projects include interiors work at Bank Of Scotland, and private residential units for the University of Cambridge on Harley Street, London.

SPP was a steadyfirm with a goodreputation but itwas perceived to be tired

Trevor Morriss

Two partners remain from the SPP days. They sit on the floor below SPPARC and, with a team of seven, continue with government work. Although the accounts are filed under one name – SPP – the set-up is, in effect, two disparate companies.

“I wanted to invent a new brand,” Morriss says. “SPP was a steady firm with a good reputation, but was seen as tired. It needed a succession plan and I needed a platform to take me on to the next level. This was a mutually beneficial platform.”

Morriss’ five-year business plan was predominantly accomplished in the first two years, he says. His main aims – establishing the practice (in commercial, retail, residential and high-end fit-out sectors), acquiring a wider client base, and building a central London landmark building – are soon to be fully realised.

“My aim is not about growth,” Morriss says. “The business plan is based on high-quality architecture for the top end.”

Morriss could soon get the landmark he craves. SPPARC is battling for planning permission from Westminster council for a mixed-use development in Victoria, a striking design known in the office as “Bubble Boy”. Its distinctive facade, made out of the same material as the Eden Centre, will change colour according to interior lighting.

Morriss says the future for SPPARC will revolve around reinforcing its status in familiar markets and establishing itself in new sectors, chiefly retail interiors, leisure buildings, bars, even a religious building. “I think we can create a spiritual space,” Morriss asserts. “I’ve tried talking about it to the commercial guys, but for some reason they don’t seem that interested.”

The firm has no plans to swell its ranks but when the lease commitments on the office in Westminster come up, Morriss wants to relocate nearer its new client base in London W1.

Morriss is confident that the future is bright for SPPARC. “We’re just starting to fulfil our potential,” he says. “A business plan for the next generation of this practice is on its way.”