Designing Resiliency from the Ground Up
Sometimes you need a professional team to help create an exceptional blueprint for your future success. Cover Architectural Collaborative Inc., a Western Canadian firm based in Nelson, BC, is no stranger to blueprints; however, they recently benefited from plans drawn up by different experts.
In 2019, their multidisciplinary team had just purchased and renovated a building in Nelson when, shortly after move-in, an industry boom presented exciting opportunities. While the three partners who head the firm—Lukas Armstrong, Graeme Leadbeater, and Rob Stacey—were seasoned professionals when it came to architecture, planning, and landscape, interior and industrial design, they sometimes found business development demands challenging. Poised for rapid growth, the well-established firm made the strategic decision to participate in Columbia Basin Trust’s Basin RevUp, an advanced accelerator program designed for growth-stage Basin companies.
When they entered the program in April 2020, Cover Architectural had 11 employees; after completing it in January 2021, they’d more than doubled their employee count as well as their revenue. Two business coaches assisted them in proactively and collaboratively creating a customized growth plan that focussed on effective project accounting, financial management, and corporate and partnership strategy.
“Working with RevUp gave us a glimpse through the window, so to speak, at what was possible,” says Armstrong. “They helped us create a roadmap to help us understand what we needed to focus on to develop a vision of where we wanted to go, and how to get there.”
Handling rapid growth is no easy task. But the firm was ready to match their internal operations and growth development to their architectural skills to form a structure that would allow their reputation to reach new heights. While the firm prides itself on servicing a broad spectrum of clients, from health authorities to private developers, their clientele is undoubtedly drawn to their application of the Energy Step Code and Passive House strategies.
Energy efficiency is a quality that Cover Architectural values, as evidenced by Armstrong’s own certified passive house to their work designing the world’s first certified passive car dealership—Subaru in Red Deer, AB. All three partners’ dedication to reducing environmental impact is demonstrated in the firm’s portfolio, which also includes Canada’s first certified passive mass timber building for the Castlegar Chamber of Commerce, currently underway in collaboration with Kalesnikoff Mass Timber.
“Architects are trained to be good designers and project organizers, but we’re not trained as business owners; we could see that as we were growing, there was a risk that we were going to outgrow our ability to manage the business,” says Leadbeater. “The RevUp program offered an opportunity to get training in sophisticated project delivery and organizational systems as owners; it proved to be extremely valuable.”
The program, one of many Trust endeavours designed to promote economic wellbeing in the region, guided the partners through reviewing and developing key performance indicators and other success metrics. The coaches also assisted with evaluating and prioritizing processes and helped the partners make improvements to support project profitability tracking and budgeting.
Identifying Opportunities and Implementing an Action Plan
When COVID-19 shook all industries in March 2020, Cover Architectural braced for an unstable environment. But with guidance from the Basin RevUp business coaches, the firm proactively became the company they needed to be to emerge from the pandemic as strong as possible. The new systems they’ve laid out in project forecasting and monitoring have brought ease and clarity to both day-to-day operations and future plans.
Dialing into their budget and growth strategy helped them anticipate pivotal moves and identify needs such as human resource planning. Stacey and his partners hired more staff and learned to further delegate so they could focus on the bigger picture. Defining a partnership structure and clarifying organizational charts and job descriptions has proven crucial in smoothly onboarding new partners. A growth-oriented SWOT analysis and refresh of their corporate vision were two more of many integral steps.
“There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that we are doing as well as we are because of the RevUp experience,” explains Stacey. “It was invaluable; otherwise, we maybe wouldn’t have been able to identify the opportunities as readily or know which ones to pursue. And the business could have imploded if we had been trying to manage growth on our own and without the insights we gained from RevUp. Our current stability is the result we were looking for.”
Firm Partners Reflect, Plan for Future Success
Engaging in the Basin RevUp program has strengthened the firm partners as leaders by giving them the tools to make the right moves, better awareness of their potential, and the confidence to lean into it. Already well-respected industry leaders, Cover Architectural is now poised to design and construct its own evolution.
As they continue to plan for their future, the firm’s partners credit the program as the initial step in forming a mindset that’s part of a much larger process. They’ll keep reviewing, revising and improving their internal operations, with full intentions to participate in RevUp again once they achieve all goals set in their first round.
“I’d love to tell you that everything has gotten easier, but the reality is the workload continues to increase,” Armstrong admits. “The conversation we’re having now is: how do we manage growth in a way that we end up with the company that we want rather than the company that we get? RevUp has given us the ability to have these conversations, reflect on what’s currently happening, and generate ideas on how to manage the change and proactively identify where we’d like to go next.”
Basin RevUp is a six-month business accelerator program that supports companies that are poised for growth with customized support, training and networking. It does so by connecting owners with an experienced team of coaches who create tailored, actionable plans designed to address their individual business challenges and achieve their growth potential.