Hyphen navigates the global stage at WA100 Live

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Eddie Miles, CEO at Hyphen, took part in the inaugural World Architecture 100 Live, an insightful all-day event exploring the realities of working in the global arena.

Following Hyphen’s inclusion in Building Design’s prestigious WA100 list of the world’s largest architectural practices, Eddie was invited as an expert panellist for ‘Navigating the global stage’. Eddie was joined by Chair Jordan Marshall and Partner at Price and Bailey, Chand Chudasama, for an engaging discussion of best practice for operating a global architecture business.

After a brief introduction on Hyphen and its international locations, Eddie offered some of his top tips for aspiring global players. This included following clients, which Eddie described as the safest way to navigate the global stage, to start small and to be patient in building a global network – it takes time.

Think global, act local

A key take home message was Eddie’s advice to ‘think global but act local’. Eddie says, “We’ve always grown organically, built new offices around local office heads, around their knowledge and expertise. It is really important to get good local partners and expertise. Think global but act local, which is very much Hyphen’s ethos.”

Our diverse international team offers multiple perspectives and cultures and this is a vital part of life at Hyphen. Eddie says, “The most exciting thing about being the CEO of a company with multiple offices in multiple countries is that I see and hear new ideas. No one country has a monopoly on the best way to do things. That cultural aspect is a really strong hidden value.”

These themes continued in the discussion part of the webinar, where Eddie reinforced the value of local perspectives. “Keep your ears open to what the locals are telling you”, Eddie says. “You can’t take the UK method of pricing and take it to another country and expect them to understand your method or how you have arrived at a bid. A complete bid is different depending on country and the architects offer is never like-for-like.

“What we discovered in Germany, for example, is that the architect has a much greater role in cost and programme management. That is one of the things we have brought back to the UK, which has given us a stronger offering than many other UK architects.

“It’s absolutely vital to be involved in an international business, to experience that culture, different ways of working and the wider perspective is really important in recruiting and retaining quality staff.”

Latin America

When asked about our growth in Latin America, Eddie says, “It was something that grew out of our Spanish office. When we started to work in Latin America there was less competition. We chose Santiago in Chile because the country has a legal system that is very recognisable to Europeans. We felt comfortable there, we felt secure there.

“What we discovered when we started working in Chile was that we can draw on an absolutely brilliant talent pool. We currently operate two streams, one supports the local market and the other as a backup for our European offices. We found that clients see the value of using us in other countries [across Latin America], including as far north as Mexico.

“We would like to replicate what we have in Europe across the entire region of Latin America.”

Ireland and Brexit

This then led on to conversation about one of our other fastest growing offices, in Ireland, which was launched in response to Brexit, as a gateway between the UK and the EU. Ireland is significant as the largest English-speaking country in the EU, which makes it very attractive as a European base of operations for leading brands from North America.

It’s about the people

Eddie ended the discussion with what inspires him most, “It’s always about the people. You strip away the assets of an architectural practice and it is the people that count. It’s about finding the right people, spending the right amount of time to develop those relationships, to understand what you can offer them and they can offer you, to reinforce that international culture.

“It is absolutely life affirming to go out [and open international offices] and succeed outside of your own country. It is so much fun, satisfying and you meet some great people out there.”

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