JHP Design is 30 years old and is fortunate enough to have collected a number of awards over the years. When you ask people about awards, they recall the ceremonies and the handing out of the silverware, but would be hard pushed to remember the whole evening. Designers love to celebrate.
Our trophies vary from business effectiveness and best store interior prizes to awards for visual merchandising and best department store, and winning them has been a fulfilling experience. To be recognised by your peers is great for the consultancy in so many ways.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Overseas is, however, on another level, with completely different evaluation criteria. It involves contributions from the Queen, the Prime Minister and an advisory committee assembled from Government officials. There is a lot of protocol, but it is worth it. Winning it has enabled us to become an international ambassador for trade – we have even been given the right to bear the Queen’s emblem.
When we sit down to enter awards the same questions come up: How long will it take? What is in it for us? Will anybody recognise its importance? As with any process, time is a key factor, but the real question is if it will keep us ahead of the competition.
The Queen’s Award for Enterprise Overseas is really a recognition for how we have evolved the business model at JHP, with a strategic plan designed to safeguard the consultancy’s future. During these difficult times, it is hard to imagine our old model.
We had almost an entire portfolio of UK clients, with the odd international project such as a New Look store for Tom Singh in Cherbourg, France. Over the past three years, though, we have carried out projects in numerous countries worldwide, in cities from Cherbourg to Mumbai in India. Distance has never been an issue.
So how do you get there? People will say that there is a right way and a wrong way to approach new markets. We recall a conversation with [architect and masterplanner] Eric Khune, who presented us with an award for Farlows on Pall Mall. His advice, over lunch, was caution. ‘Never be first in, it may not necessarily be the best move,’ he said.
For a start, it’s really expensive [to work overseas]. You have to commit to the investment before you see any return. Your new clients are new in many ways. Understanding each other’s culture is vital to a healthy relationship. A gesture that we in the UK may think is fairly harmless could have far darker implications if you have not done your homework, and vice versa.
You have to get the PR, international office collaboration, talks and conferences organised. These are essential ways of communicating your skills and achievements. The real thing to understand, though, is that it does not matter what country you are entering, design is what we do and it is most definitely a people-to-people business.
Respect for the market you are entering is key,but always remember that you are the expert who has been invited in, and enjoy the feeling – it’s a special one. We are always amazed, when the distances are so far, what common ground we share in the world of commercial design – a brand with a product targeted to a particular consumer and the recognition that if all come together the retail proposition will be a success. It’s the same the world over.
At JHP we share the desire to keep innovating and to understand that there is no house style. Each project in each country has a bespoke solution. We are never afraid to take on the unusual, anywhere, even if it does not tick all the boxes – our process enables our clients to sell more and improve the quality of their customers’ lives.
Increased sales figures have no international boundaries – they speak for themselves, and with success the word gets out and soon your international accounts start to grow.
There is no doubt that winning awards opens doors, but to be honest, with international communication as fast as it is these days, we all have the opportunity for worldwide exposure.
I hope the awards keep coming, but this one is very special. It makes everyone proud to be part of the success and has acted as a natural motivator to us all.
Success and recognition have come our way, but only through the conviction to go out of our comfort zone, with a sense of pioneering spirit and the desire to go anywhere.
- Plan for the investment
- Don’t be afraid to go out of your comfort zone
- Know your culture
- Remember you’re an expert
- Embrace technology
Raj Wilkinson is joint managingdirector at JHP Design