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What’s Next For Agilité In 2020?

It’s been quite a year for Agilité, during which time the team has enjoyed ongoing expansion, delivered its largest projects yet, and welcomed new faces into the business. 2019 hasn’t been without its challenges of course, but here, in this straight-talking end of year interview, managing director and founder Neil Coales shares some of his highlights from the past 12 months, before looking ahead to what 2020 holds in store…

What was your main objective for Agilité at the start of 2019?

It was a goal we agreed as a team, and the aspiration was always extremely clear – grow the business, intelligently, while maintaining the excellence of delivery that we set out to achieve when we established Agilité in early 2018.

It sounds so simple, but sustaining company values during a period of rapid expansion can be quite difficult. As organisations take on more work – and people – at pace, there’s naturally the risk that quality standards can slip.

Yet we hadn’t worked so hard on our proposition – to help clients enter, expand or relocate throughout Europe, cost-effectively and with the support of our experienced, personable team – to suddenly throw all of that away.

So, when the year began, our overall objective was made up of sub-plans, including: increasing our footprint across the continent, developing strategic partnerships in new locations such as Germany and Scandinavia; develop existing relationships to boost our retention rates; widen our reach to work with new clients; further our design and build offering, both internally and with the support of our network; and lay the strategic foundations for a prosperous 2020 with – last but not least – our own office in central Paris.

And have you met or exceeded your expectations?

“We aren’t behind on any of our goals – in fact in some respects we’ve outperformed where we hoped we’d be at the end of the year.”

  • We’ve grown from three people to twenty, which is in line with our business plan, but the calibre of talent we’ve brought into the company is something I’m particularly proud of.
  • The percentage of repeat business we’ve secured (60%) is far higher than we could have hoped for at this stage, which I believe evidences the strength of our marketplace offering.
  • We’ve expanded into wider Europe ahead of schedule, with a particularly fast-growing presence in the UK and our new Italian operation launched this month.
  • We’ve been fortunate enough to work with some high-profile, global brands including Nike, LVMH and Booking.com to name just a few. Not only have we enjoyed showcasing our expertise on these projects, but our involvement is also a fantastic achievement for a business which isn’t even two years old. It evidences the fact that we are now considered a serious player – one of the main general contractors in fact – in corporate office fit outs, especially in France. What’s even more exciting is that the strength of our pipeline shows that these schemes aren’t one-offs.

Agilite_Office

What has been your biggest challenge, as a team?

This is wholly resource related.

In terms of the people we recruit to join our internal team, we are looking for the very best, experienced and multilingual talent, as well as individuals who share our values and commitment to client excellence. This means the candidate pool, at times, can be limited.

We look for the equivalent qualities in members of our supply chain too, because we’re trying to establish a network of strategic partners who are a genuine extension of our team, not sub-contractors. Again, this can make it difficult, as not everyone shares the same ‘right first time’ mentality. But it matters.

Aside from this, the only other real challenges have centred around the administrative intensity that comes with working in different countries and adhering to their varying standards, procedures and paperwork requirements. We need a number of appropriate registrations to ensure compliant, seamless deliveries, time after time, which requires a vast amount of effort, but are crucial to our business operations.

And have there been any unexpected – yet welcome – surprises along the way?

This may sound like an odd statement to make as I’m obviously very confident in the ability of our team, but I have been pleasantly surprised by the quality of work we’ve achieved – more specifically, the number of projects we’ve delivered with minimal snags.

Throughout my career this has been notoriously difficult when the efforts of a multifaceted supply chain come together. And don’t get me wrong there is still room for improvement. However, we’ve delivered some very sizeable projects, often within strict contractual timeframes and budgetary stipulations, with minimal issues at the time of handover. I’m very proud of this, and I believe the client testimonials we’ve gathered along the way, will stand us in good stead when new customers seek references in 2020 and beyond.

Looking back on the work you’ve carried out this year, which has been your favourite project?

Probably Booking.com, due to the size of the project and the standard of delivery, however, our work with LVMH is also a personal favourite. This equally prestigious – yet very different – scheme came out of the blue and is a testament to the presence we now have in France. It has put us in a great position to hopefully complete further work for the LVMH foundation and, philanthropically, it felt extremely rewarding to play a part in the creation of their new high profile educational institution, supported by first lady Brigitte Macron.

Any notable trends or recurring requests from clients?

This is a very busy environment so the days of clients dictating everything, have gone. Of course, parameters are still common with every project, in terms of pricing, programmes, timescales and contracts. And we naturally want to do what we can to satisfy the objectives that are given to us when we’re appointed. But the economics of supply and demand mean that there has been a shift towards working in true strategic partnership, rather than cost-constraints determining how everything must unfold.

Like-minded, best-in-class partners are now collaborating so much more, and there has been a rise in turnkey design and build contracts as a result. This has been the single biggest shift in the market over the past ten years and I don’t see this trend changing any time soon, certainly for projects up to €1m in value.

And is there a sector or location where people can expect to see more of you in 2020, and beyond?

Italy, following the appointment of Maria Luisa Daglia who is heading up that division. Momentum is also building in the UK and I expect to see us undertaking more work in Germany, Spain and Scandinavia too.

“In terms of the services we offer, we know our strengths lie in the corporate office and retail sectors, and we’ve demonstrated some significant success in the world of hospitality too. So it will be more of the same in the coming 12 months.”

Looking back on the work you’ve carried out this year, which has been your favourite project?

Probably Booking.com, due to the size of the project and the standard of delivery, however, our work with LVMH is also a personal favourite. This equally prestigious – yet very different – scheme came out of the blue and is a testament to the presence we now have in France. It has put us in a great position to hopefully complete further work for the LVMH foundation and, philanthropically, it felt extremely rewarding to play a part in the creation of their new high profile educational institution, supported by first lady Brigitte Macron.

BookingdotCom_

Any notable trends or recurring requests from clients?

This is a very busy environment so the days of clients dictating everything, have gone. Of course, parameters are still common with every project, in terms of pricing, programmes, timescales and contracts. And we naturally want to do what we can to satisfy the objectives that are given to us when we’re appointed. But the economics of supply and demand mean that there has been a shift towards working in true strategic partnership, rather than cost-constraints determining how everything must unfold.

Like-minded, best-in-class partners are now collaborating so much more, and there has been a rise in turnkey design and build contracts as a result. This has been the single biggest shift in the market over the past ten years and I don’t see this trend changing any time soon, certainly for projects up to €1m in value.

And is there a sector or location where people can expect to see more of you in 2020, and beyond?

Italy, following the appointment of Maria Luisa Daglia who is heading up that division. Momentum is also building in the UK and I expect to see us undertaking more work in Germany, Spain and Scandinavia too.

In terms of the services we offer, we know our strengths lie in the corporate office and retail sectors, and we’ve demonstrated some significant success in the world of hospitality too. So it will be more of the same in the coming 12 months.

If you could sum up 2019 in one word, which would you choose?

Energising

And your proudest moment?

Gathering the entire team in London at the start of autumn for a series of business planning workshops, which genuinely gave everyone the opportunity to collaborate and create our future vision. The level of engagement and passion around the table was extremely evident.

What does 2020 hold in store for the business?

We’ve been working hard to achieve a hat-trick of quality accreditations, so I’m hoping the effort will pay off in the spring when we officially put ourselves forward.

We want to further our sustainable expansion plans too, in line with the considered growth approach I outlined at the very beginning, and we’ll be looking to develop our geographical presence further afield, via strategic partnerships in the USA and Asia.

“As 2019 draws to a close we wish all clients, colleagues, partners and friends of Agilité a wonderful festive break and a happy, healthy New Year. We hope you can also reflect on a fantastic 12 months and look forward to an exciting 2020.”

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