Meet Jonathan Dawes, Head of SME division

10 August 2020. Features.

Jonathan Dawes joined Peldon Rose in 2012 to head up a team dedicated to design and build for small to medium enterprises. We caught up with ‘JD’ to find out his passions and key drivers for getting under the skin of our unique client portfolio.

Tell us about your career journey?

I started working in the design and build industry 17 years ago arriving in the UK from Zimbabwe. Coming from a construction background, I immediately fell in love with design and build. What attracted me to the industry was the emphasis on the whole project life cycle – developing the initial design brief into a rich cultural reflection of a company’s values and beliefs, seeing simple sketches transform into a detailed package of works, and then watching an empty Cat A space metamorphize into an destination office space within weeks.
Outside of work my passions are travel and photography. During the 2009/2010 economic downturn my wife and I made the decision to take a year out and travel through Asia. After 13 months of backpacking and 24/7 travel photography, I found myself back in the UK. I met Peldon Rose CEO JP for a coffee, and the rest as they say, is history.

When did you join Peldon Rose, and why?

I joined Peldon Rose in May 2011 and was attracted by the personality of the company and the strong value system that was inherent to everyone that I met during the interview process. There was a clear sense of family, responsibility, and accountability towards each other. During the interview process it was clear that trust, honesty, and transparency were more than just buzz words to the leadership team – they were values they held close. It was a natural fit for me.

What do enjoy most about your role?

I love the variety of what I do. Any role within the SME team involves an exciting mix of both conceptual and technical skills; there is a lot mental agility required. The role is immensely rewarding – it’s a blend of workplace psychology, project management and pre-construction expertise. No two weeks are the same.
I consider myself very lucky - I head the team up and my biggest reward is working with nine of my best mates. We love what we do, and we love working with each other – and that makes a huge difference to your working day. During the last few years, I have seen how much people have developed and grown in their careers – and none more so than the University Interns Peldon Rose has employed. I feel privileged to have been part of their journey.

What are the intricacies of SME design and build?

We have spoken about the cradle to grave approach that our team adopts on our projects, but not the why – and for me that’s the magical part.
Firstly, we view our clients as partners who we can collaborate with, and we build a team around them to really get beneath the skin of the project. We streamline each project team to two key individuals, so that our partners have consistent points of contact throughout the project life cycle, from beginning to end. This simplifies the process and builds great client relationships.
Our project directors undertake all elements of the pre-construction phase, and then adopt a hands-on approach to the project management of the works on site. Similarly, our designers will develop their concept drawings into a full construction package that provides our site managers and teams with the detail that they need to deliver the project.
On site, I’m glad to say that I work with some of the most professional and dedicated construction managers that I have ever worked with. We regularly host peer-to-peer reviews of each other's sites, looking for areas where we can learn and develop. We all adopt an inquiring mindset that ensures that we are improving all the time.
One development we have seen is several international clients setting up their first London HQ. Over the last year we have worked with several US based clients, an Australian pension fund and European organisations that have decided to move out of serviced offices into their own HQ space in the City of London. Again, it comes back the variety of what we do – it’s deeply rewarding and culturally diverse.

How has Covid-19 impacted SME’s?

There is no denying that the SME market is changing. During the Covid-19 period many clients are weighing up the importance and expense of an office, balanced against their experience of working from home. There’s a bit of reticence and lack of commitment when clients are discussing their property strategy at present but given the huge changes, we’ve all lived through over the last few months, this is hardly surprising.
I, however, am a big believer in the office! Clients want to have their own space and the opportunity to reflect their brand and personality to their employees and clients. Teams require engaging spaces to collaborate in, the opportunity for watercooler moments and the sense of energy that we all get from being around others.
Having worked with several organisations over the years, I have seen firsthand how a successful office can transform a businesses culture and sense of purpose - I strongly believe the SME market will bounce back in the near future.

What does the future look like for SME’s?

SME’s have a huge challenge ahead of them – the last four months have seen businesses spending cash with very little revenue coming in - testing their resilience to the max. I believe we will see an increase in fit out projects and furniture being leased by clients. This will allow clients to make structured payments over a few years, taking the strain off of their available capital. The positive news; there are options for SME’s and we are happy to explore these options with prospective clients.
We will also see many companies out there considering ready-to-work schemes, whereby the landlord offers a pre-fitted out space on a shorter lease period, some will no doubt consider a serviced model for the short term.
And finally, there will be the phoenixes from the fire who decide to move away from a serviced model and create their own bespoke home. Our job as designers will be to create collaborative offices that people are drawn to, spaces that are engaging, fun to be in and which attract and retain the very best talent in the market. From our perspective we have an exciting role – we build spaces that people love.

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