From three school mates to successful business owners in their own right, MGI partner Anthony Smith, WG Architects founder and managing director Simon Greenhalgh, and WG Architects’ outsourced practice manager, Joe Barnewall, have worked together for more than four decades.

Today, while they each operate in very different professions and with very different skill sets, it’s their ability to work together and benefit from a trusting advisor relationship that has seen WG Architects grow exponentially and push the boundaries within the architectural industry.

Director Simon Greenhalgh realised some time ago that he didn’t just want to build an architectural business.

“With the flood of multi-residential work within our industry, we realised we needed to diversify beyond architecture and add new revenue streams to our bow if we wanted to continue to accelerate our growth over the long term,” Simon said.

“Our vision is to create a business that owns a horizontal slice of services within the construction industry. We want to offer a wide range of solutions—from the more traditional architectural design services to include interior design and the introduction of a studio dedicated to the development of visual reality (VR) in the design process so that our clients can ‘step into’ our designs.”

In his pursuit of this vision Simon has always sought the advice of Anthony and the MGI team to grow the business.

WG Architects' Simon Greenhalgh and MGI's Anthony Smith at a commercial office tower designed by WG Architects

Simon Greenhalgh and Anthony Smith at a commercial office tower designed by WG Architects

Support to prepare for growth

Today, WG Architects is very different to what it was in the early days and is now part of the WG Group which includes Elise and Betty, Immerse Studios and WG Web Venture.

With so many fingers in so many pies, and now managing a multi-million dollar turnover business, it’s been important for WG Group to have a reliable accountant to work with. Luckily for Simon, this trusting relationship stretches back some 40 years.

In its humble beginnings, Anthony advised Simon on how to structure WG Architects and how to manage his personal wealth. More recently, as the business has embarked on growth, Anthony has continued to advise on what funding is required to achieve this growth and the key financial performance indicators that management needs to track and manage.

Confidence to grow through acquisition

In 2015, as part of their ongoing aggressive growth plan, WG Architects decided to acquire Melbourne interior design practice Elsie & Betty. Anthony was heavily involved in this decision.

“We needed to know the business was a healthy business and that we were paying the right price,” Simon said.

Anthony helped Simon to undertake the due diligence to prepare for this purchase. He analysed the structure of the business WG Architects was purchasing and helped Simon address a few minor issues that existed, including implementing new strategies to fast-track debt collection. He also helped WG Architects to work through what their working capital and cash flow requirements would be to proceed.

“Sometimes, as a business owner, you can see the potential but it’s comforting to know that an experienced professional who has bought and sold businesses before has looked at the books and made sure you’re going into the transaction with your eyes wide open and you’re not paying more than you should be,” Simon said.

Mitigating risk in an acquisition

Anthony was able to negotiate a structured payment for WG Architects to further mitigate the risk. This meant the sale included an agreed purchase price but, should certain growth targets be achieved during the two-year handover period, this price would increase.

“It’s a win-win situation for both businesses,” Simon said.

“For the outgoing managers, there was an incentive to work hard and ensure a successful transition at the end of the day. For WG Architects, it meant we had the confidence that we were paying a fair price that reflected the strength of the business we were acquiring. It also helped to mitigate some of the risk of an unsuccessful transition,” he said.

More recently, Joe Barnewall, another high school associate, joined the WG team as practice manager to advise on how to develop the systems, people and processes to continue to grow the business.

What does the future hold?

Simon believes there’s a lot of potential and his business can continue to push the boundaries on what you’d usually expect from an architectural company. “The great thing is we have learned a lot along the way and I have a trusted team around me who I know will give me the advice I need to take the WG Group to where I want it to be.”

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