Tuesday, 20 April 2021
OPINDER LIDDAR is a director and co-founder of LAPD architects which has offices in Henley and Abingdon. Originally from Kent, he decided he wanted to become an architect when he was nine years old as a result of watching Sesame Street. He gained a degree in architecture at Liverpool University and a diploma at Plymouth University. He is married to Helen, a lecturer, and they have three teenage sons and a golden retriever called Lyra. Opinder goes running several evenings a week to keep fit.
Describe your business
We are an award-winning team of architects specialising mainly in residential property. We make clients’ dreams a reality.
How many people does it employ?
We are currently at 14.
What did you do before you started this business?
I worked as an architect in West Wycombe for almost four years and then I worked for a surveying company in Wallingford. I met Trevor Avery, my business partner, while at West Wycombe and we decided that we should set up a business of our own. We named it LAPD, derived from Liddar Avery Property Development. We opened the Henley office three years ago.
When did you start your business?
What was your objective?
Trevor and I wanted to be able to work flexibly around our family commitments and have plenty of free time. However, we have never had much free time.
Do you have a mentor or role model?
When I was working for Preston Borough Council, one of the technicians there taught me a lot by the way he dealt with clients and handled relationships with contractors. He was an excellent communicator.
What would you do differently if you could start again?
Try not to do everything ourselves. We should have hired an office manager to handle all the administration and invoicing.
What impact is the coronavirus pandemic having on your business?
We normally get about eight new enquiries a week but this dropped to one, so we had to look at our costs as we normally plan six months ahead. We furloughed three staff in April and as things began to pick up in May we brought two of them back but had to let a senior architect go. In September our level of enquiries picked up and we had a good October. This latest lockdown has seen things slow down again, however.
How is your business doing compared with last year?
We are about 15 per cent down on last year but consider ourselves lucky compared with so many other businesses.
How do you market your business?
We have a communications manager who does all our social media. We have a very good website. I’m a regular contributor to Build It magazine. We are exhibitors at several shows each year, including the Henley House and Garden Show, but most of our work comes from referrals and recommendations.
What’s the best thing about running your own business?
I enjoy it, especially the satisfaction of realising clients’ dreams. It’s great going back to clients several years later and being welcomed with open arms. Seeing our fantastic staff growing and flourishing gives me a lot of pleasure too.
What’s the most challenging aspect?
Dealing with staff is challenging in having to follow so many processes and procedures.
Where is your business headed?
It seems to have a momentum of its own.
Do you set any goals for your business?
Every six months we do a review with everybody. We look at what has gone well and what we can learn to do better. Our staff set achievable and measurable objectives and they also nominate a charity to support.
What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?
Discovering that I do know what I’m talking about!
What would you advise someone starting a business?
Delegate and ask for help in areas that you may not be good at. Work on your business, not in it.
What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?
Not sticking to what we were doing. We set up a construction company and learned a lot but it took our focus away. After three years we decided to stick with just our core business.
How organised are you?
Very. I’m structured and disciplined otherwise I would just work all the time.
How are you planning for retirement?
I don’t think I’ll ever give this up but eventually I would like to step back and have more time to do other things.
What qualities are most important to success?
Being personable and a good listener.
What’s the secret of your success?
Being adaptable, facing reality and enjoying what I do.
How do you dress for work each day?
I used to wear a collarless white shirt and waistcoat, but now it’s smart casual.
What can’t you be without every day?
Talking to people, even if it has to be on Zoom.
Lunch at your desk or going out?
Either a sandwich or if I’m walking the dog I’ll often pick something up.
Do you continue to study?
Yes, but not just architecture. I listen to audio books and podcasts.
What do you read?
I like Lee Child’s Jack Reacher novels as well as autobiographies.
30 November 2020
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