An Interview with Hayden Brodie, Director and Head of Technical for Studio DB

One of the four directors, Hayden graduated in accounting before joining the family business a few years back. He now heads the technical team as well as looking after the general management of the company. His mantra? Ensuring all projects are delivered on time, on budget and with a happy client.
29 Jun
Studio DB
Q and A

Tell us about your role in Studio DB.

I think of the Technical Team’s function as getting the strategy and design to achieve the client’s budget whilst delivering on the design brief. Part of it is really looking to understand the workplace strategy and objectives of the business whilst leveraging the technical expertise of the team to inform the design phase. This integrated approach ensures we can take into account all aspects of the project early on and work through all the moving parts with maximum efficiency. For example, it is obviously very important to identify key milestones during the pre-construction phase before the team gets on-site.  

The industry in New Zealand has a reputation for charging variations to contract which is something we simply do not do. We understand how important it is for our clients to be able to rely on the budgets we communicate to be an accurate reflection of what the final project cost is going to be. We put a lot of effort and care into ensuring they can do that at every point of the design process with our progressive budgeting methodology. Part of the role is to ensure the contract, terms of the contractor, agreement, negotiation, tendering, and to prepare a nice and tidy project delivery. I attend most of our project PCGs to keep in close touch with what is happening day to day.

You mentioned a few keywords like PCG, Progressive Budgeting, and Program. How does Studio DB differentiate from its competitors to ensure its projects are delivered on time and on budget?

Firstly, I think for timing you have to see if their program is realistic and achievable. Having a Technical Consultant on a project is not just looking at the design, but also focusing on timing milestones that really helps driving pace of the project versus only focusing on design, which can easily lead to missing deadlines or not anticipating delays enough in advance.

The budget is an interesting thing, obviously arriving at a lump sum contract we show our clients we assume the risk and at that point. We have no variations, and we don’t even use that term in the team because essentially if we do everything in pure diligence in the design phase, there is no need for variations on a project. Ultimately, if the design phase is done well, then we achieve project completion without variations on site.

Obviously, it is the team structure that you have in place and the healthy tensions between the various disciplines that drives the project delivery quality. Why do you think there are no better management to do that?

To cut the question, I don’t really know a platform that takes a lot of effort to build that into a team in finding the skill set. It is really the process of making sure that all the different kinds of discipline are working together to achieve the end result.

What is the value of the Traditional Approach compared to DB Approach?

One key thing is agility and having the ability to pivot and react quickly with all the disciplines under the same roof. Having control of the process from initial strategy right through to on-site delivers significant savings in time, resources, and ultimately money. You have the ability to boost speed, not to reduce the quality but only the process where you’re having a lot of conversations internally rather than putting it in a narrow file and sending it to the architect which could take two weeks to review. Especially on-site where one discipline being late can delay the entire project, that is a massive piece. Also, the reduced need for consultants where there is less 3rd party involvement required.

Considering New Zealand ranks in the top 5 most expansive countries in the world when it comes to fit outs and looking at the inflationary context that we have now, what advice can you give to businesses looking to upgrade their workspace?

I think being proactive on lease end dates is critical to ensure you have sufficient time to plan and execute all facets of the project. Interior costs are increasing so the quicker we engage, the faster we are able to lock prices in for projects in the future. A project is holistic for a company so instead of looking more at the cost that is expensive, you should focus more on the part on how to increase your workforce productivity by 5-10%. That has an incredible differentiation in the bottom line and in operational performance.

Studio DB has seen tremendous growth in the last 5 years but has been operating since 1966 which is quite remarkable from a business perspective. Is there anything you want to say to business owners in New Zealand?

I am a passionate believer that everything starts at the top of an organization. With a strong purpose along with having a solid vision, mission, and values that you live by and breath from top to bottom everyday a company can achieve anything. From a partnership scenario, it is important for Studio DB to partner with clients that share the same type of values and are aligned to the project objectives. I also think that when considering a partnership in a workspace, it is important to evaluate the actual fit for pairing to ensure the outcome of a project’s success.

It is all about aligning and being clear on what the objectives are, and then executing with discipline and rigor until the job is done.

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