Incorp brings 30 years of design and development experience to one of the most dynamic markets in the world – ours!
Adam Guli has been in the world of workplace transformation for over sixteen years–12 of which were spent operating out of Asia. His experience in managing and overseeing complex projects in Asia, the Middle East and Latin America fueled his passion for wanting to better understand and impact change within organizational design and development. This led him to Incorp, where he met Perry Grey, the founder and CEO of Incorp who shared the same desire for a better way to help companies evolve.
Guli is bringing that drive to the Bay Area, when he is leading the company’s North American efforts across its two beachhead markets, San Francisco and Seattle.
Who is Incorp, and how have you come to operate in the United States?
Incorp North America has been built in response to a lack of experience and misaligned agendas currently driving the industry today. Seeing that there was a need for a higher level of quality-focused and strategically driven services tailored to organizations’ individual needs, sparked the foundation of Incorp NA.
What happens in many cases, is that the goals and expected outcomes from HQ are lost as they are passed through many different hands.
Incorp is an Australian based company with 30 years’ experience in traditional services such as tenant advisory, design and construction, project and construction management and facility management.
However, the North American model breaks from this traditional set of services to focus on the gaps that lie between each discipline and stitches them together so there is a more seamless delivery that matches the goals and needs of each organization.
What this means is that we have assembled only a highly experienced team that leverages years of collective knowledge and understanding of how process and execution are supposed to work to better support our partners’ organizational growth.
Better understanding the drive to evolve an organization’s design, drives us to develop “performance-based criteria” that we drive through the entire delivery process. We understand the complexity of culture (people), design (place), and the digital and static enablers (tools) required to help with the transition and we stay aligned to validate and improve processes continuously.
Where are you active in the United States, and how did you select those markets as your first beacheads in this country?
We are in San Francisco and Seattle. However, given our unique business model and experience on global execution, in the past year we have supported our partners and oversaw projects in San Francisco, Boston, Vancouver, Tokyo, Beijing and Bangalore.
With a fever for growth, cultural diversity and a hunger to compete driving organizations on the West Coast, we felt that our highly specialized services would appeal to the complexity within companies trying to stand above others in supporting their people to succeed.
You personally have experience in working with organizations in Asia, and Incorp has been an active player in Asia and Oceania the past. How does that experience translate to work that you would like to do in the United States?
We live and work in a global environment. Organizations whose headquarters are in the US, have to manage their business growth across all geographies. Understanding the complexities of other cultures and delivering consistency across the globe is essential to be able to truly support the companies we work with. Shockingly, there is a large gap of knowledge in the US on the rest of the world and how it works.
This is not to say there are not a lot of highly talented and experienced people here to support international growth, but it is fragmented and spread thinly across many different entities. For large organizations dealing with growth, their teams tend not to have a large enough bandwidth to manage everything. Or, the business is broken up geographically with conflicting internal agendas fragmenting true global alignment.
Often, these large companies rely on third party service providers to add bandwidth and support around the world. In theory, this makes sense as some of these entities have many people across the globe. The issue is, when selling the international reach and capability line, the “A” team will be flown in to discuss globally delivery, yet when it is time to implement, many of the experts are pulled away, and the delivery is handed over to teams with far less experience and little understanding of the true business goals and needs. For us, we see this as disingenuous and actually causes multiple pain points throughout the delivery process as there is a lack of accountability and direction being applied.
What are some of the most important lessons that you’ve learned in that market that you think could be taught in this one?
Asia is comprised of so many unique and highly different cultural nuances. Being able to navigate these differences while providing the same end result takes experience and understanding that can only come through years of failures and achievements. Failing is the greatest lesson for success.
Often, these failures come through a breakdown of communication and setting achievable benchmarks. It became clear to me that to truly achieve success, all parties involved had to be communicating and fighting for the same goal.
What happens in many cases, is that the goals and expected outcomes from HQ are lost as they are passed through many different hands. The expectation is that if, for example, design standards have been developed out of the US, that they will be followed, slightly modified for local nuance and applied in a local geography. However, if these standards conflict with local codes, availability of product or material and capability, problems arise. Who is responsible for pushing back? The local architect? The PM Firm? The client who may not understand these difference? A “hot potato” effect happens, delays arise and costs rise.
This is where we feel opportunity for improvement comes in. Without an independent and experienced team focused on setting and driving the business goals set out in the begging and followed through until completion, you risk these types of failures.
Conversely, what is better about the industry in the United States that you feel could be applied elsewhere?
The US is all about delivery and is more mature in terms of infrastructure and expertise. While dated, there are processes in place that move things along. Many countries around the world have simple issues just in getting workstations to a site.
The general talent surrounding the processes to deliver on projects, from finding space, to designing and building it and even the expected quality of suppliers is far ahead of many places I have worked on projects in the world. There is an urgency and a general desire to showcase the best each entity can offer.
How would you characterize 2017? What stood apart for you as you take stock of the year that just passed, and what surprised you the most?
2017 was about a transformation in the way people view workplace. I saw that large organizations had an openness and willingness to truly look at ways to improve and evolve their business, since in the past there was reluctance for change.
Business as usual is not good enough. 2017 highlighted more than ever a focus on people. This is encouraging as we are building our business around the premise that people should drive design intent and performance of an environment.
The range of diversity needed to be supported is more evident now than anytime before. Not only are organizations trying to build spaces that cultivate health and wellbeing, but they are trying to understand how to support a growing range of personalities within the business.
Subtle nuances in age, work type, gender, feminine vs. masculine design have all started to raise questions on how a space needs to be thought about. The old approach of fitting bodies to desks is less a priority, but how each of these types can perform and be enabled or distracted by the environment they work-in is slowly taking the focus.
What trends have identified over the last 12 to 18 months that will be impactful and meaningful to the industry in 2018 and beyond?
Culture and People becoming a priority in design. This means traditional design philosophies and approach need to change and become more nuanced to better understand performance over beauty.
As I mentioned before, if 2017 highlighted the need to better understand how people are interacting and performing within a space and what the culture is of an organization now, and how is that culture evolving to support the business. We believe the future of the environment people work in will be developed through a focus on social design and cultural identity.
The interaction of people and the merging of cultures needs to be supported by the spaces they are working in. If space is designed through traditional methodology, then the expected outcomes of performance will stay true to where they are now. However, a deep dive into the complexity of the business, the people and the tools being used to support them, will yield far more deliberate design criteria.
Were you surprised to see these things emerge as trends?
Not really. As you look at design and workplace over the past 5 years, the value has been shifting towards health and wellbeing versus look and feel. This means that design itself has been commoditized and specialized expertise has risen as a need and priority.
Everyone from large real estate firms to design firms and even furniture manufacturers have developed a form of “workplace strategy” within its offering. However, we see that very few companies merge people and culture into design intent and application. Hence, Incorp North America exists. Not only to deliver a report with some data supporting a few recommendations, but rather to dive deeper, truly understand organizational design and develop AND implement programs to support change and growth.
Where will your focus be in 2018 as a company? Are you looking at growth organically or some other way? Are you focused on certain deliverables or geographies in particular?
We are focused on measured, organic growth. We will continue to push for alignment and synergy with companies that value our expertise over a quick transaction. We are focused on evolving our own business through bring on more experts into the platform, so that we can truly expand upon our growing service base. We are not limited by geography, since we have already proven that we can deliver globally when supporting our partner’s portfolios.
What excites you about 2018, and conversely, what worries you?
The most exciting thing is that we have a very strong team in place and a foundation to truly build the business. Last year was about putting together the key components. The worry is bandwidth to scale quickly. We need to continue to hire, but need to be financially profitable to continue to do so. Typical “start-up” conundrum.
A year from now, we’ll likely be talking about…
Impact on the industry. We want to be viewed as an example of positive change within a dated system. Hopefully in a year we will be recognized as thought leaders and innovators within the industry as we drive social change within organizations that strive to do better. I hope we are inspiring more people to focus on quality and true engagement over quick delivery and barely acceptable outcomes.
I believe the industry itself will be talking about people inspired ecosystems that support and inspire people perform at a higher level.