1080 Architecture & Planning: LeeAnn Croft
Updated: Mar 10
BALANCING BUSINESS GROWTH
The Corner Office CFO Blog | Regina SK
Welcome to The Corner Office CFO’s blog. The Corner Office is a Contract CFO company based in Regina SK. We work with businesses of all types and sizes, and love getting to work alongside incredible entrepreneurs in all stages of ownership. This blog aims to highlight some of those fantastic people and businesses, so we hope you enjoy getting to know them!
LeeAnn Croft is a Principal Architect at 1080 Architecture & Planning. They serve all types of clients to plan and design customized spaces to fit specific needs--from schools to hospitals, offices, retail and restaurants! Their work has been acknowledged with multiple awards and academic recognition. In this blog article we talk to LeeAnn about her experience being an owner of such a fast growing and changing company.
Tell us a bit about yourself and your role in the company?
"I'm a principal architect here at 1080 Architecture and have been working as an architect in the city for about 12 years. Prior to that, I worked in Montreal where I moved to go to University as I am originally from Regina but left after graduating high school as part of the era where many people didn’t see opportunity here. When I made the decision to move back after living and working in Montreal for almost 10 years, it was with new perspective and strong desire to give back to the community. Saskatchewan had changed, but so had I, and I was thrilled to move back home and build my career here."
"After working at a large international firm for 5 years, I left to start what was then CA360 studio with two business partners in 2014. Since then the company has undergone two mergers, the second of which resulted in a full rebranding as 1080 Architecture, Planning and Interiors, in May of 2018 (it was the 3rd iteration of 360…hence 1080). It's been great, progressively growing our team from 3 to 25 people."
Tell us a bit about 1080 Architecture at present:
"Our core business is architecture, interior design, and the pre-design services we offer which relate to planning, feasibility studies, Lean analysis, and business case integration. We are fairly diverse in terms of the range of things that we do, and we differentiate ourselves with the pre-design service offering. This is where we have an opportunity to engage with the client while the project is still just an idea and an opportunity. With our work, sometimes the final deliverable is a feasibility study or functional assessment, while others it is a full renovation or new building. It really depends on the project, what we’ve been engaged to do, the timeline and team."
"Ultimately, we are always seeking to improve something whether that is an efficiency that can be found in a layout that has a direct impact on operational flow or in the aesthetics of an interior space that improve well-being and motivate staff."
If you've never seen the projects 1080 has been involved with, you're missing out! Here is a small taste of what they do:
Photos from https://1080architecture.com/
How was it in the early stage of getting started with the original company?
"It was tough at first, feeling our way out in the market and doing everything from HR to IT to accounting on top of the actual work, but that’s where growth first starts to take place – hiring the right people to take on these things so that you can focus on your strengths."
What have been the biggest struggles and highlights of being an entrepreneur for you?
"The highlights are really seeing the delight your clients experience in their new space. Often people have not had the opportunity to operate in a space that has been designed specifically for their needs, and to go through the process where we really listen and understand their workflow, we can create something that is responsive to their needs and flexible enough to adapt with them. When you pair this functionality with a beautiful aesthetic, magic happens."
"As for struggles, as we've grown, trying to keep that "family feel" to our company has been tough. As you grow you can't maintain the same type of organizational structure – you do need to get a bit more rigorous and create policies around things as much as it may go against your nature! The other things have been finding the balance between work and family, I've just had my third baby since we started the company, but you just make it work and give 100% to the moment whichever hat you may be wearing – balance can be overrated!"
How long have you worked with The Corner Office?
"The company we merged with in 2018, PMGM, had been working with The Corner Office for about three years and had a good relationship with them. More recently we've had Kassandra from The Corner Office join as our part-time CFO for just over a year, and it has been an absolute game-changer for us!"
"The level of detailed analysis that she provides; the ability to sit with us at our leadership and ownership table, acting and thinking like a partner in the company, helping us to make decisions through that lens is fantastic."
"A financial advisor was something that I knew in my gut we needed but wasn't sure exactly who or how to go about that. And so having the conversation with Bev Betteridge [Owner of The Corner Office], she thought that a part-time CFO would be a perfect fit for our needs. So we said, OK, let's try it for a few months and see if we're getting the benefit out of it that we think we need--and after we tried it, I have never looked back!"
"It's been such a great strategic move for the company--the processes and procedures we've been able to put in place and streamline, it's been excellent."
Do you consider The Corner Office to be like a true partner working alongside you in your business? How so?
"Absolutely, because when she's with us at the leadership table, Kassandra IS one of us, acting like an owner in the business. I think that's what makes The Corner Office so great to work with--they're truly invested in us, they want the best for our company, and they're willing to be present for us."
How was your company changed or grown since working with The Corner Office?
"Well, I think it's really just been the ability to streamline by putting in place the processes that have helped to free up other time to focus on other areas."
"The analytics and data they provide have helped our decision making and helped us continue to grow strategically."
"Having that lens to look at things through: “Are these the right decisions?”, “Are we moving too quickly?”, “Should we slow down?” - having a sounding board and the confidence that that sounding board has the facts, and that we actually have the data to back it up, gives us the confidence to move forward."
In your opinion, how does The Corner Office differ from other consultants?
"Well, to be honest, I don't have much experience with consultants, but they're very different than working with a large accounting firm."
"I think the difference is that they are able to embed themselves in your company and provide advice the way they would if it were their own company. They tell us the things they would be thinking about if they were us, which is an expertise that an architect doesn't have."
"And thinking of all the other types of companies that they work with, business owners are trained in a certain area (a service, trade, product etc), but every business NEEDS the business management component, and we often don't have any education in business. I can understand the business end, but it's not a field that I'm an expert in."
"So having that expertise, to embed in your company, and just on an as-needed basis is very helpful."
"You might not necessarily need a full-time CFO, but you need that expertise in some capacity. And to be able to access that when you need it is a God-send!"
From your life and business experience, what's one piece of advice that you would give to other business owners, entrepreneurs, or aspiring business leaders?
"The biggest things would be to find ways to focus on what you do best and to hire people in the areas that aren’t your strength. Just like our work with The Corner Office, find the right people who can take that piece off your plate that takes extra time and energy from you, and does it excellently to make your business better. If you can outsource the work that takes you away from what you love and do best, it makes your life easier and the business flows better. Finding and building up your network of trusted experts to help you grow your business is important and it's freeing to know you can delegate and trust others to support you and your vision."
If you’ve been inspired by LeeAnn's story, you can learn more about them at 1080architecture.com.
Owning a business can sometimes feel overwhelming, complex, and maybe even isolating sometimes. The Corner Office acts as a true partner, helping you achieve your goals along your entrepreneurial journey.
If you’d like to know more about what The Corner Office can do for you, please visit www.cornerofficecfo.com/contact