Wright & Gray Architects Ltd

Success plan vital to business longevity

  • Wright & Gray Architects - Wellington

    Wright & Gray Architects Ltd Directors Travis Gray (L) and John Wright (R) Image credit: Fortyfive Design

An architect once told John Wright “it takes 15 years to know what you’re doing” and he believes them. The former one-man-architectural-band based at home has flourished to become a busy city-based firm that sees John and partner Travis Gray designing commercial, residential and ‘social’ buildings.

From an early age John knew he wanted to become an architect. “I grew up in Christchurch surrounded by a mix of fine old buildings and modern architectural pieces that piqued my interest from an early age,” he says.

After gaining first-class honours at Victoria University in Wellington, John spent nine years working for other architectural firms in Nelson and Christchurch. In 1996, John and his family moved from the garden city to the capital.

“It was timely for me to set up my own practice,” says John. “I started with literally only a desk and a phone and built the practice up from nothing. I deliberately targeted both commercial and residential work to maintain my skills in both areas.”

John moved the practice from home into the city in 2000. The physical move also signaled a change for John, recognising that for the business to grow in the future, he needed a plan for succession and expansion. He decided that he needed to broaden the ownership of the practice and in 2007, Travis Gray joined the firm.

“Initially I took Travis on in a salaried position,” explains John. “But I always had my eye out for someone who would complement me and could be part of the business. Travis proved himself to be that person. In 2011, Travis became a shareholder and director and the name above the door changed to Wright & Gray Architects Ltd,” says John.

The firm has a simple business ethos; to have a diversified client base and range of work. It is this diversification that has allowed it to come through the recession unscathed. Fulltime staff now number six, including another qualified architect, a graduate and two architectural technicians.

Whilst commercial and residential projects are always on the books, Wright & Gray has a growing specialisation in the healthcare sector. In other areas of what John calls “social architecture”, the firm has designed award-winning housing for the elderly and for people with special needs.

“Our goal is that all our buildings will improve the quality of life for the people who use them, but it is with these ‘social’ projects that we are sure our skills have made the biggest impact,” he explains.

John admits that setting up a new company when Travis came on board was “all new territory” and he looked to Moore Stephens Markhams Wellington director Bruce Stormer for help.

“Bruce had been handling my financial business since 2000,” says John. “But the level of his involvement has increased over the years, with my wife Karen’s business, our investments, family trust and other interests. There are now five or six sets of accounts that Bruce co-ordinates.

“With Travis joining the business, there was a lot of work involved; shareholder agreements, and the financial structure of a long term business arrangement. Bruce was great. He made us face up to some tough questions about succession, shareholder values, limits and other issues – it’s complex. But he’s given really good advice that is going to see us right.”


Published Autumn 2013.

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