“It’s reassuring to know that if I need any financial advice, whether strategic, personal or corporate, it’s available at some point in the Fortus organisation" Peter Renn, Managing Director, DLA ArchitectsFind out more
As an architect, Peter Renn's focused on the detail. As a business leader, he tends to be more freestyle. That’s why he’s relying on expert advice as he prepares to exit the firm he’s nurtured for three decades.
“Milton Keynes is God’s own country – it’s very dear to me,” says Peter Renn. And through his architectural expertise, he’s helped to shape the ‘new town’ since its infancy.
When Peter first began to work for the Milton Keynes Development Corporation in 1973, around 50,000 people lived in the settlement. Now it’s a city (in all but name) with 300,000 residents.
Meanwhile, Peter’s practice has also grown. He became a sole trader in 1992, and since then he’s steered the business through various guises – and some setbacks. The recession after 2007 was especially hard: “It was difficult to keep the practice going, but I never had to make a colleague redundant.”
That mutual loyalty with employees extends to the clients in Milton Keynes and nationwide with whom Peter has long-standing relationships – and to his external advisors.
A MENU OF EXPERTISE
In the early days of the business, Veena Drought managed Peter’s accounts. Today DLA Architects has a workforce of seven and a £1m turnover, and the business now relies on Fortus, which took on its accounts following Veena’s retirement.
“The transition has been relatively seamless, I have to say. I get advice mainly from Angela Taylor, who previously worked for Veena,” Peter says. “At the same time, the company’s requirements have become more complicated.
“In the early days it all seemed fairly simple. These days I benefit from more pointed advice: Fortus have helped the company to move forward to where we want to be in terms of finance and tax.”
For a man who cheerfully admits “I’ve never had a plan for my life”, the ability to tap in to an extensive menu of expertise is invaluable: “It’s reassuring to know that if I need any financial support, whether strategic, personal or corporate, it’s available at some point in the Fortus organisation. If I ask Angela for a particular piece of advice, she’ll know somebody who has a very precise handle on it.”
One of the ways Fortus has been able to help Peter is by pointing out the potential for financial payback for some of DLA’s more innovative work.
“Architecture is constantly evolving,” Peter explains. “Most people think about flourishes and swirls and elevations, but it’s just as much about finding better ways to put components together, improve materials and explore new design software.
“I was always aware that we were pretty good in the technology field, but I hadn’t realised this would qualify us for R&D tax relief until Fortus convinced us to go down that road. That was certainly worth the effort. It’s meant savings in excess of £150,000 in corporation tax over the past five years.
“Fortus have also been very helpful in the transaction of occasional share transfers, the sort of thing that’s impossible to handle yourself these days.”
PLANNING A LEGACY
Peter’s now thinking ahead to his legacy and how to move on from the business. It’s a move that’s been complicated by the effects of Covid-19, with colleague discussions curtailed by remote working.
“I’d hoped to retire by 70, but that’s not going to happen now,” Peter accepts. “However, Fortus have been really helpful in clarifying options for future corporate structures that I wasn’t aware of.
“I’m keen for the company to continue when I retire, and for my colleagues to have the opportunity to have as big a part of it as they want. Fortus have given me a route map for a number of options.”
Whatever route he takes, Peter is gratified by the hope that his business will continue to play a role in the development of Milton Keynes – and in the post-pandemic recovery. “Construction and development are among the great agents of progress, and a great engine for getting the economy moving again,” he says.
Building strong relationships
“I’ve worked with Peter for many years and seen his company grow from sole trader status to the successful limited company it is now. Peter has a dry sense of humour and is a pleasure to work with – his emails always bring a smile to the team.
Like many people, he prefers to deal with people he knows and form strong relationships. He knows I’m always on hand to respond to questions or to find Fortus colleagues who can deal with any topic.
Peter’s built a good-sized business with loyal staff, some of whom have been with him for a long time. We’re looking forward to helping him achieve the best for the business as he prepares to step back.”
“I hadn’t realised we qualified for R&D tax relief until Fortus convinced us to go down that road – that’s been worth £150k to the business"
Peter Renn, Managing Director DLA Architects