From humble beginnings huddled in a one-room office in Customhouse Quay, our Founders (Patrick, Tony and Nigel) set out to create a better way, in every sense of the phrase. Taking everything into consideration, from how to run a business-based architecture firm, to the simple things like listening to the client, working to their budgets, developing lasting relationships with landlords and becoming a trusted name in design and construct - Catalyst began to develop a brand value set that has lasted throughout the years.
Our very first job – Tum Nak Thai Restaurant in Lower Hutt, where our profits barely earned us a six pack of beer - taught us that our biggest challenge was going to be getting the business off the ground. We switched into survival mode and focused on pushing our name out there and making sure people understood what kind of company we were and the values we stood for. And sure enough, we had our first big break with a company called Grand Central Management who owned multiple buildings in Wellington including the James Cook hotel, which we ended up undertaking a series of major re-design projects. From there we took on the legal firm of Izard Weston, and before we knew it, we were on the map.
At the beginning we took on every project possible and approached each with enthusiasm and vigour, mucking in and getting our hands dirty to get the job done. In the first three years of Catalyst, we worked closely with Robert Jones Holdings (RJH) – who are now one of our oldest clients - whose aggressive approach to an empty building was “build it and they will come”. Catalyst revelled in working to this style with an assertive and clever landlord.
Hiring our first staff member meant we were now responsible for a whole lot more than ourselves, so it was time to knuckle down. In 2003, we took a significant growth step signing a contract with MSD and recruiting our sixth team member. Craig Starnes (MSD) said “it would be a huge leap of faith for us to change from our current vendor to Catalyst” but we assured them that we would tailor our business to suit them and that we would prioritise them as our number one client.
The signing of this contract meant growth was inevitable, so we launched our Auckland office in 2004 and proceeded to spend our days cold calling anyone who would listen so we could ultimately grow the business.
Hit fast forward and we opened the Christchurch office in 2016. As a firm, we have grown organically in both the growth of the business but also in the personal growth of each of our people. Now, looking at the people who have been with Catalyst for more than 15 years, we have a greater understanding of professional development and are confident in what our team are capable of.
We’re beyond thrilled to be 20 years into our business, especially as we’ve witnessed many similar firms rise and fall. Looking back to where we came from its nice to reflect that we were one of the first to offer a true end-to-end architectural solution. We now see a lot of businesses offering multi-layer services, but we like to think we were the pioneers.
What’s in our future you ask? For Catalyst it’s all about streamlining. As a 60+ person company we’re making sure we have the management to look after the team we have, while planning strategic growth for our people of the future. The main thing that will set us apart as we step into the next era of the company are our people, our culture, our attitude, and most importantly our cultivated credibility.