SAA Interiors + Architecture
- Written by: E.C. Gregg
- Produced by: Sean Davis
- Estimated reading time: 4 mins
Nelson Algaze and Rick Shlemmer, the founders of SAA Interiors + Architecture, work in an industry that is always changing.
Each year presents new trends and challenges for their design and architecture firm, which creates interiors for commercial real estate owners and landlords, as well as process driven environments, commercial businesses and healthcare institutions. The company’s services also include tenant improvements and building repositioning.
According to Algaze, SAA is able to stays ahead of the curve by being a “client-centric” design firm, turning industry trends into long-term business strategies for its clients.
“Our marketing plan is pretty simple, fundamentally we want to find out what services our clients are looking for and try to get in front of that in order to provide those services,” he says.
This mentality is one of the many reasons SAA has become one of the most successful interior design firms in southern California in 16 short years, with a headquarters in Culver City, California, and offices in Los Angeles, Orange County, San Francisco, New Jersey and New York City.
A new way to deliver
Algaze says the trick to meeting all his customer’s expectations begins with the way his company designs and delivers projects.
Instead of working in isolation, SAA collaborates closely with its clients, as well as the engineers and contractors associated with the project. This holistic approach allows the firm to understand nuance limitations (like budget or time) and many other elements.
“For me, adding value is always number one, because if we can’t add value than we’re not doing our job,” says Algaze.
In a recent example, SAA was designing the interior for a commercial kitchen in a large, two-floor building for L.A. Prep, a Los-Angeles based company that rents out commercial kitchen space. By working in close proximity to the project’s engineers, contractors and clients, SAA figured out a way to air condition just the area L.A. Prep needed instead of the entire space.
In another instance, while building an airplane manufacturing facility in Savanah, Georgia, SAA ran into a problem with the project’s foundation expanding and contracting in certain areas. The company worked alongside its client to design a structural system that could support the movement of the building.
In both of these cases, SAA used direct communication to understand their client’s needs and react accordingly.
Importance of infrastructure
SAA has also found ways to serve its clients through making internal changes.
After carefully analyzing its clients, Algaze says the company determined that its clients fall into two large groups: investors, who buy property as an investment, and occupiers, who work in and rent out properties.
“As soon as we identified that our client base was segmented…we developed specialties based on our client’s needs,” says Algaze. Specific groups within SAA were designated to help either investors or occupiers.
“When we did that, we added value because all of a sudden [our] people were learning about investment strategy…which helped us support our clients in maximizing their return on their particular investment,” he says.
When Algaze first started SAA with his partner, Rick Shlemmer, in 2000, they wanted to create a company that could offer these kinds of innovative solutions. But, most importantly, they wanted a company that had the ability to sustain itself and adapt to the changing market.
For Algaze, this meant making sure SAA had a strong infrastructure that could support the future growth of the company.
“A lot of companies have stayed small because its owners couldn’t or wouldn’t invest in infrastructure,” says Algaze. He says his firm invested in marketing, human resources, operations, technology and finance groups since the very beginning.
Through these functional areas, Algaze says he can delegate more work to his support teams, which allows him to concentrate on existing clients and growth.
Even during the recession of 2008, while many design and architecture firms were simply trying to ride out the storm, SAA was expanding.
Algaze says he and his partner saw an opportunity to further invest in growth because when the recession ended their firm would be one of the first to recover.
Today, Algaze and Shlemmer are focused on capitalizing on their company’s momentum.
“I’m looking forward to developing leaders in my firm who can deal with the future issues of our clients—issues we don’t even know yet,” he says. “But having the kind of infrastructure that we do means we can respond to whatever new challenges the company might face.”
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