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15 years on: customer service still at the heart of Select

A strong belief that he could “give more to clients” saw Peter Serra launch Select Architects from the laundry of his Belmont home 15 years ago.

“The laundry had been converted into a bit of a study,” Peter explained, reflecting on the journey from fledgling business to respected national architectural firm.

Peter founded Select Architects after returning home from the UK where he gained valuable international experience as well as a clear sense of what he valued most.

“I wanted to focus more on the customer outcomes rather than just delivering buildings,” he said. “My experience was that often architectural practices focus on industry accolades, but are not really focused on the customer.”

The business soon moved into a proper office in Myers St Geelong, with a staff of three, but quickly outgrew the space and moved to larger offices in the same building.

By 2012 the business expanded into Select Group, an architectural empire with multiple divisions and more than 60 staff across three states. A highlight was winning the Customer Service Award at the 2013 Geelong Business Excellence Awards.

But when asked about his achievements, Peter is most proud of the community work the business has been involved in over the years; from local projects including Samaritan House accommodation for homeless men, through to volunteer work overseas in Fiji, East Timor and Papua New Guinea.

His other source of pride is the “100 or so” people including dozens of graduates who have shared the Select journey.

“We have always prided ourselves on our nurturing environment and pathway we offer for our team. Although some have moved on to other opportunities  I get real satisfaction that we’ve been part of their journey for them and contributed to setting the foundation of ‘soft skills’ that can hold them in good stead.”

Building a successful business has taken considerable vision and, not unexpectedly, hard work, but Peter says one of the most surprising aspects was the “naysayers” who tried to talk him down.

“I just didn’t expect it, some of them were friends who were well-intended. It’s been surprising that whenever I’ve had success and moved to the next level, there were people who wanted to pull me back. Although I have always sought-out sound advice, I learnt not to listen to naysayers, to stay optimistic and back myself.”

Having survived and thrived through many challenges including the GFC and more recently, the COVID-19 pandemic, Peter says the biggest lesson he’s learnt is to be open to change.

“We’ve had to be adaptable … bigger is not always better. Movement isn’t always progress. The team we’ve got now are superstars.

“What COVID has done is show us that geography doesn’t define where we work. We can have people in Melbourne and Geelong working on projects in Queensland, or anywhere.”

Peter’s commitment to customer service continues to guide Select’s work today and is one of the reasons for its long term relationships with national clients for over 15 years, as well as securing major new projects such as the current Bannockburn Shopping Centre development.

Today, Select Architects is defined as much by the work it won’t do. Peter explains: “We’re discerning and proactive, rather than reactive. We make sure the projects we take on are those that we can add real value and deliver. What we promise is what we actually do. On time, every time, exactly as promised – that’s us.”

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