After years of hard work and a healthy dose of luck, Steve Evans, a director at Leffler Simes Architects, has become one of the famous faces of a national campaign advertising the benefits of Australia’s new trade agreement with China.
Evans features in the Government’s ‘Open for Business’ campaign, including the video case study shown below, outlining Australian opportunities thanks to the new Free Trade Agreement (FTA).
The Leffler Simes Architects foray into China
Evans is a Melbourne- based director at the practice, which also has offices in Sydney and Brisbane.
Since making inroads into China two years ago, Leffler Simes has employed four additional staff to work on projects for the China market. With the enactment of the free trade agreement, Evans says that the practice intends to expand its workforce in both countries, resulting in a cross-cultural appreciation that will benefit architects in both Australia and China.
“The free trade agreement means that the Chinese government will now recognise our qualifications and experience within China, allowing us to bid for larger projects and enabling us to employ more people both here in Australia and overseas,” he said.
“China is a huge market for us, and as a medium-sized Australian firm, we now have a huge opportunity to explore much larger projects. We've seen that Chinese people have a real passion for Australian architecture. We bring a design uniqueness to the Chinese market, and this is something that they highly respect.”
The company’s entry to the Chinese market is unique, as it only came about after a young Chinese man’s chance visit to a Ikea/Harvey Norman homemaker centre in Springvale, Melbourne, which Leffler Simes designed.
Two years ago, Mr Evans received a phone call from Zhen Liu, whose father-in-law is a property developer in northern China, and was seeking international advice on their projects, having little confidence in their local architects.
“He came into our office, we spoke for about three hours and we got on very well. We communicated via email for the next few months, then I called up our Managing Director Chris Goodman in Sydney and said, 'Let’s just wing it, go to China, and see if we can meet these people to make something happen’,” Mr Evans said.
“Within a week, we were on our way to northern China, where we met the property group. We got on very well with them, and we came home with three projects, including a major shopping centre they had under construction and wanted to finish in a new style that was modern, clean, and sustainable. They also introduced us to two further clients.
“The income from those projects allowed us to get back to China to explore other ways to market ourselves.”
Leffler Simes Architects was established in 1968, and its 70 staff currently provides services throughout Australia and New Zealand. With the assistance of Austrade, the Australian Government’s trade commission for exporters, the architecture practice was able to negotiate several smaller deals that helped establish its presence in Beijing, where Leffler Simes intends to open an office.
While its current license only allows the practice to work on conceptual designs, the recently concluded Free Trade Export Agreement will provide a channel for Leffler Simes to deliver full- service architecture work, just as they’ve done for 47 years in Australia.
“We had an extreme amount of help from Austrade in four cities in China. They introduced us to developers and state-owned enterprises, took us to meetings, translated for us, and made follow-up calls. They were a huge help for us to expand in to China, and to explain to the general Australian audience that there's opportunities for services businesses like ourselves to give China a go,” Mr Evans said.
“Through the foreign enterprises system, we applied for a license which allows us to be a Chinese company. That process is extremely long and arduous: we spent 18 months applying for the license, and the amount of paperwork in Mandarin is unbelievable.
“We understand that with the free trade agreement, this process will be streamlined for medium-sized companies like ours.”