The Business of Design with Summertown Interiors

Standing outside their LEED EBOM certified HQ in Jebel Ali, it’s hard to believe Summertown Interiors started off as a trader in ready-made doors back in 1997. Working out of a tiny 30 square foot office around 20 years ago, Summertown Interiors made a name for themselves supplying doors produced in Spain. But that was only the start of their journey. 

“As with most people and aspiring entrepreneurs in Dubai, we wanted to truly make our mark and create a legacy for ourselves,” says Marcos Bish, Managing Director of Summertown Interiors. Wanting to compliment the door trading business with a unit that would help the company scale up, a joinery factory was established in 2000. Summertown Interiors became an established name in the industry known for their service as dependable subcontractors providing custom-made joinery for hospitality and commercial projects. Maximizing their success and making the most of their reputation resulted in encouragement from end-clients which helped them move into the turnkey project space.

Summertown Interiors
Marcos Bish - Managing Director of Summertown Interiors

Today, however, the Summertown Interiors team focuses on doing what they do best; the interior fit-out contractor is known for their high-quality fit-out and joinery solutions that are evident in projects the likes of the Smart Dubai Office, DIDI at d3, Kellogg’s, and the d3 HQ. Additionally, their sustainable practices, not only within the company but along the entire supply chain, make them an ideal partner for clients and design consultants looking to see their projects achieve coveted certifications like LEED or Estidama.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with the man driving the company’s growth and vision, Managing Director Marcos Bish, and Senior Project Manager, Joshua Walker, on what makes Summertown Interiors unique, competitive and what we can expect to see from them in the future.

Summertown Interiors
Joshua Walker - Senior Project Manager at Summertown Interiors

Sustainable, Strategic and Successful

As with most other businesses in the UAE, Summertown Interiors was soon confronted with the impact of the financial crisis of 2008, prompting Marcos Bish to re-evaluate the company’s positioning in the market, value proposition and focus. “We decided to pursue what we do best, and that was fit-out and joinery. Which is why today, we execute but we don’t design.”

Despite market conditions at the time, he was optimistic. Even today, Marcos believes there’s enough opportunity in the market if you’re smart and realistic about your business model. As the market expanded and matured, the team identified a need and scope for sustainable products and services in the industry. Fortunately, the construction of Summertown Interiors’ new HQ in Jebel Ali presented an opportunity for the company to show clients, and the industry in general, a firm commitment to sustainability and eco-friendly practices. The building was constructed in 2008, and achieved LEED Gold certification in 2009 becoming the first contractor in the Middle East to achieve this. Just recently, they added two additional feathers in their very sustainable hat; the first being the Corporate Social Responsibility Label awarded by the Dubai Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) for its ongoing commitment to sustainable business practices award; and the second, Gold LEED Certification for Existing Buildings: Operations and Maintenance (LEED EBOM) for the ongoing operations and maintenance of its HQ. Marcos points out that, “sustainability is now at the heart of our business.”

Summertown Interiors
Smart Dubai Office

The sustainability trend that started a decade ago is still going strong, most notably the need for LEED and WELL certified projects. The HQ was only the start, and Summertown Interiors decided to go full steam ahead towards becoming a sustainable contractor. For many large and well-known organizations, sustainability and wellness as well as a solid dedication to the environment are critical when picking a contractor to partner with. The business model and culture within Summertown Interiors has sustainability written into it, making it an easy choice for clients. The model is inclusive of all aspects of the project and takes into consideration how sustainability includes not just the final outcome, but the entire supply chain in general – from the sourcing of raw materials to the manner in which the end product is installed and used. As contractor, this expertise allows Summertown Interiors to add a layer of value not easily found in the market; a value that goes far beyond price competitiveness.

Eight Inc. and Summertown Interiors
D3 Business Centre by Eight Inc. and Summertown Interiors

Culture that Drives Value, from the Workplace to Clients

I’m always curious to know how older and established UAE based firms managed to pull through the financial crisis of 2008 through 2009. “The collective experience of our team help us provide flexible and cost-effective solutions to our clients that don’t compromise on value,” says Joshua Walker. As a senior project manager involved in both the pre- and post-bid stages of the project, he is well informed of the processes that take place. He underlines the fact that the supply chain is closely monitored, and makes sure materials are sourced the right way and on time. By having a hybrid model of in-house project managers, joinery and fit-out teams, combined with external vendors for MEP, FF&E, and so on, Summertown Interiors is in a unique position to mobilize resources if and when needed to ensure a project is completed successfully.  

Summertown Interiors
Ahrend @ Dutch Design Center

The hard work that results in a successful project, in fact, starts before the procurement and planning stage. Marcos pointed out that most of their employees have been working with him for an average of 10 years or more, a rare occurrence within the UAE context. He prioritizes his team’s needs and makes sure to take care of them first; it’s important for him to fully understand that a happy and healthy team leads to great work. “When we go into a meeting, clients are often reassured and at ease seeing the harmony amongst us as teammates. We’re process driven, and there is little room for confusion when it comes to roles and responsibilities.” There is plenty of scope for learning within the organization in the form of various committees focusing on sustainability, health and safety, as well as wellness, thereby ensuring that the learning and development doesn’t stop.

Exciting Times Ahead...

Recently, Summertown Interiors joined The United Workplace – a new global network of like-minded businesses, sharing a passion for the workplace. All members share common ethics, values and goals bringing with them a wealth of knowledge and experience. The fundamental goal of The United Workplace is to provide consistency of service and local insight on a global scale, to fulfill workplace design, fit-out or commercial furniture consultancy and installation needs.

“With this long-term goal in mind, three questions were considered, namely what are we good at; what are we passionate about; and what’s our economic engine?” said Marcos. From that discussion came the goal of becoming a Carbon Neutral company by 2020, an ambitious but worthy pursuit for the contractor! And in the near future, Summertown Interiors is looking to achieve Wellness Certification as well, an exciting new addition to their value proposition.

One thing’s for sure, exciting developments are sure to follow if the Summertown Interiors team is involved.

Eight Inc & Summertown Interiors
D3 HQ by Eight Inc & Summertown Interiors

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Date added:

6 March, 2018

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