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Director Magazine

  • Director Magazine

    April 2014

    Aquarium Architecture Co-Founders Roland Horne and Jeremy Clark recently told Director magazine how focusing on customer service and complementary leadership skills has readied them to take on the industry’s bigger fish…and become the specialist in luxury aquariums.

    ROLAND HORNE When we were setting up the business we were approached by a wealthy gentleman living in St John’s Wood [northwest London], who wanted a massive luxury aquarium built in his house. We were two young lads who didn’t really have a clue. We gave him a quote for £35,000 plus VAT – it was at cost, and we hadn’t accounted for our time, but we still expected him to say, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ Instead, he gave us a 50 per cent deposit and told us that if we did well he would see us right. He’s still our best client.

    JEREMY CLARK There wasn’t a huge amount of capital investment required early on. We were working out of Roland’s bedroom. It was more about finding the time. I gave up my job in 2008 to work on the business full time. Our house in Camden had two coal sheds outside – we gutted those, painted and waterproofed them, and got a pet shop licence from Camden council, which you need to run an aquarium business. We began to grow, and in 2009 we bought an office near the Shard.

    ROLAND HORNE We now have 11 employees, are turning over £1.8m, and have two offices in the UK – in London and Manchester. We also have a satellite office in New York, but we’re opening a permanent studio in early 2015. And we have two partners – in Milan and Nigeria. Nigeria is a great market for what we do because there are a lot of wealthy people there with aspirations for luxury products including luxury aquariums. The split is 40 per cent commercial and 60 per cent residential clients. In the next five years we want to increase the number of commercial clients and become the best luxury aquariums design company in the world.

    JEREMY CLARK Our commissions start at about £15,000 for freshwater luxury aquariums and £25,000 for saltwater luxury aquariums. The biggest of the luxury aquariums we’ve done cost £1.2m. You have to be very specific about which fish you choose to live together because otherwise they’ll eat or attack each other. It’s a fine art and has taken us years to learn and now we are proud to be experts in luxury aquariums. It takes about a year to fully stock luxury aquariums, which means we’re in and out of people’s homes and so they want someone they can trust. By ensuring customer service is spot-on, it means we get repeat custom.

    ROLAND HORNE I’m the alpha male – the person who pushes and sells the business – and I think the biggest benefit of having Jeremy as a business partner is that he doesn’t give a jot about money, which means he offers a completely different view. At the same time it can be difficult because it’s up to me to look at everything monetarily and drive the business. We started off as mates and now we’re probably more business partners than friends, but if there is anyone I can rely on, it’s Jeremy.

    JEREMY CLARK You need to make sure you have complementary skills for a business partnership to work. My wife says that Roland and I don’t realise how perfect we are for each other. We have completely different leadership styles. Roland is direct and confrontational and I’m more laidback. I’m a very difficult person to read and can be quite a scary teacher to have. Yet Roland wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s a great benefit to us in terms of our working relationship and our friendship.

    To view some of our luxury aquariums please follow the link http://www.aquariumarchitecture.com/case-studies 

Director Magazine

Aquarium Architecture Co-Founders Roland Horne and Jeremy Clark recently told Director magazine how focusing on customer service and complementary leadership skills has readied them to take on the industry’s bigger fish…and become the specialist in luxury aquariums.

ROLAND HORNE When we were setting up the business we were approached by a wealthy gentleman living in St John’s Wood [northwest London], who wanted a massive luxury aquarium built in his house. We were two young lads who didn’t really have a clue. We gave him a quote for £35,000 plus VAT – it was at cost, and we hadn’t accounted for our time, but we still expected him to say, ‘Who the hell do you think you are?’ Instead, he gave us a 50 per cent deposit and told us that if we did well he would see us right. He’s still our best client.

JEREMY CLARK There wasn’t a huge amount of capital investment required early on. We were working out of Roland’s bedroom. It was more about finding the time. I gave up my job in 2008 to work on the business full time. Our house in Camden had two coal sheds outside – we gutted those, painted and waterproofed them, and got a pet shop licence from Camden council, which you need to run an aquarium business. We began to grow, and in 2009 we bought an office near the Shard.

ROLAND HORNE We now have 11 employees, are turning over £1.8m, and have two offices in the UK – in London and Manchester. We also have a satellite office in New York, but we’re opening a permanent studio in early 2015. And we have two partners – in Milan and Nigeria. Nigeria is a great market for what we do because there are a lot of wealthy people there with aspirations for luxury products including luxury aquariums. The split is 40 per cent commercial and 60 per cent residential clients. In the next five years we want to increase the number of commercial clients and become the best luxury aquariums design company in the world.

JEREMY CLARK Our commissions start at about £15,000 for freshwater luxury aquariums and £25,000 for saltwater luxury aquariums. The biggest of the luxury aquariums we’ve done cost £1.2m. You have to be very specific about which fish you choose to live together because otherwise they’ll eat or attack each other. It’s a fine art and has taken us years to learn and now we are proud to be experts in luxury aquariums. It takes about a year to fully stock luxury aquariums, which means we’re in and out of people’s homes and so they want someone they can trust. By ensuring customer service is spot-on, it means we get repeat custom.

ROLAND HORNE I’m the alpha male – the person who pushes and sells the business – and I think the biggest benefit of having Jeremy as a business partner is that he doesn’t give a jot about money, which means he offers a completely different view. At the same time it can be difficult because it’s up to me to look at everything monetarily and drive the business. We started off as mates and now we’re probably more business partners than friends, but if there is anyone I can rely on, it’s Jeremy.

JEREMY CLARK You need to make sure you have complementary skills for a business partnership to work. My wife says that Roland and I don’t realise how perfect we are for each other. We have completely different leadership styles. Roland is direct and confrontational and I’m more laidback. I’m a very difficult person to read and can be quite a scary teacher to have. Yet Roland wears his heart on his sleeve and that’s a great benefit to us in terms of our working relationship and our friendship.

To view some of our luxury aquariums please follow the link http://www.aquariumarchitecture.com/case-studies