Bowles & Wyer

Thirty years of looking forward…

Written by John Wyer

We held a party this summer to mark thirty years in business and gathered together some of our colleagues and clients to celebrate. The words below are an extract from my speech on the day.

30th celebrations, held at the award-winning roof garden at 78 St James's St, London
Photo credit (all images) - Paul Upward photography

Just over thirty years ago, Vicky and I had just given birth to our first child. The country was in recession. And I started a new business. It wasn’t as foolish an idea as it sounds. I had a lot of experience in high end landscape design and build, and combining that knowledge with the agility and non-existent overheads of a start-up, I could be fast-moving and competitive.

I had expected to draw deeply on my existing client base. In fact, all but one of my clients were new, passed on to me by word of mouth. I invited Chris Bowles to join me towards the end of the first year, and Bowles & Wyer was born.

From the start, we wanted to build out our own designs. We wanted to retain control. We had a quote from Humphrey Repton in our brochure (brochures were a thing back then!) that said: “Nothing can be so well completed as under the eye of he who devised it.”

We are an enthusiastic believer in dialogue. It is only by repeated conversations with our clients that we (and they) discover what they want to achieve. The more we listen, the more we learn of the brief.

To this day, our pitch documents start with ‘What you have told us’, followed by our response.
Our aim is simple: we want to leave the lives and landscapes that we touch better for having come into contact with us. Everything else follows.

We have grown from those early years to a team of around 50 people. At this size, we can achieve what we want to. We have a network of suppliers and specialist contractors who we work with. And loyalty is a two-way street – we’re quick to support those who go the extra mile and slow to forget those who let us down.

We are in a fast-changing world – and often not for the better. Having a positive impact is vital today. There is no place for a business which treads heavily; but firms also need to have both resilience and agility to survive. This is more important than growth. To achieve this, we need to be open to new ideas, and to stretch our clients, suppliers and people to achieve more, and better than they thought possible. The future is uncertain, but the only way we can face it with confidence is to hold fast to our core values as an organisation, and as individuals.

September 29, 2023