In a significant interview that gave to Athens Insider Business Weekly, the president and CEO of STIRIXIS Group, Alex Athanassoulas, pointed out -among others- the factors that lead to the successful concepts of the company, the significance of the creation of a workspace that really work for you and your employees, as well as where he hopes to take STIRIXIS Group in the coming years.
You can read his full interview below:
‘‘STIRIXIS Group has won over 25 international design awards. You’ve talked before about curating an experience specific to the location and culture of the project. What are some of the special considerations you make before embarking on a project in Greece?
Experience Design is very cultural specific and is part of what we do indeed successfully and in great depth at STIRIXIS Group. Depending on the project, we collect behavioural information on the users and customers to understand the environment we wish to optimize, and design based on these. There are industries with fewer local attributes such as clothing retail and others with many and important, such as food & beverage or workspaces. We do our own market research but also collaborate with most of the important agencies in the Greek market. We take pride in not applying the same solutions to all businesses as we do not believe in best practices, especially when you are seeking a distinct differentiation in a fast-changing environment.
You have experience designing office spaces for a wide variety of customers, from Coca-Cola to smaller, more local businesses. Are there any trends in office design you’ve seen recently that you’re particularly excited about?
We believe in and work hard for maximizing the Return on Investment for our clients, designing a workspace that really works for them or a store that offers a high retail experience. This is what has allowed us to move forward and grow even in the last years. There is lately, wide recognition to the fact that providing a well-designed, user-experience based workspace, produces impressive results in its output by maximizing employee engagement and satisfaction, hence performance. So, the key is to truly optimize the workspace at a functional and technical level, but also at the human level by designing for health, safety and employee well-being. We are thrilled to be currently designing a joint program to assess and optimize workspaces with two other international leaders GEP and Global Sustain to promote a truly systemic user-centric design of offices that also results in a much greater RoI.
Is there any one thing you think an office should never be without?
Workspaces are complex environments. They mostly nurture the relationships and operations of their internal customers, their users. So, it makes us sad see enterprises renovating their offices to solely use them as marketing tools, with impressive visitor areas and downgrading the real office spaces, where the employees must live-in and are expected to be engaged and deliver exceptional results.
With projects all over Europe, Africa, and Asia, coordination is no small feat. Can you talk about some of the things you’ve done to ease communication with clients and colleagues around the world?
STIRIXIS Group has successfully completed projects in 24 countries during the last years. We manage them efficiently using technology, working with our strategically designed, systemic, agile company structure and of course… a lot of traveling. Somehow, this has never been a problem despite the distances which are sometimes impressive.
In addition to your work with STIRIXIS Group, you’re also an accomplished public speaker. Do you have a favorite go-to topic for your speeches?
I am an avid fan and scholar of Systems Thinking and I am convinced therein lies a large number of solutions to the complex problems we face as businesses or as a society. Committed to creating a positive impact in businesses, I have been invited as a keynote speaker in Greece and abroad, in different fora and company events to explain how thinking Systems can successfully help tackle today’s challenges. Apart from Systems Thinking, I often give speeches on Strategy and Strategic Customer Experience Design, being certified by the International Customer Service Association.
STIRIXIS Group provides a wide range of design services, from customer-centered retail experiences to private luxury apartments. What are some of the major differences between designing for the business world and designing for more private clients?
There are significant differences between the two worlds. But there are great similarities in how we approach these. And we have gained from both knowledge and know-how that create emergent values through synergies never expected. We manage now to combine the “extreme” one-customer bespoke design with the effectiveness and resourcefulness that commercial spaces require. This results in great residential projects delivered perfectly on-time, on-budget and on-specs, something rare. On the other hand, we’ve come to understand customization and customer-centric design at its core, which allows us to optimize operations in commercial areas and to design attractive and profitable concepts for the business world.
Where do you hope to take STIRIXIS Group in the coming years?
I am honoured to lead a team of multi-functional, multi-cultured, excellent professionals who share the same values and vision. My biggest effort everyday lies in facilitating the interaction and relationships between them, so that their inspiration, their revolutionary life force, and the emergent values they create are sustainable and valuable to all. The world is hungry for real effective solutions, and STIRIXIS Group is known to provide these. I believe the next years will bring us even bigger projects and new markets. We work hard to be ready and look forward to it.
Do you have any favorite places, design-wise, in Athens?
Athens is for those who know a treasure of design. The sad lack of design, quality and order in public areas has resulted in impressive design on a smaller scale to balance life’s needs. Having said that, there is a new trend of many new small stores, restaurants and bars in the heart of Athens, near Ermou street and the adjacent areas of Monastiraki, Plaka, Athinas, Petralona where all together have created a destination, a cluster I should say that attracts a lot of young people, tourists and Athenians. The vibe that one gets there is very special and builds a very unique and memorable experience with design being supportive to that end.’’