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Architect by training, tradie at heart

Meeting Will Batts, Managing Director, Sentinel Homes Counties Franklin

Will Batts has always been in the property industry – with a successful property developer as a grandfather, you could almost say it was a family business.  

“I’ve grown up around property – it’s in the blood,” says Will. “I always expected to get involved in it.”

Will worked in the design side of the industry for almost a decade, but he knew where he really wanted to be: on the ground with the team, building things. That’s why, when the opportunity to take over Sentinel Homes Counties Franklin came up, he jumped at it.

“I always loved being on building sites. I wanted to be a builder – that was the dream,” explains Will. “Working in architecture, everyone would be getting long blacks, but I’d be more keen on having tea in a tin cup on-site.”

From soccer stadiums to dream homes

Will spent time as project lead for large-scale developments, from 100-house sites to $20-million luxury homes. He was even flown to Chicago to design a soccer stadium.

“That gave me a good grounding – I learned how to do complex things at scale and pace. It was an awesome experience.”

He’s brought that experience and design skill to his new business with Sentinel. He works closely on each project, especially in the early stages, to ensure the brief is clear and the design exceptional.

“I think good design is simple and should always be practical. Form follows function,” says Will.

Will’s approach to working with clients is to spend time getting to know them – uncovering their needs and hearing how they live their lives – that way, he makes sure he understands what they are trying to achieve.

“Within those confines, we can make something epic,” explains Will. “That’s about giving clients the confidence to try things, to take risks. I’ve learnt where things cost in a build, where you can push the budget to create moments of flare.”

His wife Lydia brings another element of design to the business. She’s a watercolour artist and works with clients to get the most out of their favourite spaces. Lydia knows how to help clients build a coherent look they can show off and feel comfortable in. Will says Lydia’s eye for interior design rounds off what they can offer their clients.

“She reviews all my designs,” says Will. “She’ll also get engaged with the interior packages as the business grows.”

But, bringing it all together is the key. It takes effort and a great team – another thing Will knows how to build.

Building an A-team

Will has led teams both in and out of business – as a project lead, in soccer clubs and through his old boys’ association. That gave him a clear idea of what kind of team – and business – he wanted to build.

“I’m laid back, but I get to the point quickly – no fluffing around,” laughs Will. “I’d like my team to flourish, and I want them to like being at work.”

That approach seems to be working so far, with several projects on the go in Karaka and Pukekohe.

The home builder at home

When Will isn’t building family homes, he’s spending time in his own – with Lydia and their three kids, Lucy (5), George (3) and Jack (1).

Soccer mad, Will has represented New Zealand in various youth squads, has had a taste of soccer at a youth professional level, and still loves to get out on the field when he has the chance. And these days, that’s often kicking a ball around with his three kids.

Will is settled in for the long haul – creating a future for his family, business and clients.

Playing the long game

Will has a ready answer for what success looks like – he wants his consultants, contractors and clients to choose to build with him again.

“To do that, I like to believe the best in people. I always under-promise and over-deliver, and that has to be backed by credibility,” he says. “I focus on getting the right people in the right roles.”

“You lose a bit in the first instance, but it’s worth it to make sure clients aren’t getting bad surprises down the track,” he explains.

For Will, it’s about integrity.

“We do what we say we’re going to do – that goes for everyone from the clients to the suppliers to my team. Even with little stuff – especially the little stuff.”

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