Monday, 04 July 2022

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Mack, Simon Mack Architecture, Henley

Let's Get Down to Business: Simon Mack, Simon Mack Architecture, Henley

SIMON MACK is the proprietor of Simon Mack Architecture in Market Place, Henley. Originally from the West Midlands, he studied architecture in London and then worked in the capital for 20 years on both commercial and residential projects. In 2009 he moved to Henley where he now lives with his wife Alexandra Stafferton, a teacher at Sacred Heart Primary School, and their daughter Jessica, 14, and springer spaniel Sam.

Describe your business

We are a Royal Institute of British Architects practice specialising in contemporary residential architecture with projects ranging from small extensions to large new homes. We work primarily in Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Hampshire. We use sustainable materials and products whenever possible.

How many people does it employ?

Four of us — three architects and my wife, who does the books when not teaching.

What did you do before you started this business?

I worked in London for several big firms, including Anouska Hempel Designs. She was an actress who became a renowned hotelier and interior designer. We moved to Henley when our daughter was still very young to change our lifestyle.

When did you start your business?

In 2011. Initially I worked out of our loft. We moved to our current studio in September 2020.

What was your objective?

I wanted to leave commercial architecture behind and concentrate on residential projects. Becoming part of the community and working with local people and trades were prime objectives.

Who or what influenced you?

It was a very personal choice, mainly about lifestyle. I didn’t know anyone who’d started their own business.

Do you have a mentor or role model?

No. I had to learn to run a business by trial and error. A friend of mine started a business at about the same time and we shared our experiences as we went along.

What would you do differently if you could again?

I wouldn’t have tried to do everything myself when I started. I tried to take on every area of responsibility instead of using outside resources.

What impact is the current coronavirus pandemic having on your business?

We were able to continue working during the lockdowns. Many of our client meetings were conducted on Zoom, which saved many hours of time spent travelling. As a result of the changes in people’s working arrangements, the construction business is doing very well but there are supply issues and skilled construction workers are booked up way ahead.

How is your business doing?

It’s doing well and continuing to grow but I’m not looking to become a big company.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

The satisfaction of seeing projects completed and happy clients. To be able to work when I choose.

What’s the most challenging aspect?

It’s difficult to know how and when to target marketing campaigns. Getting the right people when they are needed.

Have you set any goals for your business?

We aimed to become carbon neutral last year and achieved it. It wasn’t easy as it’s difficult to measure. It even involved changing the paper we use and switching to oatmeal milk.

What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned?

To realise the value of experience and to share that with clients.

What would you advise someone starting a business?

Don’t take on anything you don’t understand and don’t be afraid to ask for advice.

What’s the biggest mistake you’ve made?

When I started, trying to do everything myself.

How organised are you?

Very as I enjoy what I do and work long hours.

What three qualities are most important to success?

Planning, watching the finances and paying attention to detail.

What’s the secret of your success?

My experience and my passion for what we do. I don’t take on some projects because they don’t excite me.

How do you dress for work each day?

Shirt, jeans and a jacket.

What can’t you be without every day?

A pencil or a tablet to draw on.

Lunch at your desk or going out?

I usually prepare something at home and bring it in.

Do you continue to study?

Yes, a lot. I’ve did more than 80 hours last year.

What do you read?

I only read books infrequently as I prefer to sketch but I read the Henley Standard as it’s full of information about what’s going on.

How are you planning for retirement?

I hope my daughter will eventually take over the business. She wants to be an architect.

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