Let’s get down to business: Simon Mack, Simon Mack Architecture, Henley

SIMON MACK is the owner 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 commercial and residential projects. In 2009 he moved to Henley where he now lives with his wife Alexandra Stafferton, a teacher at Sacred Heart Elementary School, and their daughter Jessica, 14, and the Springer Spaniel Sam.

Describe your business

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

How many people does it employ?

Four of us – three architects and my wife, who takes care of the books when she’s not teaching.

What were you doing before starting this business?

I worked in London for several large companies, 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 in our loft. We moved to our current studio in September 2020.

What was your goal?

I wanted to leave commercial architecture and focus on residential projects. Being part of the community and working with local people and trades were primary goals.

Who or what influenced you?

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

Do you have a mentor or a role model?

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

What would you do differently if you could again?

I wouldn’t have tried to do everything on my own when I started. I tried to take on all areas 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 appointments took place on Zoom, which saved us many hours of travel. Due to the changes in the way people work, the construction industry is doing very well, but there are supply issues and the skilled construction workers are very busy.

How is your business doing?

It is doing well and continues to grow but I am not looking to be a big company.

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

The satisfaction of seeing projects completed and customers satisfied. So I can work when I want.

What is the most difficult aspect?

It is difficult to know how and when to target marketing campaigns. Find the right people when they are needed.

Have you set goals for your business?

We were aiming to become carbon neutral last year and we have achieved it. It was not easy because it is difficult to measure. It even involved changing the paper we use and switching to oat milk.

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

Realize the value of the experience and share it with customers.

What advice would you give someone starting a business?

Don’t accept 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 I tried to do everything on my own.

Are you organized?

Very much like I love what I do and work long hours.

What are the three most important qualities for success?

Plan, monitor finances and pay attention to details.

What is the secret of your success?

My experience and my passion for what we do. I don’t take certain projects because they don’t fascinate me.

How do you dress for work each day?

Shirt, jeans and jacket.

What can’t you live without every day?

A pencil or tablet for drawing.

Have lunch at your desk or go out?

I usually cook something at home and bring it along.

Do you continue to study?

Yes a lot. I did over 80 hours last year.

What are you reading?

I rarely read books because I prefer to draw but I read them. Henley Standard because it’s full of information about what’s going on.

How do you plan for your retirement?

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

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