That Which Runs Through The Core

A stick of rock has one word running all the way through its core

A stick of rock has one word running all the way through its core

In 2009, after many months of uncertainty regarding the future of the architectural industry, and in the grip of the worst economic downturn in my memory, I, like many other architectural personnel, found myself considering whether I had a future in the industry, and furthermore, what the future of architectural practice looked like.

Not for the first time, I found myself facing redundancy - a term which at the time made my blood run cold, as I had felt my job was secure and intentionally so; I was married with three children, the youngest of whom was barely a year old. As I came to realise, the security that I’d come to rely on was illusory.

Without seeking it, I was invited to an interview at another practice, a rare example of a business that still had work that needed to be moved forward. I went to the interview, but in my heart I had already made a decision to start my own practice; I declined the job offer and the following day, on 2nd July 2009, I signed the paperwork to start SIX Architecture + Design Ltd (SIX AD).

That was the start of a whirlwind seven years and despite the fact that I was running a business, it was from the start a very personal affair; my long suffering wife involved as Practice Manager and my children growing up thinking that this is what all parents do.

It was quite a surprise, in 2015, when the offer of taking on a role as Director of Architecture at a larger practice, came without solicitation. After some negotiation over what the job would entail, I accepted that new role the following year.  SIX AD became the Sheffield office of something bigger; something that I believed whole heartedly had the potential to become something significant, with the right investment of time, energy, personnel and with appropriate financial backing.

I thought I had learned some of the hardest lessons of my professional life, running a small business as a sole director. Running a department in a larger business, I have learned quite a few more. The most important lesson, is that everyone comes from their own perspective; everyone believes that they are right and when under pressure, our true nature rises to the surface.

For this reason, the most important thing a business owner can do to set their path to success, is surround themselves with people that are aligned to the same values and standards.

It’s not necessarily about thinking the same way, or even agreeing on the intricacies of how a task should be undertaken, but if people at the highest levels of a company cannot trust one another to achieve goals in a way that represents the shared values of the company, then success will elude that organisation.

Ten years ago, when I was running my small practice, I made decisions with the following thought in mind… Integrity Always Matters… IAM. I knew that the small decisions, relating to smaller outcomes, eventually amount to bigger outcomes, so every decision should be made with the intention of doing the right thing by all of the people that would be affected. That’s somewhat counter-cultural from a business perspective.  To achieve profitable results while fully benefitting our clients, that should be a director’s aim. There are however times when we’re faced with the prospect of choosing between one or the other; the company, or the client and the decisions we make are shaped by previous decisions - by the culture we develop in our companies and the values that we must engender within our team. We become the embodiment of the decisions that we make.

So why push the ‘re-start button’ nearly ten years later? In effect, to go back to a notion of a stick of rock; we can make it as pretty as we like on the outside, but we also have to choose the word that runs through the centre and is present whenever there’s pressure and wherever the stick should snap.

The word that runs through the centre of any organisation that deserves to succeed in the short, medium and long term, is Integrity.

When I first considered the idea to start a new business from scratch, the thing I was most certain of, was that I didn’t want to do it on my own a second time. I’m very grateful that Vicky and I have been able to start this new venture together, combining our collective knowledge from many years of architectural practice, but also knowing that we share the common value of looking after the people affected by our business, whether they are clients, colleagues, contractors or the wider community.


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