Architect James Butterworth

James Butterworth is a born and bred Yorkshireman. After attending Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Wakefield, he decided he would take the long training route of studying to be an architect. After studying at Kingston University in London, he moved back to Wakefield to work for a large commercial architecture practice, DLA Architecture. He says, “I inherited a passion for buildings from my Dad who is a Chartered Surveyor and I remember visiting various buildings with him throughout my childhood. At school I enjoyed art & design and was offered work experience in an architect’s office. I found the job fascinating, loving the blend of creative and technical skills. Following this, I decided to forge my career in architecture. It was a bit of a shock when I found out it would take at least 7 years to qualify as an Architect but I was determined it was what I wanted to do.” James went on to undertake his post graduate architectural studies at Leeds Metropolitan University and after almost a decade, he left DLA Architecture in 2009 to start Studio J.

James has concentrated his business in the private residential market of the industry and now, 18 months later Studio J is going from strength to strength. “There are signs of the industry improving and as a result we’re now seeing our commercial workload increasing. As a small practice we offer a high quality personal service to our clients and this is where we make efforts to stand out from the crowd. Getting to know our clients well throughout their project and removing as much stress for them as possible is at the top of our agenda. I also use my commercial background to ensure they get the best results, often within restricted budgets” he explains.

So, what happens in a typical day for James? “I tend to get into the office in central Leeds early to avoid the rush hour traffic” he says. “It’s also a good time to get on with work as there are no distractions from the phone or email. Few Architects use drawing boards now so I’m in front of my computer for most of the day working on the latest project. This can be anything from initial designs for a new scheme to detailed construction drawings. My time is also partly spent on tasks such as researching specifications, speaking to clients, builders, planners and suppliers and dealing with other aspects of running the business such as marketing and finance. I like to visit sites as often as possible to make sure everything is running smoothly so I’ll often spend a couple of afternoons each week on-site talking with builders and checking details. Many of my clients are at work during the day so I usually visit them in the evenings when necessary to make sure they’re happy with the progress on their sites, or discuss new projects.”

Although Studio J is relatively young, James finds himself extremely busy. Maintaining a work/life balance can be challenging at the best of times, “I do occasionally find myself having to work long hours” he explains, “but a little prior planning makes a lot of difference to me, such as arriving in the office slightly later in the morning if I know I will be working into the evening visiting clients to avoid very long days. Planning my time is always crucial and taking time off is important to avoid burn out which could adversely affect my quality of work. Being my own boss has the added bonus of allowing me to take the odd afternoon off when I want to without giving any notice!” James also uses his love of Rugby Union as part of maintaining a healthy balance between work and play, he has always been a keen sportsman but admits he tends to watch more than taking part these days! He says, “I enjoy spending time with friends & family, watching films & listening to live music. I’ve been lucky to have travelled and seen many interesting places but for me Yorkshire has always had that something special about it. I currently live with my long term girlfriend, Lisa, in Horbury.”

When asked what it takes to run a successful business, James says the first thing is to make sure you enjoy what you do, “if you don’t you will struggle to commit the time and effort needed to make it work” he says. “You need to be excellent at time management as you will have many things to do and hitting deadlines is crucial, as is building a good reputation. You must be prepared to do aspects of work you would not normally do, certainly to start with, until you can employ others to do the tasks you don’t like.” James also made an important point of remembering that you staff are your most important assets, “look after them well and they will be happy and more productive for your business. At Studio J we also aim to differentiate our self from our competitors through providing excellent service quality and results that delight our clients and strengthen our good reputation” he says.

James says it is important to be prepared to work hard and have confidence in yourself, it is important to be sure you are really committed to making your own business work and doing all that you can to make it happen. He believes in listening to experts to soak up as much information as possible and learning all you can about marketing and finance.

When asked what the most useful piece of advice James has been given and why, he replied, “when people are trusting you with designs that they are going to spend a lot of money on constructing you have to get it right so attention to detail is key. Listen to your clients, understand their needs and aim to share their vision – remember that you’re designing for them and not for yourself!”