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Having trained at Bristol University and qualified as a Chartered Architect, John worked in London for 10 years for one of the UK’s leading construction technology practices. Over the last 20 years, as a founding Partner of Stubbs Rich Architects, John Rich has helped steer the organisation through the numerous challenges and opportunities it has encountered. Stubbs Rich undertakes projects across the UK and beyond and is well known in its key sectors: working with major institutions, developers (both residential and commercial), global brands such as IKEA, VW and Audi, and end-user clients such as charities, universities and companies.
With the UK’s current economic situation, Stubbs Rich’s business is thriving, as their core focus is on improving the way buildings are delivered. With this in mind, John also runs a system building company called Öppen which “brings together all of our best ideas in order to deliver commercial buildings more quickly, at lower cost and at higher quality than traditional buildings. We enjoy the challenge of designing buildings that deliver more for less”.
So, we asked John what he has he learnt about running his business for 20 years: “It’s either up or down, hardly ever on the level. Construction is sometimes described as being like a tap: if a business is in trouble, the quickest way to cut investment is to stop the flow of new building projects – we see the consequences of this on a regular basis.”
John’s faith in the power of mentoring to advance business potential began in 1993 with his own mentor, an experienced businessman who provided support to John during the early stages of building his practice. Although his mentor was not knowledgeable in the area of running an architectural practice, John found his mentor’s business experience to be invaluable. “I found it very useful to have someone who had faced all the challenges we were experiencing.”
This positive experience imbued John with a passion for the concept of mentoring: “At the time I said to myself that when I was older and more experienced, I would repay the favour.” Learning of Mowgli’s work through a friend, John was encouraged to join one of our programmes. Despite his initial trepidation that perhaps he was not yet fully equipped to guide others, John took the plunge.
During the Kickstart workshop, which begins the year-long Mowgli Mentoring Experience (MME) programme, John was delighted to be matched with Richard Male, whom he had quickly identified as someone he could work well with; “had we been able to make our own, positive choice, I would have selected Richard over and above all of the others – we just got on. Afterwards I thanked Mark for the pairing; he said that he could see from our body language that we got on well – impressive!”
From the outset, the notion of ‘opposites attract’ really did ring true for John and Richard. “We are quite different personalities; I am fairly calm, whereas Richard describes himself as ‘chaotic’. As an architect, I am very used to dealing with highly creative people: Richard fits into that mould well. I think if he really was chaotic, it would be a bit of a problem”.
John feels that he has definitely benefited from the experience and the relationship: “Through Mowgli I have met some fascinating people, working in fields I had never imagined could be so stimulating. I have also had affirmation that our business plan to empower our own staff to achieve their utmost is sound. So, now I believe that even if they leave, they will have benefited and we will have gained from the journey”.
As a result of the relationship, Richard’s business has moved forward and has matured over the course of the year. When asked what it was that made the relationship so enjoyable, John commented: “although I have had experience in the technology sector and enjoyed it, it has been really interesting to learn and see how the industry looks from the perspective of different users. In addition, it is really difficult to make a self-assessment with regards to whether you are making a positive impact on someone’s life or business, so to be told that my guidance is valuable really made putting the effort in more worthwhile.”
With regards to the guidance provided, John believes that it has “helped Richard through the inevitable turbulence of the early years. It has helped his business to mature and take on some of the attributes and confidence of an established business more quickly”.
To those who are considering becoming a Mowgli Mentor and a member of the Mowgli Family Network, John only has 3 words of advice: “Go for it!” He adds, “Provided you have experience of running a business, you will be able to contribute. It does take commitment, but like many voluntary activities you too will benefit. Through understanding the value you can bring to another business, you see the value you bring to your own business more clearly.”