Jon Matthews has left 5plus, the company he co-founded in 2010, to set up his own studio with 17 staff and a full roster of clients, based out of City Tower in Manchester.
Although only two weeks in, Matthews has kicked off his practice, the eponymously-named Jon Matthews Architects, with a range of clients and staff taken from 5plus at the agreement of the other directors.
Central Manchester projects dominate Matthews’ workload. Schemes include Axis for Property Alliance Group, First Street for Ask, No1 Old Trafford for Cole Waterhouse, Back Turner Street for Salboy, and a monitoring role for Far East Consortium at Angel Meadows.
The separation of Matthews and his team from 5plus took 10 weeks from the first conversation with his fellow directors, Matthews told Place.
“We had a five-year business plan at 5plus which we delivered to the letter, I got to the end of it and thought ‘what next?’ We had grown to a massive business with the office in Manchester and London, pitching for public sector work, and there was a lot of extra aspects which came with all that, and I wanted to be able to concentrate on design.
“The catalyst to this thought-process was my brother passing away suddenly a year ago, which made me focus on what was really important. I had an honest conversation with the other partners, which of course was difficult. But the move has all been done amicably, everyone is friendly and still sociable.”
The number of staff at Jon Matthews Architects is due to reach 17 in the coming weeks, with team members joining from 5plus and recruited from other practices. Leading the studio alongside Matthews are directors John Crellin and Matthew Hayward, although Matthews is the sole shareholder. A long-term plan is for the wider team to take ownership of the business.
“The future is bright. I’ve genuinely been overwhelmed by the support, there’s been no negative comments. We’ve even won new work in our first couple of weeks, which is an amazing thing,” Matthews continued.
“We’ve kicked off with a fully kitted out, 3,000 sq ft office in City Tower; it was important to set the right tone for staff and clients, and to give those coming over from 5plus a feeling of business continuity.”
At 5plus, the remaining directors are Phil Doyle, Paul Norbury, Tony Skipper, and based out of London, David King-Smith and Adam Thornton. Along with Matthews, Doyle, King-Smith and Thornton were founding directors in 2010; Skipper joined from Ellis Williams in 2016.
There are 48 members of staff in 5plus in Manchester and around 20 in London.
Speaking to Place, Doyle said all the directors had agreed that “putting clients at the centre of the process” was essential as Matthews exited the business.
Doyle said: “As Jon had decided to set up on his own, after various conversations we agreed that we would scrap the various restrictive covenants that were in place, for the benefit of Jon, allowing clients and staff to make their own decision as to whether they’d go with Jon or stay with 5plus.
“Jon was one of the founding directors and a force behind 5plus from day one. However now, we’re into the next generation of the business, so I’d say watch this space. We’ve won a lot of significant work across the country, university clients led by Tony Skipper, Airport City is gathering pace in Manchester, so we see this very much as business as usual, but an opportunity for evolution.”