Q&A: Westbury Managing Director
James shares some of his memories from the past twenty years at Westbury, his vision for the company's future and what continues to inspire him today.
Staff name: James Upton
Role: Managing Director
Been at Westbury for: 20 Years
First, tell us a little bit of background about yourself…
I first joined Westbury’s design team back in 1998, having studied Art & Design. I was considering going to University at this time, but when I came across the opportunity to work within a bespoke design & build company, the temptation was too great. And that decision obviously paid off!
In 2015, I was promoted from Senior CAD Technician to the position of Architectural Director, a great opportunity for me to continue working on the construction drawing and building processes, whilst helping to develop our growing team. I also joined the Westbury board which has enabled me to develop a great insight and a much better overview of the business. I was appointed as Managing Director in April 2017.
Each day might be different, but how would you sum up what you do on a typical day at Westbury?
Since becoming Managing Director, my day to day workload and set of responsibilities has shifted significantly. One of the biggest changes is that I am approached more internally by colleagues for help and it’s great to know that they trust my judgement. I’m increasingly involved with the sales team now too. I had always assumed sales was very target-driven, however, this is not the approach we take at Westbury. We believe in our product and pride ourselves on our high level of customer service.
What aspects of your job/working at Westbury do you enjoy the most?
I’ve always said that one thing I really love about Westbury’s way of working is the way that every project is built to the specification of our drawings. It’s amazing to see the finished garden room project in all its glory when just a few weeks ago, you were scratching your head in the design suite, trying to envisage how it might all come together.
Has there been a shift in market trends and customer demand over the years?
When I first started with Westbury, pretty much every job would be a fully glazed conservatory build, but over the years garden room and orangery projects have dominated the market, as more and more people are using these extensions to create a real ‘hub of the home’ through open plan kitchens and living spaces. Strong, dark and rich tones of paint are also very popular at the moment and look incredibly striking.
Can you think of a highlight (or two) of your time at the company?
One of my favourite memories was when we expanded to buy our own joinery workshop. The benefits were realised instantly and it has really helped the company to take a huge leap forward. Another great moment for me was attending our first exhibition at Decorex 2017 and off the back of that, we’re excited about heading to 100% Design this year too.
What’s your favourite Westbury project and why?
It would have to be either the two Victorian conservatories for Belle Vue Park in Wales (pictured above) which we recreated from an old black and white photo or the second storey orangery in London (pictured below) as it was a good logistical challenge and the final build looks stunning.
What is your vision for Westbury for the next five years?
To continue to develop as a company whilst maintaining our important values. I also believe there is great scope to grow the Westbury brand further internationally in response to the growing demand for British made products abroad.
What advice do you have for people hoping to embark on a career in a building design/joinery?
Due to the vast improvements in timber qualities and technologies, I really believe a career in joinery and design has a bright future. To be the best in this industry, you need to be proud of what you do in order to succeed, and with this, job satisfaction will also follow.
When you approach a client’s property, do you have an instinctive idea about what will work best or do you try not to let instincts kick in until you’ve spoke to the client?
We always take the time to listen to the customers’ thoughts before jumping in with our ideas; after all, a technically good design alone may not meet the customers’ day to day needs. We’ll then spend time drawing on our experience and expertise to make a tailored recommendation.