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“I think architecture is everything,” says Kevin Turnbull, Director of JDDK Architects. "Architecture is the hospitals that care for us, the houses that we live in, it's the city centres that we work in." 

Founded 35 years ago, JDDK has grown into one of the North East’s leading architecture firms, specialising in everything from sustainability and housing to healthcare and historic buildings. 

At the heart of this is people, "whether they are contractors, whether they are consultants or whether they are end users, I think that philosophy is really at the core of the business," says Kevin. 

"We believe in long term relationships and Haines Watts have helped us through the last 10 years. Their expertise across a range of services has been absolutely second to none." 

Kevin Turnbull and Nicky Watson - JDDK Architects 

Haines Watts have worked alongside the award-winning firm of architects for nearly 10 years, supporting them with everything from Research and Development Tax Relief, to outsourcing and their recent business restructure to become an employee ownership trust. 

"The strong working relationship we've built with JDDK has allowed us to have a lot more fluid two way conversations, which has allowed us to really tailor our strategic advice to the needs of the business," explains Jonathan Scott, Tax Partner at Haines Watts. "We see ourselves as an extension of the company and its employees." 

JDDK have designed and delivered groundbreaking projects throughout the North East and across the UK over the last 35 years.

As a close-knit team of 20, they have always put people at the forefront of what they do. “We are very focused on making sure that everybody who works here can be their best person,” explains Nicky Watson, Director of JDDK.

In doing so, the firm have been able to attract and retain some of the brightest talent in the industry. “So many of us have worked here for pretty much all of our careers,” says Nicky Watson, “so we can offer a really stable and consistent service to our clients.”  

JDDK's Journey

The firm have continued to shine a light on their people-focused philosophy, having implemented a 4 day working week last year. The change in working pattern has “been really, really successful,” Nicky explains. “We know that the wellbeing of our staff has improved, we know that the service we have been giving our clients has remained the same, and the business hasn’t suffered at all.”

Since moving to a four day week, the firm have continued to deliver “some absolutely amazing buildings, and build some new relationships while still maintaining the old friendships and relationships that we have in the industry,” adds Kevin.  

As the business reaches a milestone anniversary, the team at JDDK are continuing to look ahead, having recently implemented an employee ownership trust (EOT) – a similar business structure to the likes of the John Lewis Partnership.

“JDDK constantly prove that they are an organisation for their people, which is why an employee ownership trust structure is perfect for them going forward,” says Jonathan.

From initial discussions to supporting the firm with HMRC tax clearances, reviewing legal documentation, providing cashflow modelling and company valuations required for the move, Haines Watts have been by the side of JDDK throughout the transition to EOT. "We supported JDDK and their team, because this is for the benefit of the employees after all," says Jonathan.

“Haines Watts have been really helpful in advising us, taking us through various options of what we could do with the business and its structure,” says Nicky. “The change to the EOT is really exciting for our business,” she adds, “we’ve always been very open in terms of how we run the business with the people who work here and it feels almost like a natural step to become an EOT."

"There’ll be some financial benefits for the employees, who are able to have some tax relief on some bonus payments and in the long term, they will have an opportunity to influence how the business developments in the future.”

When it comes to the future of the business, the firm’s sights are set firmly on the next generation. “You always feel a bit of a custodian of JDDK, that you’ve got to hand it on to the next generation and that’s been our philosophy from the beginning. And it feels as if, as custodians, we’ve set a solid foundation to move forward. And that’s really exciting to me,” says Kevin.