In 1964, I was a 10th grader at Raymond High School, worried about girls, Vietnam and keeping my old ’54 Plymouth running. At that same time, two young architects, Don Jernigan and Bob Harrison, plus Thad Hawkins, a civil engineer, were starting a business that continues today.
The firm name, JH&H Architects, is unchanged from 1964. However, the company has recently updated its logo to include the names of the current partners and has moved to new quarters on I-55 North in the old Dixie National Life building. The move was made to get everybody together under one roof after seven years of maintaining multiple offices in and around Jackson.
According to Jeff McGee, JH&H marketing manager, it became increasingly difficult to build camaraderie within the firm and coordinate projects without regular interaction among partners and staff members. So, they moved to a single location.
As companies grow, coordination becomes increasingly important and difficult. From their beginnings as a three-man operation, JH&H has grown to a 30-person, multi-discipline organization. The company holds a firm-wide staff meeting every Monday morning, which is followed by a partner meeting where issues raised in the staff meeting are resolved. These meetings are key to keeping everyone on the same page and projects flowing smoothly.
Statistics tell us that most new businesses fail within the first three years of existence. Lack of planning and capital are cited as the most common reasons for failure. Organizations that manage to hang around for a long time intrigue me.
What did JH&H do differently that has allowed them to continue in business for 40 years?
The answer for JH&H seems to be one that is pretty common among successful businesses. Market what you’re good at and stick with what you know. That is consistent with “In Search of Excellence” author Tom Peter`s advice to “stick with the knitting.” Hard work and constancy of purpose are other factors that often determine success or failure for new businesses.
And stick to the knitting is what JH&H has done. Jernigan, one of the original partners, was an ordained Nazarene minister and that connection led to lot`s of church design work. Over the years, JH&H has worked on more than 100 churches in 13 states. Diversifying across denominational boundaries, most recent work has been for Catholic and Baptist churches.
Another area of specialty is design and construction of elder care facilities. As our population ages, there is increasing demand for quality facilities to house and assist oldsters. JH&H recognized this important demographic early on and has done pioneering work in the design and construction of elder care facilities across the Southeast.
Carl Franco is the managing partner and the primary contact for church jobs while each of the other three partners have their own nich
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