Jamie Ashton – Celebrating 50 years

My name is Jamie Ashton and I’m the Managing Director of Projex Solutions. As I celebrate my 50th birthday, I wanted to look back on my journey and how Projex Solutions came to life. This is a story about the challenges, celebrations, and growth along the way.

My journey to our current business began in school where I remember struggling with a lot of the theory associated with my GCSE’s which were integral to the path I wanted to go down. Having spoken to the Engineering Manager at (what used to be) Allied Colloids, I promised him I’d work immensely hard to prove myself if he’d just give me the chance of an apprenticeship as an Instrumentation Technician – 6 months later I’d squeezed through by the skin of my teeth with passable grades.

At this point, my journey getting to work was a 6-mile journey on a pink and white drop handled bike. At the time I thought I’d get into biking… Until the winter hit. Suddenly it wasn’t as enjoyable as I first thought it’d be! This became a big challenge, however I eventually passed my driving test and ended up with a leaf green Vauxhall Chevette – a fantastic motor and one of many over the next few years.

Having a car meant that the apprenticeship was much easier to attend but it began with challenges from the off which was a real eye opener compared to school. Whilst the practical elements came naturally to me, mainly having the privilege of working with some fantastic engineers, some of the theoretical modules were more demanding than I expected. Without the help of some close friends, my college experience definitely wouldn’t have been the same. It was tough and it was a struggle, but luckily my friends were considerably confident and helped me to refocus and persevere at every hurdle.

When starting at college my first year was on the BTEC General Certificate, I didn’t know what to expect – Thankfully, I’d passed all my foundation work. The following year was to be a challenge as this was year 1 on the BTEC ONC, with hours of exam revision at the end of the year – I had given it my everything but the technical challenges and pressures in the exams were just too much.


“I’d failed. And it was very disappointing”


I’d failed. And it was very disappointing. And at this point it felt like I’d let the Engineer Manager down. I needed a new approach. With the help of one of my tutors, I realigned my approach and began to understand my learning style. I completed a 2-year City & Guilds in Electrical & Electronic Engineering (a more practical route) which I passed with flying colours.

I attempted the BTEC ONC once again with two years of studying and this time passed! Whilst I was ecstatic about the result, the biggest victory was finally being able to understand how my mind worked. At the end of this I pushed my Manager to progress me to the BTEC HNC, which I knew would have its own challenges, but as they were more practical activities, I knew I’d engage with better.

I decided to commit to completing the BTEC HNC in a single year (mainly because the Senior Manager started to challenging why I needed to gain my HNC). After getting backing from college, and planning how this would work around my day job, I got everyone on board and devised a progression route through my place of employment.

As the HNC exams came around, I’d never done so many hours of studying in my life – 2-years of tests and exams in one year was difficult but whilst it was a tough journey, it was worth it. I completed it with a merits & distinctions and finished my apprenticeship as a qualified Instrumentation Technician.

Following the completing of the HNC, this lead to being recognised in the company and after a further 6-months I applied to become part of the Engineering Design team as an Electrical & Instrumentation Design Engineer giving me my next steps on my progression, allowing me to start a degree – something I never thought would be achievable. The support of both my Line Manager and Department Manager helped to make this to happen. During this time I was even awarded a Merit award and a personalised glass tumbler along with a feature in the company magazine!

The next steps of development were studying ‘Manufacturing Systems Engineering’ at Leeds Metropolitan University. The course should have been 4 years but was shrunk down to 3 years for a few of us due to the high-level results at HNC level. Business studies was also part of this route which gave me a great insight into the theory of running a business. Throughout university I would often develop ideas about having my own business. At that point in time it was just a fantasy, but at that point I wasn’t sure if I was serious about business. It wasn’t until many years of working that I was convinced that’s the route I wanted to go down.

Having spent multiple years working through my career on Chemical sites, I was facing redundancy. I’d just bought a house, so it became even more catastrophic. I knew I had to do something, and I’d already contributed to projects in Pharmaceutical, Food & FMCG industries, so I finally decided the time was right to give things a go and work for myself. I started working for consultants onsite along with from my bedroom, with papers scattered across every horizontal surface and soon enough developed & evolved the systems and processes needed to take a serious approach to business.


“I was working 12-18 hours a day and it wasn’t healthy”


What now feels like a whirlwind, was a series of chapters that finally grew the business from a one-person venture in a bedroom, often working unsociable hours, to a multidisciplined team of Engineers & Commercial staff, all dedicated to delivering exceptional work for clients under the Projex Solutions banner. Before, I was working 12-18 hours a day and it wasn’t healthy. Now I was committed to making it work in a sustainable and manageable way, ensuring the team had a work life balance. Thankfully the team we had would help me achieve exactly that.

A pivotal moment came when we were faced with a decision to move from our shared offices in Huddersfield to a much bigger office. We knew it would be a financial headache and we’d have to grow our team to fill the office, but it was a decision we knew we’d have to face at some point if we were to grow the business into something bigger and more sustainable. The process itself took almost a year as we finally decided to move into St Pegs House, our current flagship location in Brighouse. At the time we risked everything on this working. We spent a fortune on servers, switches, cabinets, phone systems, desks, PC’s and more, all in the hope that this new plan of expansion would eventually return our investment.

We were spending money faster than we were making it, to the point where we only had a single month of cashflow available. Month on month we battled through, even seeking financial safeguarding measures in case of absolute catastrophe. Whilst I believed it would work, success is never guaranteed. Not only this, but as the business grew, so did the costs. Expenses were mounting but I continued to believe we had something special. We struggled and we pushed through and after 6 months we finally stabilised.


“Despite how much you try to balance life, it’s never easy.”


Our finances were now in order and the business was on a strategic growth path. To keep the momentum going, we hired a Business Development Manager. My family were always around to help too and I cannot thank them enough. I’d often sit and reflect on things to realise that family life doesn’t run separate to work; they both run in parallel. Despite how much you try to balance life, it’s never easy. For example, remember when COVID-19 was a thing? No one was prepared for the changes it would have on our way of lives at the time. And whilst the pandemic was a challenge, it was a challenge for everyone, and we came together to support one another. It was hard to deny that work and life were interlinked when most of us were working from our living spaces, spending more time with family, and trying hard to live normal lives. That’s why we celebrated our team reunion with our first ever team building day once things had returned to normal once again.

We’ve since spent the last few years establishing ourselves and growing the business in a fantastic way. We’ve won multiple awards, grown our team massively, and have embedded ourselves with some of the world’s most respected companies and worked on some amazing landmark projects. The future looks promising and we’re likely to continue this positive trajectory, but we’re also prepared for every eventuality, because our journey has already taught us not to take anything for granted.


“We’re proud of where are and constantly aiming higher”


So, as I now turn 50, I started the day with a ‘Fit at 50’ workout. That includes 50 power cleans, 100 wall balls, 50 pull ups, 100 dumbbell snatches, 50 shoulder to overhead lifts, 100 box jumps, 50 cals, 100 dumbbell lunges, 50 toe to bars and 100 DU’s. It’s fair to say, I’m exhausted, but I’m grateful. I have my health, my family, my friends, and my team.

I don’t know what the future holds, but right now we’re proud of where we are and constantly aiming higher. I can’t tell you what happens next in this story, but I can share our journey so far, and retell our story as one of growth, challenges & sustainability. So, here’s ten pieces of advice I learnt whilst living through the past 50 years of my own story

10 Lessons I’ve Learnt


(1) Find your people: My friends made a tough time bearable for me in college and my family supported me through business. When things are tough for you, make sure you have someone to turn to.

(2) Be accountable: The same way I promised the Engineering Manager I’d work hard, it’s important to proclaim your goals to someone so your intentions are voiced out in the world for at least one person to hold you accountable.

(3) Celebrate the little things: Whilst my green Vauxhall wasn’t the best car I owned (in fact, I recall how often the clutch would slip!) I remember it because it was a celebration of an important milestone in my life. That will stay with me for life.

(4) Start small until you have proof: I started from my bedroom, then moved into a rented space, and then into our company’s own space. I had proof that there was an existing demand, we had existing projects, happy clients and we were already growing when we made the move to our own space.

(5) Play for the long game: You must know the difference between making a pound today and making two pounds tomorrow. Know which business decisions are geared towards immediate impact and which ones are intended to benefit you long term. We invested in our own space to allow us to benefit later down the line.

(6) Get help when you need it: No one is expected to know everything. That’s why I hired a Business Development Manager and also why I had my family helping me. It’s easy to get caught up in the trap of thinking, as a business owner, that you need to know it all and can do it all.

(7) Not all risk is reckless: You’re going to have to face challenges, fail, and risk spending time on retrying things. You might even have to do it repeatedly. Good business leaders develop enough intuition to know when to take risks and when to avoid it.

(8) Be present: Even when things are a challenge, remember to smile, to laugh and be present. By spending time focusing on what’s happened, instead of what you can do to make the situation better, you run the risk of losing the moment.

(9) Trust the process: Don’t get imposter syndrome when things go downhill or when problems relapse. Things are bound to go wrong and that’s not your fault. When things go wrong, don’t take it personally, no matter how many times they reoccur. Accept them, address them and future-proof yourself.

(10) Progress is painful but rewarding: Our whole journey has taught me this, and today’s workout reminded me once again. Growth is painful but always rewarding at the end. The acorn doesn’t become the oak tree without cracking the shell and enduring complete change. Change isn’t a process of suffering; it’s a disciplined process of endurance, knowing the outcome will be worthwhile.