‘Property is all around us, the ability to be involved in it and to shape it is exciting.’ This week I have a really great interview with Duncan Good. He was my APC supervisor and still remains one of my mentors. In this inspiring interview find out about his experience in working with both big and small firms, his proudest moments and his advice for anyone looking to get into the industry.
Thank you so much for agreeing to do an interview with me for the NC Real Estate website. I always looked up to you when we worked together at Miles Commercial as you were my APC supervisor and counsellor and always had a level head on things and better perspective!
You’ve recently moved to GVA, what does your working day look like now? What sort of projects do you work on?
My working day starts with finding a desk!! We have a hot desking policy at GVA although each team has allocated areas so we are generally in the same place albeit if you are last in you may have to sit with another team nearby!
My main role at present is providing strategic advice to Muller across their property portfolio so on a daily basis this involves liaising directly with them on ongoing disposals and various other instructions, speaking to colleagues who are providing specialist advice and also to third parties such as landlords, purchasers and fielding general enquiries.
I am also part of the leadership group of the new Corporate Solutions team, which officially launches on Jan 1st 2017. Therefore the four of us are meeting every couple of weeks at present to finalise our strategy, refine our business plan, discuss client targeting and marketing material amongst other things.
Why did you want to get into the world of property and what keeps you in it?
In truth I fell into property after A-levels. I was initially looking to do accountancy but my grades were not good enough so looked for an alternative. I decided on the Urban Land Economics degree at Sheffield Hallam as it had a third year placement which I thought would give me a chance to experience the industry on a practical level and if I did not enjoy it I would finish my degree and then look elsewhere. Obviously I did enjoy it as I am still here!
I enjoy working with different people and in teams and the variety that property can offer. My role in Corporate Solutions means I can be dealing with property sales, planning applications and rent reviews all in the same day and there is the opportunity to get out on inspections on a fairly regular basis.
You’ve moved between small firms and big firms, what are the pro’s and con’s for each?
There are more opportunities and support at big firms and certainly for younger surveyors there is the ability to move into different departments and gain a good breadth of experience. Eventually people do end up specialising as it is impractical having people simply doing what they want across large firms.
Smaller firms generally allow a wider remit although there is not the support in place in terms of breadth of specialist knowledge or from a pastoral point of view. Financial rewards are seen as being greater at a small firm although that depends upon numerous factors, not always within your control.
What is the most inspiring thing about being in the property industry?
Property is all around us, pretty much all the time and the ability to be involved in it and helping to shape it and therefore the world around us, albeit it in an extremely small way, is exciting.
What is the proudest moment in your career to date?
Difficult one but I’ve been involved in two projects that stand out. Firstly while at Strutt & Parker we advised Hammerson on the acquisition of LXB, a specialist retail warehouse company, for £430 million. The deal was highly confidential so we had a very small team working on it and it took around 3 months of hard work to complete but working as a team we managed to get it done, despite some ups and downs, and we kept it quiet.
Secondly I advised Dairy Crest on a site they owned in Nine Elms, close to Battersea Power Station. We were approached by an adjoining owner about a joint venture for a planning application and then sale. After agreeing the terms of the JV we put together a team of consultants and worked up a planning application, including liaising with the local authority, and ultimately were granted consent for a scheme of around 300 residential units, parking, commercial and community space. After an off market approach the site was sold for considerably above our initial expectations and the client was delighted.
How was it being an APC counsellor?
Good – I enjoyed helping and sharing knowledge. It was also good as a refresher on certain areas which I don’t necessarily use on a regular basis. The APC process is tough on candidates, particularly those at smaller firms who don’t necessarily get a wide range of experience or benefit from an organised education programme that is offered by the larger firms.
What advice would you give to APC candidates now?
Start as soon as you can, don’t be afraid of asking for help and if you fail first time don’t be disheartened as the system is not perfect and there are still rogue interviewers.
What do you think are the biggest problems in the industry right now and how can they be overcome?
A lack of diversity in the profession and a lack of leadership at the top end of the profession. There seems to be more engagement with government from industry bodies such as the IPF and BPF but not necessarily from the RICS. The diversity issue is improving slowly, too slowly compared to a lot of industries, although fortunately at GVA there is a better balance between men and women than at a lot of property firms.
What advice would you give to anyone who is trying to get into the property industry right now?
I think it is more difficult to get into the industry than it is to move into different areas once you are part of it. Therefore take your opportunities where you find them and build relationships and contacts wherever and whenever you can. Property is as much about people as buildings and most people are positive and helpful in our industry and if you are unlucky enough to encounter some of the other type, move on and don’t let them drag you down.
What’s the next exciting thing coming up in your career?
The official launch of our Corporate Solutions team in January and the recent acquisition of GVA by the Swedish private equity firm, EQT, mean there are opportunities to grow the team and business.
Thank you so much for answering these questions. If anyone wants to get in contact with you how would they do it?
By email is best firstname.lastname@example.org
So did you enjoy this interview? Has it inspired you to jump into the property industry? Leave your comments below, I’d love to hear from you!