In Good Company
We all dream of working for a perfect employer. But short of door stepping the CEO, how do you turn fantasy into reality?
The difference between merely doing a job and having a great job is an employer with an ethos that suits you. Company cultures vary widely, so it is worth investigating them before you apply for any job.
John Campbell MRICS, a general practice surveyor who swapped a large company for a smaller, specialist employer, says: “I had been working with DTZ and then Colliers in the City of London but it was not the right environment for me. I was up for a new challenge and a recruitment consultant told me that commercial property adviser DeVono was looking for a senior, qualified professional. I knew the company was different in the UK in that it represented only corporate tenants, so that forms a part of its culture.”
He scoped out the firm by speaking to some of its employees and talking to director
Luke Philpott with whom he had dealt in the past. “I knew it was a young and energetic company that goes the extra mile for clients and it sounded like a good fit for my next challenge,” says Campbell.
Now a director in DeVono’s office agency team, Campbell adds: “When you are looking for the right company, be clear about what you want from an employer and clued up
about the companies you target. Talk to as many relevant people as possible.”
Employers also look for cultural fit in candidates.
Because DeVono only represents tenants, director Adam Landau says he looks for
candidates who show a genuine interest in this “no conflict of interests” model of
working. “Enthusiasm and dedication to this different way of doing business will
encourage our decision to hire,” he adds.
When choosing your preferred companies, John Lees, author of How to Get a Job You
Love, says: “Think about the kind of organisational culture that works for you. Target organisations that offer products and services you like, plus employers praised by their employees. Research the list and record what you learn so that you can compare them.”
Martin Wood, managing director of recruiter Prima Ardelle Associates, advises “Obtain
marketing collateral from the company to see how the brand is promoted, look at the
company website to see what their staff are like, look at their size to scope career
opportunity, and research industry commentary both online and offline.”
For other useful sources of information, try websites such as glassdoor.co.uk which has employee reviews of more than 11,000 companies, of best company listings such as greatplacetowork.co.uk and in the UK, the Sunday Times list of the top companies to work for: thesundaytimes.co.uk/best100companies
Look out for blogs and press interviews by senior figures – do they sound like people
with whom you could work? Better still, seek out people from your target companies and ask them what it is like to work there.
Recruitment consultants can help.
James Blaber, principal consultant at recruiter Eden Brown, says: “We spend all our time talking to companies, so we know those that keep staff or where turnover is high, what type of culture they have and what kind of people thrive there.”
All Remotely Possible
Business Web conferencing has evolved into a valuable time and money saver.
Web conferencing can help cut the cost and time of travelling to face-to-face meetings, but as well as allowing users to see and hear each other on screen, the right service can provide additional features that are particularly useful for surveyors.
Sam Rogers MRICS is associate director at DeVono Property in London, which represents tenants looking for commercial property. He finds that, “as well as being useful for meetings, [the technology] reduces time spent waiting for communications.”
Rogers, who works in the agency team finding property for clients, explains: “Now, instead of emailing property details or leases to clients and waiting for them to reply with queries and comments, web conferencing allows me to hold the document on our hard drive and invite the client to log in to my computer, so we can both look at it at the same time while we discuss details on the phone.” Large documents such as commercial leases no longer need to be sent by email, where they risk exceeding download limits and clogging up the recipient’s email system.
The firm’s project management team also uses the WebEx conferencing service, which is provided by Cisco. “Clients can alter room layouts on screen while talking to us,” says Rogers. DeVono’s operations director, Kirsty MacGregor, adds: “We use it for training sessions as well as meetings. It speeds up communication and makes meetings easier.”
Chartered quantity surveying firm Jackson Rowe uses web conferencing to conduct monthly team briefings and meetings between its four offices. But practice manager Anthony Youlton chose a service that also allows the user to record their sessions.
Youlton says: “We use it for CPD [continuing professional development]. Recently we invited an English lecturer to talk to us about effective business English. People joined in live, but the presentation was recorded so no one need miss it. We are building up a library of recordings that anyone, including our APC [Assessment of Professional Competence] candidates, can access any time.”
The firm also appreciates the fact that control of the screen can be handed over to clients who can, for instance, use it to display spreadsheets. Youlton chose the service with help from the firm’s IT advisers. “It costs £80 a month for two hosts and up to 50 users and we review it periodically to check it is still suitable for our needs.”
Kevin Meager, solutions consultant for Olive Communications, which helps firms find, install and run communications technology, suggests: “If you’re running Microsoft Office 365, you may already have Lync online, which is capable of running basic online meetings, and won’t cost you an additional penny.”
Otherwise, research the various providers and shop around, because the market is quite competitive. Meager advises: “Established players such as the Citrix GoToMeeting service and Cisco’s WebEx are now being challenged by new entrants, and established software firms such as Microsoft.”
Prices are usually based on factors such as the number of hosts and the maximum number of users. WebEx, for instance, offers a range of meeting plans. The basic version allows access for three people and one host per meeting, uses VOIP (voice-over-internet protocol) audio connections is via the internet rather than by traditional telephone, and allows the sharing of a desktop whiteboard and documents. It includes up to 250 MB of storage, and provides user guides, FAQs and help articles.
At the other end of the scale, however, is a £49-a-month plan that caters for up to nine hosts and 100 users, is accessible by telephone as well as VOIP, streams in high-definition video and allows sharing of applications and remote control. It also provides live 24/7 support and 1GB of storage.
Other systems highlight particular features. GoToMeeting, for instance, offers drawing tools, giving participants the capacity to draw on screen, while Adobe Connect makes much of its high levels of security and ability to work on mobile devices.
Once you have selected a service, check regularly that it is still value for money and offering the facilities you need. If something better appears, changing provider is fairly easy. Meager says: “There’s little or no software that gets installed on your own system, so it is not difficult to switch providers if you find your current supplier isn’t keeping up with technology changes, or your business requirements.”
Most web conferencing services are provided as a subscription-based managed service, so you are unlikely to be locked into an agreement for longer than 12 months.
The pop-up phenomenon offers a lifeline to landlords of empty shops and a vital testing zone for new enterprises. But can it turn the tide for the high street?
Words by Simon Creasey; Photographs by Carol Sachs
Around 18 months ago, Ruth Siwinski and her business partner Nathan Mills had a dream. They wanted to translate their very successful wholesale butchery business, which supplies top-end restaurants in and around London, to a high street store to offer ordinary consumers the opportunity to buy their high-grade meat. But there was a problem: landlords were just not interested. ‘We’d been looking for premises for about a year, but because we were a relatively new business, some landlords were wary as they’d been stung in the past,’ Siwinski recalls.
But then the business partners found out about the Portas Pilot scheme in Forest Hill, south-east London, developed on the back of Mary Portas’ 2011 high streets review, which offers aspiring retailers the opportunity to set up a pop-up shop in an empty unit for a month. It seemed like the perfect solution, but although the area’s residents had been crying out for a butcher’s shop on their online forum, would they support the venture? The answer was a resounding yes. Siwinski and Mills opened the doors of The Butchery in a former Caribbean restaurant in December last year for 24 days, and the business performed so well that, in February this year, The Butchery signed a nine-year lease on the premises.
Since the recession began, one in eight retail properties in the UK have been left empty thanks to the demise of high street retailers, such as Woolworths, Jessops and Comet. As a result, the pop-up model has emerged, allowing landlords to avoid paying business rates on empty units and instead generate additional revenue from a short term lease while they wait for a longer-term tenant. And it’s not just start-up businesses like The Butchery that are benefiting from the trend: over the past few years, big-name brands such as eBay, Marks & Spencer, Dr Martens and Diageo have used the pop-up concept as a marketing tool.
But how do pop-up schemes work? The basic premise has been around for a number of years, with retailers taking on units for short-term seasonal ventures, such as Christmas shops.
But around the mid-2000s, entrepreneurial start-ups, and blue-chip brands looking to undertake experiential marketing activities, began to employ pop-ups, sparking the creation of businesses solely focused on facilitating short-term leases as the movement gathered pace. Today, there are many of these businesses worldwide, according to Mike Salter, co-founder of We Are Pop Up, which provides a listings service for landlords to advertise vacant units available for short-term lets. ‘Although pop-ups are appearing all over Europe, Asia and America, at the moment they tend to be concentrated in large urban centres, such as New York, Shanghai and London,’ he says. ‘However, we’re starting to see increased demand from outside of London – for example, we just launched in Brighton – and we’re now looking to expand across the UK.’
One of the first UK pop-up businesses was property consultancy Popupspace. ‘Previously, I worked for a large private landlord and was always trying to find creative solutions to the problem of voids and vacant spaces,’ recalls Rosie Cann, who founded Popupspace in 2008. ‘There were a lot of people looking to take a property on temporary terms and I saw an opportunity to match potential tenants to vacant properties.’
The business model of Popupspace is incredibly simple: ‘People come to us and say, “We’re going to be carrying out a sample sale or promotional activity, so we need a thousand square feet in Manchester city centre and this is our budget,”’ explains Cann. ‘We then go out to the market and find a property to match their demands.’
Eamonn Murphy MRICS, from Murphy Chartered Surveyors & Property Consultants inBelfast, says that the pop-up model provides a major benefit for retailers struggling in the current economic climate, as it allows them to dip their toe in the water without committing to an expensive longer-term deal. ‘In today’s world, it’s difficult for retailers to know if they should open on a high street or in a shopping centre, so from a tenant’s point of view, it’s a good way to trial the location for limited financial outlay,’ he says.
What’s in it for landlords?
For landlords, the potential benefits of pop-ups are equally as attractive, according to Louise Brooks, project director at The Shop Revolution, which is responsible for delivering 10 pop-up shops for the SEE3 Portas Pilot scheme in south London used by The Butchery. ‘Pop-up shops increase the level of awareness of the property to prospective tenants or owners, so there’s an increased potential of a long-term let,’ explains Brooks. ‘Also, the responsibility for business rates passes to the tenants for the duration of the pop-up, reducing costs for the landlord, and there’s the added security of having an active occupier to keep the building in good repair and discourage vandalism or squatting, which can be a real risk to vacant premises,’ she adds.
Although some landlords are quite rightly nervous about potential tenants that may not have a proven track record of renting property, generally speaking, they tend to be less anxious about shortterm deals, as they usually reserve the right to evict misbehaving tenants, says Andrew Kilpatrick FRICS, director of Kilpatrick & Co in Swindon. ‘Having said that, temporary tenants are reasonably good at leaving properties as they find them, as they know that if they don’t, word will get around, and they may be unable to get another unit,’ he adds.
The financial rewards of short-term lettings can also help to assuage any lingering concerns, with some occupiers willing to pay over and above the market rent for a well-located space, says Rob Redgrave, department head at Miller Commercial in Truro. ‘We did one shortterm let over Christmas where the tenant paid one-and-a-half times the annual rent, so for the landlord, the benefit outweighed any risk involved.’
But despite the package of potential benefits, it’s not always easy convincing some members of the property industry to embrace the pop-up concept, says Ross Bailey, CEO of online shortterm retail space marketplace Appear Here. ‘Especially when you consider that commercial property’s quarter-day rent periods have barely changed since the Middle Ages,’ he adds. ‘Because of this, we’ve been delighted by the forward thinking of some landlords, especially those such as British Land, Broadgate London and Legal & General who have signed with us exclusively.’
However, for the time being at least, a major stumbling block for landlords, tenants and commercial surveyors is the amount of money it costs to process short-term lets, says Redgrave. ‘The cost of the legal process for a pop-up space is similar to that for a 10-year lease,’ he explains. Someone has got to foot those bills and, as landlords are not keen to pay around £500 in legal fees for a week’s rent, the cost is typically pushed on to the tenant, meaning that it quite quickly becomes financially unviable for the tenant to occupy for a short-term.’ As a result, Redgrave says that only around 10% of the enquiries he fields for pop-up lettings reach completion.
It’s clear that there are a number of obstacles to overcome before pop-up shops become the ‘global phenomenon’ that Philip Sandzer FRICS, head of retail at DeVono Property, forecasts. However, he remains enthusiastic: ‘There is a real opportunity for high streets to take advantage of the growing trend and offer pop-up rental to more local and up-and-coming retailers and restaurateurs,’ he says. ‘How exciting would it be for local residents to have an ever-changing high street, with fresh ideas and seasonally based products on offer from local designers and producers?’Tristan Pollock, co-founder of USbased Storefront, which has placed more than 100 brands into empty spaces in San Francisco since December 2012, is similarly bullish about the future outlook for pop-ups. ‘Worldwide, short-term stores are a growing, lasting trend,’ he says. ‘We see the future of retail as more targeted, temporary and tech-savvy.’
Indeed, the biggest problem threatening the growth of pop-ups at the moment is finding suitable available space, as the demand for space is currently outstripping supply, says Salter, who claims that for every pop-up space We Are Pop Up lists, he receives at least 10 requests. ‘There is a disconnect between how people want to use empty space and how the majority of it is being managed. We want to change that,’ he adds.
With global economies in desperate need of a new generation of entrepreneurial enterprises to help kick-start growth, a sea change in attitude is required sooner rather than later, says Siwinski. She adds that, although she and Mills would have launched The Butchery (pictured left) eventually, if they hadn’t been able to trial the concept in a pop-up format, it would have taken them far longer and exposed them to more risk. ‘You can do as much market research as you like, but it’s only when you open a shop that you really know whether or not customers will walk through the door. And because more walked through than we expected, we had the confidence to open permanently,’ explains Siwinski. ‘Also, running a successful pop-up for a month proved to the landlord that we were a serious business that could be sustainable,’ she adds.
Although the pop-up movement alone might not be a panacea to the serious problems facing high streets and shopping centres worldwide, it could provide a short-term boost that buys governments, landlords and business-owners more time to develop a longer-term strategy.
How to find jobs via online networking
By Linda Whitney
‘Too few chartered surveyors use online networking to find jobs,’ says Sam Rogers MRICS, who found his current job, as a general practice surveyor at commercial property advisers DeVono in London, through LinkedIn. ‘I was job hunting in 2011, and heard about a recruitment agency that might be useful,’ Rogers explains. ‘I looked it up on LinkedIn, and saw that one of the consultants was a mutual friend, which was an immediate link and I think helped make a good first impression.’ Rogers applied for a vacancy at DeVono and got the job. He recommends joining industry specific groups within online networks, such as the RICS Networking Group on LinkedIn, because, as well as providing a pool of likeminded potential business contacts, Rogers says that employers and individuals often notify the group members about vacancies.
A professional profile
Aside from LinkedIn, other social networking sites, including Twitter and Facebook, can also be potential sources of jobs. However, these sites are more social-based than professional, so delete any unprofessional posts or photographs if you’re going to allow prospective employers and recruitment consultants to view your profile. In fact, recruitment consultants often now trawl social media sites for possible candidates. Christopher Mackenzie, director of real estate at Cobalt Recruitment, says: ‘As well as candidates coming to us, our consultants search for candidates online, so it’s important to make sure your LinkedIn profile includes relevant information so you can be found easily.’
Companies also use networking sites to scope out candidates before they come for an interview. Kathy Campbell, group human resources manager at property investment company Boultbee, says: ‘I always research candidates on LinkedIn to ensure their identity and professional history matches their CV.’
It is, therefore, really important to upload your full CV (called ‘resume’ on LinkedIn), and keep your profile up to date with all your qualifications, jobs and projects. Make sure you include the keywords and skills that recruiters and employers would look for, and raise the visibility of your profile by taking part in discussion forums, answering questions and requesting recommendations from others. Mackenzie also suggests monitoring LinkedIn company pages to keep up with industry developments, and signing up for the LinkedIn Today news service, which can be customised according to your industry.
In terms of networking, make the most of LinkedIn by being proactive. You can even link to potential employers, or ask for introductions from shared contacts. Campbell says she has no problem with online approaches from speculative jobseekers, and believes it’s a recruitment route she’ll be increasingly looking to in the future. Even failed interviews can be useful: ‘Many unsuccessful candidates link with me afterwards as it’s an easy way to keep in touch in case another suitable vacancy comes up,’ she adds.
To view and discuss the latest surveying and property employment opportunities, search for the ‘RICS Recruit group’ at linkedin.com or follow @RICSRecruit on Twitter.