Commercial Property Innovators Welcome
4th March 2016
Richard Sutton of Nottingham’s NG Chartered Surveyors, gives his opinion on the pressing need for innovation in the commercial property sector.
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.” – Jack Kerouac, On the Road
“I’m not saying that life as a commercial property surveyor in the East Midlands is in any way exactly the same as Kerouac’s travels across America in the 1950s, but, just as the author was rightly lauded as a free-thinking ground-breaker, our sector is suffering from a dearth of truly creative thinkers – and this needs to change”, says Sutton.
“Recently, I was reading an article in an industry journal from Jonathan Goldstein, the CEO of financiers Cain Hoy, who was complaining that many now operating in the commercial property sector have become faceless automatons, obsessed with box-ticking and without even a grain of creativity.
“However, if companies such as his champion entrepreneurial spirit, why do they employ the services of the big corporate firms and not niche private practices?
“Goldstein is correct that the surveying industry is dominated by grey-suited corporates and their surveyors are clones of their immediate bosses as much as they are of theirs. Evidence of this was very clear at 2015’s RICS East Midlands seminar where the great and the good were bemoaning the fact the industry is dominated by white males in the 40-55 age range. There was much hand-wringing about how we can make the industry attractive to the younger generation.
“The truth might be hard to bear, but they can’t if the status quo is maintained. The commercial property surveying sector is conservative by nature and conservative by design; it lacks any sense of forward-thinking and, broadly, isn’t seen as an either glamorous, exciting or colourful place to work.
“Bigger agencies are, by design, less flexible; they are stuck in their corporate ways, answerable to faceless, unshifting, unambitious boards of directors who have been doing things the same way for years (and so why change?)
“We’ve changed because we’ve had to. NG Chartered Surveyors has, since we started the firm, had a sense of individuality. We’ve strived to stand out from the crowd – partly because we have to – but also because of the ideas of our people. Our marketing has been niche, targeted and has often had a sense of humour -something we could never accuse some of our larger rivals of having.
“We have to be market-clever because our budgets are a fraction of those of the big beasts. But we still turn heads, we still make people smile, we still deliver for clients over and over again.
“The fact of the matter is: the property industry outside London resists flair and resists change. It doesn’t run with the mavericks like NG – even though it could get better results. To us both results and flair matters, but to most new entrants into the commercial property industry, flair is a foreign island.
“And flair gets results. Off the back of our innovative marketing, we’ve completed some groundbreaking deals recently. At the Loft in Nottingham city centre, we let the second and third floor offices, achieving the highest rent in the Lace Market at over £14 per sq ft.
“At Cinderhill Point, NG has let a 26,200 sq ft industrial unit at £5.25 per sq ft – the highest rent for a unit of this size/age anywhere in Nottingham since the end of the recession.
“Meanwhile, at Sycamore Pods Moorgreen we have achieved rents at £7.25 per sq ft, and at Stanton Forge we have forward sales ahead of project completion at over £100 per sq ft.
“Off the back of this we have been asked to bring our expertise to Urquhart House in the Lace Market and 14 Park Row in the heart of Nottingham’s professional services quarter.
“So, while we’re not exactly like the character in Kerouac’s On the Road, we’d urge any young people who are ‘tremendously excited with life’ and who want ‘the freedom of the road’ to get in touch with us. As the book’s Dean Moriarty enthuses: ‘Somewhere along the line I knew there would be visions, everything; somewhere along the line the pearl would be handed to me.’”