Commercial Property Market Needs More Creative Thinkers
3rd May 2016
“Our sector is suffering from a dearth of truly creative thinkers – and this needs to change”, says Richard Sutton, director at Nottingham’s NG Chartered Surveyors. We caught up with Richard to discuss the future of the profession.
Richard Sutton believes that surveying is being held back by a profound lack of innovation. The old guard remain set in their ways, he says, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to find individuals who are willing or able to inject verve and creativity into the industry.
“There’s a lack of interesting talent in the provinces at the moment”, says Sutton.“A lot of affluent, creative kids go to London, but why can’t the rest come to us?”
“There are relatively few free-thinking surveyors, and that is a real shame. CVs are mostly robotic now. They lack personality. What we want is a spark, an element of creativity. Sunny Landa (Richard’s fellow director) was unique when he joined us. He had style, charisma and energy – all of which are in short supply in the sector. I’m a generation older than Sunny. That’s fine – I have a lot experience and I’m good at what I do – but you need people who are in touch with the generation around them if you want to progress”.
What innovations aren’t being taken up which perhaps should be?
“Technology is becoming increasingly important”, says Sutton.
“You can buy a decent drone for £1000, and I believe they will be as integral to surveying as iPhones in a few years’ time. This is where the generational thing comes in – older surveyors are resistant to these kinds of ideas, but the younger generation are used to harnessing new innovations, and they have a can-do attitude. Not unlike the Americans, in fact. It’s a completely different perspective. The prevailing attitude amongst surveyors tends to be ‘let’s see what the big boys are doing before we do anything’, but this is the problem. We want people who see solutions, not obstacles – people who will go out on a limb. We’re not going to read fifty identical CVs! It has to be about differentiating yourself. Creativity has to filter into the industry as a whole. That ultimately means embracing youth”.
Sutton says that thinking outside the box can even extend to personal style.
“There’s a kind of ‘Lego mentality’ amongst surveyors which says that you have to have matching hair, jacket, hat, and so on – both literally and figuratively. But why can’t you have orange hair and wear a green jacket? Mix it up a bit! I’ve never lost a deal because of what I’m wearing. Personal style is important”.
“NG Chartered Surveyors is about style and substance”, he continues.
“That is the key. We want to inject humour and personality into the industry whilst remaining consummately professional in the way we go about our business. It’s possible to be serious and creative at the same time”.
But is it easy to find young surveyors with the requisite verve and creativity?
“Universities need to develop better programmes with employers to move things along”, says Richard.
“We’re happy to give up our time, but unfortunately the universities don’t seem all that interested in developing talent. That’s a big problem, because a lot of people are doing surveying qualifications, thinking they’re all set, but they’ve never had a proper job before uni. They lack the necessary life experience to make them stand out”.
“In the end, it isn’t really about qualifications anyway. We’re looking for the person who breaks the mould”.
In March, we published a thought piece by Richard which opened with a quotation from Jack Kerouac, the famously free-thinking American novelist.
“Kerouac looked at things in a different way, but he was actually incredibly commercially astute”, says Sutton.
“In his novel On the Road there is a sense that you can make the world as big as you want it, but at the same time he is writing about cars – one of the biggest commodities out there. His example shows us that free-thinking and commerce aren’t mutually exclusive”.
“Every revolution begins from the bottom up”, he says.
“The big boys in surveying do not operate this way, but at NG Chartered Surveyors we are looking for people who have the creativity to shake things up. We’re looking for fresh ideas”.