Where did you grow up and what were you fondest childhood memories?
I was born and brought up on a farm in rural West Sussex. The youngest of 4, I had a very countryside related childhood and from a very early age have fond memories of helping out on the farm in all seasons.
What was your first job?
My first ‘real’ job, if you don’t count working on the farm in my school holidays was selling fish (live trout) in Chelsea Farmers Market in Sydney Street. It was a truly horrible job—getting in at 6.00 in the morning, killing and gutting 200+ trout, biking them out to restaurants, and then opening the shop all day, but it came with a room in a flat in Holland Park and a company moped and enabled me to move to London.
Did you have any ambitions when you were a child?
It probably sounds a little crass, however I knew I wanted to be successful and my way of determining that was money. We were never given any money as children so if I wanted something, I’d have to work for it and I started doing that from an early age
Who do you look up to in life?
So many people, my good mates, people who run great businesses but probably most of all, those who dedicate their lives to making things better for others with little financial reward. I’m in awe of them.
Who has been most influential in your career?
I’ve had 3 mentors in my life; the first is Jon Hunt. I met Jon when I was 23 and he was about 30 and enjoyed an incredible ride with him. He was an inspirational revolutionary and whilst I certainly didn’t enjoy it all, I learnt a huge amount, which enabled me to build Marsh & Parsons. The second is Mark FitzGerald, the CEO of Sherry FitzGerald who I met in North Queensland at a property conference and who gave me the confidence and the wherewithal to buy M&P and the third was our Non Executive Chairman at M&P, Michael Baulk. He was the former Chairman of the advertising powerhouse Abbot Mead Vickers and he too taught me so much about how to conduct a great business.
Talk us through the roles have you in property and what’s been your favourite?
My first job was 3 years as an ‘office boy’ at Lane Fox in Mayfair. A gentle existence, selling country houses and learning the ethics and nuances of the business.
1985 – Sales Negotiator at Foxtons in Fulham
1987 Sales Negotiator Foxtons Knighstbridge
1989 Sales Negotiator Foxtons South Kensington
1990 Manager Foxtons South Kensington
1997 Managing Director Foxtons
2005-2016 CEO Marsh & Parsons
All were fun in their own way and all came with their fair share of ups and downs but it would be churlish not to say that my time at M&P was my favourite. There is nothing like being in charge of ones own destiny.
What’s been the best moment in your career so far?
Buying, building and selling Marsh & Parsons
What’s been your hardest challenge?
Undoubtedly getting M&P through the 2007- 2009 recession – it was terrifying!
Have you made any big mistakes during your career?
I’ve made loads of small and medium sized ones but I can’t remember making a life-changing mistake. There are definitely things that, with the benefit of hindsight, I’d do differently however one of my mantras in life is ‘never look back’ – it’s unhealthy and a waste of emotional energy and there’s usually nothing you can do about it anyway.
What has been your greatest achievement in property?
Once again, probably buying, building and selling M&P however I’m equally proud of the incredible number of people who have come out of both Foxtons, and M&P, and are now at the top of their game in other property businesses or professions. The work ethic we engendered set up many people and enabled them to learn how to be successful.
Why were you inspired to invest in Viewber?
Initially I wasn’t, however Ed and I had been competitors for 30 years and used to meet for lunch every few months to ‘compare notes’ on the market, and it was at one of those lunches that I really ‘got’ what he was suggesting. I understood that the market was inevitably going to have to change (this was the early days of the online agents) and that Viewber offered something unique that would help the industry not only to cut fixed costs but improve their reach and give buyers and tenants a genuine out of hours service.
Where do you think Viewber will be in the future?
I’m excited about the scope and reach of Viewber. It offers plenty to the property industry – viewings, inspections, auction open houses, property checks to name but a few. However I believe it has creative and game changing uses in a variety of industries and expect it to grow extremely quickly.
What do you do your spare time / do you have any hobbies?
Working as I did didn’t really allow for many hobbies however I’ve been playing 7 a side indoor footy on a Saturday morning for the past 15 years as well as following West Ham and watching a wide variety of sport. I’ve always been a bit of a petrol head and since I’ve stepped back from working full time, I’ve discovered the delights of classic cars and have now amassed a small collection which I am passionate about.
Have you got a favourite quote?
In the early days of M&P we hired the wonderful Oona Collins to spend a day with the management board (there were 3 of us) and she presented a variety of quotes to see which struck a chord with us. The one we chose was the one we literally ran the company by and it was this
‘People will forget what you say, they may forget what you do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.’
This is a real voicemail forwarded to us by a frustrated buyer... he subsequently asked the agent why they don't use Viewber - they do now!
So, what do you currently spend on sending staff out on viewings?
How does booking a viewing with Viewber work? For clients, it’s as simple as clicking a button but here we also explain what happens after the booking is sent.