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15 minutes in The POD with….. Ben Collins

Ben Collins in The Pod Theatre

Ben is a Senior Associate at Kemsley LLP which has one of its offices based at CEME.  We caught up with Ben in the POD Theatre to learn more about Kemsley and Ben’s role.  

What is your background?

I am a local boy, born and raised in Essex. I have always lived in the Hornchurch and Upminster area but went to university in Portsmouth to study property development.  I am qualified as a Chartered Surveyor specialising in commercial property.

I`ve been doing this since I left university, which was in 2010, so about 10 years now. I wasn`t sure what I wanted to do before university however my Dad has always been involved in development and property, so I had some sort of property knowledge as I used to work with him during the summer.  My Dad suggested that I consider a property related degree which I investigated and ended up pursuing. My Dad did residential property, but I`ve gone down a different path. When I came out of university, I didn’t have a job lined up so was looking for anything relevant that I could get involved in. I got in touch with someone at Kemsley LLP to do some work experience and luckily, I ended up here and I am really enjoying it! At the time there weren’t any vacancies to join the team full-time, so I ended up getting a job elsewhere however I eventually found my way back to Kemsley!

Tell me about Kemsley LLP and what you do?

Kemsley LLP is a multi-disciplined property consultancy and Chartered Surveyors. We`ve got 5 offices which are based in Basildon, Chelmsford, London, Watford  and here in Rainham. We have a high profile across the region and provide a range of property services including commercial and development land agency, professional services and property management.

My role involves heading up the commercial agency team in our Rainham office here at CEME. We deal with acquisitions and disposals of all commercial properties including industrial, land/development, office, retail and investment opportunities.

How has/is Covid-19 affecting/affected your business?

Initially there was a dramatic impact as experienced by a lot of businesses. We found on the agency side of the business that a lot of the transactions including both leasing and sales were put on hold. In our Agency and Professional teams, the majority of our fee income is directly related to transactions so if people aren`t buying/moving premises or refinancing and borrowing money, then there is no need for valuations. With the Government restrictions in place, this made going into premises to carry out inspections/valuations difficult. For probably a month or two everything ground to a halt but gradually we have started to see business pick back up.  I speak mainly form the agency side as that`s what I am involved with and can see that our enquiry levels are increasing, and our pipeline of deals is growing again.

The majority of staff are back however there are still a few members who have remained on furlough. During lockdown many of us were working from home however we started to return back to the offices on 1st July.  We decided that this was the right time to return as the volume of work and enquiries started to increase. Although we managed to work remotely quite effectively, there is still a benefit to being in the office with your colleagues to support more collaborative working throughout the team.

What key changes have you made to ensure your safety and that of your clients?

For our safety we have followed government guidelines so as I mentioned we were working from home as much as possible. Fortunately, we had recently updated our computer system and PC`s so we`ve had the facility to access all of our files and servers remotely. We`ve subsequently carried out health and safety risk assessments for each of our offices in order to reduce risk to the lowest possible level. We`ve rearranged the seating in a lot of the offices so we can keep the maximum distance between us as possible. There are extra hand sanitisers, antibacterial wipes and if we are going out for an inspection we use disposable masks and gloves as well if we need to, however a lot of time we are going into large warehouses where we can easily maintain social distancing. The business has produced a couple of protocols for the staff to follow when they are carrying out meetings, surveys and viewings. We`ve also got a guidance note that we can provide to clients and applicants, so that they know what to do when they have viewings, for example there is a no handshake policy and we ask them to open as many of the doors and windows as possible on visits.

What do you like the most about being based at CEME?

It`s handy because I live 20-25 minutes away so that`s great. We have only moved to CEME fairly recently in November, before that we were based in Romford for over 100 years! Having relocated our Romford office to CEME in Rainham, we are now even closer to the commercial employment areas along the A13 corridor that we have served for many years.  We remain in the London Borough of Havering but are now surrounded by all the industrial estates that we know and love! CEME offers the professional image that we wanted for our clients and in terms of location it works extremely well for us as we focus primarily on industrial property which is 75% of our agency business.  We have lots of property and clients in this region so it is actually a better location for us than when we were in Romford.

What is the most memorable thing that has happened to you in your career?

What I am most proud of is becoming a Chartered Surveyor because it was the culmination of several years of work including my university degree and a couple of years structured training whilst working which was completed at Kemsley LLP. I still remember getting the email from RICS (Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors) confirming that I qualified, which was a great feeling after 5-6 years from the start of the whole process.

What excites you about your position right now?

I feel grateful because I am always excited to come to work. I do find it interesting just because it is such a varied job, dealing with people from all different walks of life and the different businesses.  To see what people are doing, how they make their money and how they make their businesses work, from the manufactures to importers and wholesaler – I do find it fascinating.

 

What do you do for fun?

Recently I have been trying to get into golf so I am often at the driving range when I can. I started out doing it to try to relax, but actually I found it can be quite a stressful game! I am not a member anywhere but with a group of friends I play at various course which we try to arrange once or twice a month.

What are your ambitions and long term goals for your offices at CEME?

Just continue to be successful in this region/location and to grow my team from here building on what we are already doing.  If we end up outgrowing our current office, we would be looking to get a larger office at CEME as the location gives us a unique selling point when we are talking to clients.

What is the key to success?

From my point of view communication is the key whether its communicating with your colleagues or your clients. I always take a frank and honest approach with people and tell them my opinion on what I think they should do or what I would be doing if I were in their position – people seem happy with that approach.

Kemsley has built their brand and reputation by providing a professional and honest service and this, along with its unrivalled market knowledge since 1795, has been a successful policy.

This is very much a people industry and in the property world people work a lot with people they like to work with.  Maintaining relationships with existing clients, going out and pitching for new business and networking is key.  I think it comes down to how you get along with people which helps you win and more importantly retain business.

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