April 28, 2022
By Rachel LacklisonRachel Lacklison joined the Kingsbridge Estates team as a Real Estate graduate in August 2015 and is now well-established as our Asset Manager. In a busy and varied role, Rachel manages our property portfolio, oversees the Estates Management team, works on landlord and tenant matters and mentors the younger members of the property team.
It’s been a whirlwind few years with a lot of successes, challenges and valuable experiences along the way. Here, Rachel picks out some of the key lessons she has learned in her career so far.
I was 22 when I joined the team at Kingsbridge Estates and recall feeling excited and nervous to start my first full time role since graduating from university. Starting any new position can be daunting, especially as a young professional in a fast-paced industry, and over the years I’ve often been one of the youngest people in the room – but I’ve never been made to feel that.
The culture at Kingsbridge Estates is that everyone has the same share of voice, and we all have an important role to play in the business. I quickly learned even as a graduate my opinion would be listened to and considered in important decision making, which has created an empowered workplace. I have also seen, first-hand in external meetings and on projects, young talent leading the way and being supported to have a voice which I have found very refreshing and encouraging for the future.
To benefit from empowerment and diversity in the property industry it is important for young people to feel supported in challenging situations. I can remember the first time I was asked to present to the board and my worries about not meeting expectations. To overcome this, I would spend a lot of time preparing to the point I had memorised every detail of my presentation ready for questioning; however, I soon learnt this did not always lead to a thrilling board discussion. The way I prepare now has evolved to be less focused on the presenting and more focused on the content, which with practice, has made me a more confident presenter. I have also learned over the years that the board are at their friendliest if you can time your presentation after the lunch slot!
My professional experiences have taught me that no matter how senior or successful somebody is, they likely value your opinion, so leave any insecurities at the door and have confidence in your ability.
I have found good relationships to be extremely important. Part of my role is managing relationships with our tenants, and one of the business’ core values is to be the “landlord of choice”. To me, that means working collaboratively with occupiers and supporting them through challenges.
Two years on from the first lockdown is a good opportunity to reflect on how uncertain everything was at the very start of the pandemic, when no one really knew what was going to happen and the effect it would have on work life and home life.
Businesses including ours undertook risk assessments to plan for different scenarios, and we worked with our occupiers to understand their challenges and establish the best ways to help. For example, we offered flexible payment plans to help with budgeting and cash flow. We also considered lease restructuring opportunities such as reallocating rent-free periods or removing break options in return for incentives. The reason this worked well in our case was simply that we have very good landlord and tenant relationships – usually on a personal level, so we were able to reach out proactively and positively to have conversations directly.
Good relationships have also been key for me in delivering asset management initiatives. Good asset management is about knowing your occupier and what is important to their business, to ensure you have an asset that meets your occupier’s demands and is an exciting place to work. This can help with planning for upcoming lease events so you can tailor proposals to show you have really considered their business’ requirements and give you the best chance of tenant retention.
Working for a private developer means that we can be flexible and creative with our approach to asset management. One of the key things I have learned is that there is always a way you can make life easier for someone else – sometimes you just have to think differently.
A good example is recent letting deals at an 80,000 sq ft office building we acquired in Southampton city centre. The building is occupied by quality businesses but throughout the history of the building, its fifth floor had remained empty. After acquiring in 2019 we undertook an extensive refurbishment project to upgrade and modernise the building, to improve its amenity for the existing occupiers and to attract new occupiers.
It became a priority for us to unlock the vacant floor and one of the solutions came from understanding the barriers that can prevent a business from moving. As with most property moves, they can be expensive for businesses, who may have large dilapidation liabilities on the property they are vacating and expensive fit out costs at their new premises.
As part of our building works, we subdivided the fifth floor into three units to meet market demand and have now let two of the suites to great businesses. Both of the letting deals were structured as “plug and play” deals, whereby the landlord undertakes fit out works and provides the unit furnished so the occupier can move straight in without the complexities of manging a fit out project and without the upfront cost, which is spread over the term of the lease.
This type of set up can work very well for businesses who want to remove barriers to occupying new business space and it can take away the stress of managing a fit out project at an already stressful time. After the success of the recent deals we are now fitting out the last 2,500 sq ft office on the fifth floor and considering the same strategy across other properties.
One of the things I enjoy about asset management is when you see a business plan through – including, in this case, removing barriers and working with occupiers for mutual outcomes. It’s very rewarding to see buildings brought to life and people enjoying the space, having helped to make that happen.
I have been fortunate that my employer has always been very supportive of professional and personal development. In my early career a lot of my training was focused on my APC (Assessment of Professional Competence) and immersing myself in courses and webinars was helpful in expanding my knowledge base for this.
I also had a good network of peers who were going through the same process, and we regularly met and learned from one another, we are still good friends supporting each other today. After your APC I think it is easy to get stuck into the day job and the CPD (Continuing Professional Development) can easily slip into the latter months of the year. This is a habit I have tried to break by doing my best to read, attend training courses and converse with other peers and professionals throughout the year.
Most recently I attended a training course focused on positive intelligence and personal development. I found it extremely insightful and learned a lot about myself and how changing my mindset can lead to more positive outcomes in my personal and professional life. The course has been very timely and has helpful me to look for the opportunity in challenging situations throughout the pandemic. I have also noticed how as a team it has helped us to support each other and create a positive culture in the workplace.
In fast paced working environments, it can seem difficult to find the time to commit to personal development and training, but it is always worth it, you are your best asset and so it is important to keep learning and growing.
As developers of workspaces, we are very positive on the benefits of the office and collaborative working. I enjoy working in the office, it’s a professional and active environment and our job is a very sociable one. I think likewise many businesses are agreed that there is a requirement for the office and the focus is on occupying the best quality and sustainable buildings to attract and retain talent.
Not only is the office a good place for collaborating and socialising, it is also a good place for learning. A lot of things I have learned over the years I have picked up from practice and experience of watching my colleagues and managers at work. This has been a big part of my development and I don’t think I could have progressed my career in the same way if I was working solely from home. In my opinion being present in the office is especially important for anyone who is training or in a graduate role, as it can assist with development.
However, the pandemic has also taught me that there are benefits in working from home and this has given me the opportunity to be flexible with my personal time. I think trying to get the work/ life balance right is important and I have realised they work hand in hand and can positively impact the other.
A valuable thing to come from the pandemic for me, is to appreciate the value of time and the importance of using my time better at home and in the office. If working from home I will try to use what would have been travel time to go for a gym class, dog walk or meet up with a friend. Likewise, when in the office I will listen to a podcast on my journey in, use a lunch break to read something interesting and spend time catching up with peers, or try to ensure I am purposeful in taking a break. Also knowing, in the property world a drink and catch up with a peer is never wasted time as you never know what opportunity might come from it! Possibly one of the most important things I’ve learnt throughout my career so far is people do business with people, being friendly and approachable can go a long way.