Adapt because the times, they are a-changing

As Bob Dylan might have said, for many chartered surveyors the times they are a-changing.

Thanks to the impact of the ‘perfect storm’ of financial meltdown which wreaked havoc throughout the UK property sector, many are facing up to an evolution of their role.

Some are becoming surveying chameleons as companies adapt to the economic climate in order to survive and thrive.

And according to one senior Birmingham chartered surveyor, the current tough conditions are having a definite positive impact on those surveyors that are willing to develop and expand their knowledge.

Ian Starbuck

Ian Starbuck, of Birmingham-based Johnson Fellows, says that many chartered surveyors have seen their roles change in recent years.

He said: “It is very noticeable that there are fewer job opportunities within the market place for those seeking employment. It has also been well documented that several surveying practices have been forced to make cut backs by reducing staff numbers.

“Within some companies, surveyors have been required to fill the voids created and pick up less familiar work from other departments within practice.”

He is talking from experience. Ian is enjoying a change of direction in his own career after adapting to the impact the tough climate has had on the property market. He believes it is the kind of flexible approach that other chartered surveyors have also adopted and are required to continue to adopt.

Ian worked primarily as an office agent in the West Midlands market from 1998 to 2008. He joined Johnson Fellows in December 2008 in his new role as a management surveyor.

He said: “I believe that today there is less room for being a specialist in one particular field. Surveyors have less ability to be selective. They are now required to adapt to the roles available and the requirements of the organisation. In order for a business to grow and develop without significantly increasing its overheads, many surveyors are finding that they have to learn new skills and take on added responsibilities.

“This is all leading to today’s chartered surveyor falling back on skills previously learned and in some instances developing or learning new skills within the profession.  The result is that a number of individuals are becoming more rounded general practice surveyors, which can only be a positive for the industry,” he said.

Ian – associate partner in the property management department at Johnson Fellows – is a perfect example of the evolving chartered surveyor.

He said: “Initially it was a steep learning curve, having moved into a new sector after specialising in office agency for several years. However, I now find myself dealing with retail, industrial and office properties across the country.

“As well as the day to day property management tasks of service charge budgeting and rent collection, I find myself handling lease renewals, rent reviews, applications to assign and so on.

“In short, over the past couple of years, I have expanded my knowledge and developed as a surveyor. Whilst the change in career direction was originally enforced, it has turned out to be a positive move for me.”

He added: “Although the market downturn has forced many a property professional out of their comfort zone, it should not be seen as a negative in a period of otherwise reported doom and gloom. These are interesting times as companies seek to adapt to the challenges in the commercial property sector. Johnson Fellows is responding in a very positive way and we are forging ahead in departments such as property management and building surveying.

“I was ready for a new challenge and I am enjoying the change. We are building a very strong property management team and we are determined to secure more clients and grow this area of our business.”