In this month's Business Lessons column, we speak to Richard Noble, Managing Director of FG Burnett.
What does your company do that others don’t?
At FG Burnett we have a real focus on Director level involvement in all instructions. This is reinforced through our return to the office policy, our open plan office environment and regular team and cross-departmental meetings. We pride ourselves in having dedicated experts who provide a real depth of service in specialist areas including valuation, rating, CPO, building consultancy and property/ facilities management together with a sectorial approach in agency (retail, offices and industrial specialists). All professional firms of Property Consultants have valuable client relationships, strengthened by an advisor’s ability to identify and deal with issues such as conflict of interest and, from time to time, to advise that the opportunity or deal presented might not be all that it is being dressed up to be. Our client relationships are long standing and built on trust.
What are the most pressing challenges that your industry sector faces today and why?
We have a great team at FGB who are always looking to get on and provide great advice to clients. The challenges we face are wholly external, challenges that affect our client decision making. Political and economic uncertainly is not good for us as it can result in clients deciding to sit on their hands, taking stock – we benefit from activity, be that clients upsizing, downsizing or investing in existing property assets. A stable economy (and it’s been a while) will encourage our clients to invest in new projects with the confidence that there are tenants and investors out there, in the market to secure the assets they create. For too long now our politicians have been making the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
What is the hardest lesson you have learned in your career to date?
There have been a few over a long career! Embracing change can be difficult but you simply have to accept that it is inevitable and trying to stand in its way is futile. Once embraced, the positives will outweigh any perceived fears. As my career has progressed, I hope I have become more open to change, from a personal and business perspective. When that is not the case it will be time to spend more time walking the dog as I will have become an obstacle inhibiting progress.
What is the most valuable piece of business advice you have ever received?
I was a delegate at a conference where Sir Ian Wood was keynote speaker. He highlighted that there is nothing wrong with taking a little time (if you need it) to provide an answer to a challenging question from a client, customer or colleague. Take 24 hours, don’t feel you need to give an instant answer all the time just because you are CEO or Managing Director. I have found this approach useful from time to time. Go home, go for a run, sleep on it. The required response to the challenge posed almost always becomes clearer having taken time to give it a little thought. In a similar vein, I would recommend popping certain emails into ‘drafts’ and revisiting later – you might find that after review you decide not to send it…or better still decide to lift the phone.
What’s been your proudest career achievement to date and why?
Being appointed Managing Director of FG Burnett in May 2016 is my career highlight. As one would expect, this appointment comes with considerable responsibility - to the employees of the company, the shareholders and our long-established client list. I continue to do my best in the role with the support of the entire team. Cross selling within the business is an area that I am particularly proud of, we try very hard to make sure the professional advice we give is tailored to the client’s needs.
If you could make one thing happen tomorrow that would benefit North East Scotland what would it be?
A fully occupied and vibrant Union Street! We are doing great things in the North-east, not least our new South Harbour, the Union Terrace Gardens regeneration and the completed Aberdeen Art Gallery and Music Hall projects. Yet Union Street suffers from 25% voids. This is not a problem specific to Aberdeen – high streets throughout the land are having to reinvent themselves with spaces having to be repurposed for uses other than retail. I would advocate a “breaking” down of Union Street into bite size pieces with owners and occupiers from each area forming a group to tackle the challenges specific to their location. Sad as it is to see, the increasing presence of rough sleepers in Union Street doorways needs tackling urgently by the appropriate agencies.
Quick fire round...
What was your first job?
My first job was as a warehouseman in M&S. Early morning and weekend hours whilst still at school.
When would you like to retire?
When I am not enjoying it any more or for family reasons.
What did you have for breakfast?
Melon followed by tea and toast
Who or what inspires you?
I will come across someone every day that inspires. You have to be inspired by para athletes.
What's the last book you read or film you saw?
Life Between the Tides by Adam Nicolson & Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri.