019 SME Surveyor Business Stories with Alan McKeown

Alan McKeown MA AssocRICS DipRSV is an independent Building Surveyor with a background in Damp and Ventilation surveying. He runs a small family company called Plumb Stone Surveyors, which provides damp surveys, home buyer surveys and building surveys.

Alan also actively contributes to the surveyors’ discussions on LinkedIn, which helps to raise the profile of the surveyors’ profession.

The Benefits of Sales Experience

Alan’s career transition started by joining his father in a damp company, which gave him a lot of experience with building relationships with people, and he also discovered what he really enjoyed.

“Everything happened by accident in my career. I decided to run this damp company, which basically was a sales job but with a lot of surveying elements, and I signed up to do the Sava course. So I was studying and working, and at the same time, I had started building a customer base. I was good at building relationships and I had different people come to me and said  “look, I don’t need to buy anything off here, but we’ve gotten this house, can you come and do a survey for me?” And after a few months I thought, why not? So I just charged for my time, went out, gave him advice and I liked it. I loved my job at the time, the defects investigation side of it and the independence of working for myself, but I never felt comfortable selling. So when I was asked to do the specific role of surveying, I actually loved it, and I thought I was glad I was doing the Sava course. So that was the route I went down, I finished the course, and now I’m doing what I actually love.”

Why Social Media Should Be A Part of a Surveyor’s Business Plan

Alan found a lot of support and networking opportunities on LinkedIn, and now posting and starting discussions is part of his weekly schedule. He shares his experiences of how social media activity worked for him.

“Once I started doing surveys for people, I suppose I just wanted some acceptance from my peer group. I put on a couple of posts about the job I’d been to, and people start liking it and chatting about these things. So I just kept doing that, and then I realized that I was getting more and more people responding, and getting personal messages with questions. After a few months I actually got a couple of surveys off the back of it, from the people who perceived that I knew what I was talking about, and wanted me to come and have a look at their place. That wasn’t my initial intention, but since then it’s something that’s built into my business plan. In normal times, I aim to do a number of posts of a certain style and content so that people become more conscious of who I am, and I try to keep things simple and easy to understand, and just provoke discussion.”

Keeping Up The Standards of Surveys

A deep understanding of what they are looking at ensures that surveyors can properly advise their clients.

“There’s poor quality work that gets done in the lower end,” says Alan. “As surveyors, we need to see what we can do better to improve this situation. And it’s not just understanding dampness for example, but understanding how to advise the clients rather than giving limited information, because a typical first-time home buyer knows nothing about the damp industry.”

This is where the context of the survey report comes into play. With RICS’s new Home Survey Standards that are now delayed until December 2020, surveyors will need to work out their service, and take the approach of doing the best job that they can do for their customer that will help them achieve what they want. It’s up to surveyors to decide which technology and templates they will use, how many phone calls they give to their client, or if they want to meet a client after the job to talk through the report. It is the service that people will pay for in the end, not the report itself.

Dealing With the Fear of Claims

We also wanted to know whether Alan is worried about getting claims against his work, as many surveyors are when they start out.

“No, I don’t panic about it, though It’s something that I’m aware of. After the first one or two surveys, I was probably a bit apprehensive, but after that, it’s not something that’s been on my mind. From the experience of my previous work, we had to get the job done and the customer happy before we got paid. I was managing subcontractors and technicians on site, and  we’ve had occasions where I was getting phone calls from the homeowner in tears, because the engineers drilled through the water pipe, and it flooded the kitchen. I’ve dealt with a lot of different experiences like that. In most of them the customers were happy in the end, so I suppose it’s about managing people, and treating them and their property with respect, and I think they appreciate that,” Alan concludes.

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Connect with Alan McKeown


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RICS Home survey standards https://www.rics.org/eu/upholding-professional-standards/sector-standards/building-surveying/home-surveys/home-survey-standards/ 
The Surveyor Hub Community https://www.facebook.com/groups/the.surveyor.hub.love.surveying

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