033 SME Surveyor Business Stories with Nick Hanson

Nick Hanson is the Founder & CEO at VOSPERS Chartered Surveyors & Valuers, with offices in Farnham (HQ), Reading, Horsham and Twickenham. He has over 30 years of dedicated experience in the property industry, providing advice on a wide range of commercial and residential valuation and surveying matters.

Nick is a Goldman Sachs #10ksb alumni programme and a graduate of the Oxford University blockchain strategy programme. He is an accredited expert witness and has acted in both Party Appointed and Single Joint Expert capacity in Family and High Court actions. He is also a member of the following RICS Faculties: Valuation, Dispute Resolution, Commercial and Residential.

How VOSPERS Expanded in 2020

Nick Hanson founded VOSPERS in 2006. He starts by sharing the story of the company’s growth, as well as what has happened in 2020 since the pandemic hit.

“When you are running a small business, you have to reinvent yourself from time to time, especially if you spend as much time as I’ve been spending in the market, seeing both the ups and downs. VOSPERS is the business I’ve put together to make sure I don’t make any of the mistakes I ever made before. We are now into year 14, and I think it’s getting better than I expected. But in small businesses, you cannot sit on your laurels, because you don’t know what’s around the corner. At the beginning of this year, we won a big contract from Heathrow Airport to do the valuation for the runway extension there. We thought that was fantastic, that it was going to be a massive year for expansion. And here we are.”

“Back in 2016, I was lucky enough to be chosen for the Goldman Sachs small businesses scheme,” Nick continues. “From there, we agreed on a fairly big expansion plan. That’s when the business went from being three of us to until this year when it got up to 14. Having grown the business, this year we’ve actually acquired a firm in Knightsbridge, Friend and Fork. Now we have a major office in central London, a small outline office in Reading, and another one in Horsham.”

What Has Changed in The Surveyors’ Profession

Nick has been a qualified surveyor for almost 40 years and he has seen firsthand how this industry has been changing, but also the stable traits of the profession that have remained unchanged.

“The landscape for the profession has completely changed in the last 40 years. Back in those days, you were actually taken by your word quite often, the fact being that we didn’t have Rightmove Plus, and all this information that we have available now. So it was down to the surveyors’ own knowledge, and although there were some fruity negligence cases, and you would think they were happening more often, they actually weren’t in the years while I was training, and the losses weren’t as bad as they are now. It was a simpler life, I suppose.”

The personal approach to clients however, hasn’t changed for Nick.

“You’ve got to understand how clients are after pretty much everything you’re saying, and how you need to be personal with what you say. I think that’s part and parcel of where the growth of this business has come through, because we seem to build a reputation of telling people the way it is, as opposed to just putting a number.  Surveying is a very personal, unusual profession. It’s not as stratified as the legal profession, and it’s certainly not as regulated as the accounting profession. But this whole concept of people and property together means that it is very personal.”

Getting the Work Life Balance Right

Nick admits that only this year he has started to work a bit less than he was used to.

“I’ve just spent six months only doing a five day work week, which I’ve been told to by my better half, because I spent far too many years working at least six days per week and probably more. But it’s had its toll, a divorce among other things and everything to go with that. Not getting the balance right is usually part of running a business, and I think that is something everyone should be very well aware of. I do appreciate the balance, I find it amazing now that I’ve come to live with it and understand it well. 

“When I started employing the next generation, initially I was thinking that they were wanting lunches and wanting to go home at five o’clock. But then I woke up to the fact that what I do like about the next generation is that they do think about getting that balance right in a way that a lot of my generation did not. It does come hard when for the first time in your life you get told you’re old school. And I never thought I was!”

Gender Balance in VOSPERS

VOSPERS is a company that employs many women surveyors. We asked Nick how that affects the dynamics of the work.

“The circumstances were such that I started a training scheme, and the first three members of the scheme were women. One was a very bright girl who was initially just doing typing, and then she wanted to know more about the profession, and she ended up being one of the surveyors. I think she must have qualified in just over two years with SAVA from start to finish, which is absolutely unheard of. At the moment, we are balancing out the male and female team members within the business. But I have to admit that it wasn’t me turning around and saying ‘I must have more women in the business.’ They came in, they worked very hard, and they are now all very good surveyors.”

When asked whether the company culture changed with having more women on the team, Nick says:

“Yes, definitely. I’ve said it to everyone here, and I’ll say it again, out of all the companies I worked for, this is one I’ve most enjoyed working for, even though it’s mine. But there is a completely different mindset, a very positive attitude of can do towards any job. I get asked a lot more questions, and I know that every time I give an answer, it’s taken onboard.”

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