044 Surveyor Business Stories with Marion Ellis: The Surveyor Hub

Marion Ellis is the founder of The Surveyor Hub and Women in Surveying Initiative, as well as Managing Director of BlueBox Partners. With 20 years’ experience in the residential property sector, and having qualified as a chartered surveyor in 2004, Marion has developed a deep understanding of the challenges that many in the surveying profession face. She is currently hosting The Surveyor Hub Podcast and leading The Surveyor Hub Mastermind, where she mentors surveyors who want to improve their business skills and have interest in personal development.

A Journey into Surveying

Marion had an early experience with housing issues and was considering studying estate management, but she ended up working in a number of admin roles for a few years before she finally started on a path to a career in the property industry.

“I grew up on a council estate, and I was always very aware of my environment and the quality of housing. My mum then bought our council house encouraged by Margaret Thatcher’s Right to Buy scheme, but she had a terrible experience. She was advised by the bank that she didn’t need a survey because it was a mid terrace house. A number of years later, as I was qualifying to be a surveyor, it transpired the property has sulphate attack, the whole floor came up and it had to be underpinned. Because it was a terrace house and a privately owned one, she didn’t have the money to sort it out but she had to find somewhere else to live. Thankfully, the Council paid for most of it through a grant, but it was a real eye opener for me. We crave our own homes and the security, the roof over our head, and yet it can make us so vulnerable if you make the wrong choices,” says Marion.  

Upon completing her studies in estate management, she was accepted onto a graduate scheme with Laing Homes in Birmingham, where she worked as a site manager and sales team manager, and gained a lot of insight into how property development worked. Eventually, she left that job and started working at Countrywide Surveying Services, where she quickly got her surveyor qualification and where she stayed for the following 15 years, mostly dealing with complaints, defect and valuation claims against surveyors and surveying companies. Her most recent experiences include Managing Director position at BluBox Partners for the last two years, as well as activity within RICS Governing Council, The Surveyor Hub and Women in Surveying.

RICS Governing Council – So What?

Marion has been an elected member of the RICS Governing Council since December 2019. The Governing Council is a global board responsible for leading the strategy and direction of the membership as a profit for purpose organisation with a Royal Charter. Here is what she says about the experience.

“In learning more about surveyors, one of the things I couldn’t ignore was that the majority of the surveyors that I work with are RICS members. It was important to me to learn more about the gap between what happens on a Tuesday, when a surveyor is out doing their inspections and their reports, and what happens at a global level where the decisions are made. So when the opportunity came up to apply, it just felt like the next thing to do. The key to bridging that gap is three things – transparency, accountability, and visibility. That works both ways. The decisions that are made at the top need to be clear and understood by all members, but also members on the ground could do a lot more to step up in terms of visibility of surveyors and how they present themselves, their businesses and their community. We all have a part to play to try and bring that gap together. Is that easy? Absolutely not. It’s a 152 year old institution that has mechanisms and ways of operating, but that doesn’t mean that they can’t be refined. But we all have to contribute to make the difference.”

Women in Surveying

Around the time Marion left her corporate job, she became curious about other women in senior roles in the surveying industry.

“When I left my corporate role, I did a virtual summit called The Women in Surveying Sisterhood Summit. I had not done anything like that before, but I had to put myself out there and talk about why it’s okay to be a woman. I reached out to lots of women thinking nobody would come back to me, but they all did. What came out of that was women who were fed up with the way that they were being treated, and they wanted to talk about everything from menopause and maternity to their career prospects. I was taken aback by how far we hadn’t come over the past 10-15 years, but also how open they were to sharing. What I see is women really struggle with being visible on social media. And if you don’t learn how to do it, then you can’t get your message out. I believe that women have so much more to give when it comes to surveying and the built environment. But if we’re not visible, we can’t be role models for others.”

The Surveyor Hub, Podcast and Mastermind

The Surveyor Hub community on Facebook was created in May 2019, and currently has over 2700 members. Many of them, both students and established professionals, see it as a valuable resource. Marion shares how it all started.  

“While I was dealing with claims in my previous corporate role, I learned a lot about both clients and surveyors, how they feel and how they make decisions. To do a job well, you not only need to be technically competent, but you need to have the wisdom to know what to do in the moment. The claims that I dealt with came against corporate firms, panel firms, SMEs, one man bands, across the entire industry. In a lot of the difficult ones, a surveyor would often say ‘I knew that one was going to be a problem.’ But they didn’t trust their gut instincts, or they didn’t stop and get advice. It was then that the seed was planted for how we could support people in a different way. Many years later, we have Facebook, so I set up a group, invited 30 people, and I thought if 50 people turned up that would be amazing. But then it just kept on growing. I love hearing the feedback, and I’m glad that there’s this network and space where people come for the content and stay for community.”

BlueBox Partners have had a challenging year for sure, but Marion found a way to keep herself engaged through both The Surveyor Hub Podcast and The Surveyor Hub Mastermind.

“At the time the lockdown started, I had to think about my own mental health. All of a sudden, I’ve got to homeschool two kids, my husband was working from home, so I had to juggle this role. I concentrated on doing the podcast, which we’d launched a couple of weeks before, and I recorded it at six and seven in the morning and on weekends. I also went back to my earlier idea of a mastermind and developed it further. The group comes together to learn more about personal development, to think about their businesses and building a network. It’s one of the things I absolutely love doing, seeing how people connect with each other and how they transform their thinking. But most importantly, it’s all about empowering yourself.”

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