The YPN Guide To Small-Scale Property Development – Part 3 of 6

Imagine you’re a new developer who needs to recruit professionals to join your team. Who should be on your list? We’re talking here about the broad range of professionals and tradespeople who will be involved in delivering your projects. Architects, Structural Engineers, Planning Consultants, Accountants, Contractors, Estate Agents, Solicitors, and Project Managers, to name but a few. It’s a relatively long list, with around two dozen disciplines potentially involved in any given project. And you should look to recruit ‘preferred partners’ BEFORE you take on your first project. You’re not wedded to them, but it’s easier than winning a project first and then having to run around trying to find a team to deliver it.

As I mentioned last month, ensure you’ve sorted your branding before recruiting your team. You’ve got to do it anyway, and it inspires a lot more confidence if you already have a website and business card when you first meet people. We should also clear up any remaining imposter syndrome issues while we’re at it since you may be asking yourself why any self-respecting professional would want to work with you, a newbie developer. Well, if no new developers ever came along, they’d eventually run out of clients. So, not only are you their next generation of long-term clients, but your money is as good as anyone else’s. Plus, they’ll get paid their fee regardless of your abilities. And, of course, your brand will look ten times better than the other newbie developers they come across, so they’ll already think you’re a cut above the rest.

You now need to put some names in the frame for each discipline, and there are a few things to bear in mind. Firstly, not all professionals are created equal. If you’re building entry-level flats, you don’t want to hire an architect specialising in high-end luxury houses. They could probably do the job, but they’ve no experience designing what you’re looking for. The same rule applies to contractors, structural engineers, and project managers; find people with a proven track record in the type of project you’re building. Your commercial lender will also want you to tick this box. Similarly, for accountants and solicitors always hire people who already work with developers, even if your incumbent is a close family friend you’ve known for decades.

Another key point is that recommendations are king. Start with a quick google if you have zero contacts, but ask for recommendations when interviewing people. I would start by recruiting architects and project managers since they should be a good source of recommendations for the other disciplines. They won’t recommend any idiots since they’ll have to work alongside them. If someone gets recommended to you by multiple people, take this as a good sign. Recommendations are valuable, but you still need to do your due diligence. You should conduct an extensive online review, studying their website and other online material. This should be followed by a face-to-face meeting to ensure you can get on with the person involved.

Be sure to ask who you’ll be working with, and make sure you meet them as it may not be the person you’re sitting opposite.

If they pass the rapport test, the next job is to look at testimonials. Sure, they may have some examples on their website, but you want to talk to some real-life clients of theirs, people with a recent project similar to your own type. Face-to-face is best; if not, a phone call will do, and be sure to ask probing questions. Were there any problems, and how well did the professional deal with them? How good was the quality of their work, and did they get stung by any unexpected fees/costs? Finally, make a point of taking a look at some of their work first-hand, preferably something recent. It can also be enlightening to visit a project still under construction as it gives you a feel for how professionally things are being run.

I’ll end with a few words of caution. Firstly, be sure to have several names in the frame for each discipline since your preferred contractor, architect, etc., may not be available when your first project comes along. Secondly, avoid creating a clique; it may seem convenient that your preferred contractor can recommend someone for every role, but you want to ensure that your team will call out the contractor if they screw up. Ideally, appoint at least one person to the team who hasn’t previously worked with the others before. Finally, appoint people you feel you can get on with. Development is a people business, and you want to be confident that you can resolve any bumps in the road by having a chat and a coffee rather than a barrage of emails.

I hope these pointers will help you on your way to building a great professional team. Next month, I’ll explain how you can get the finance you’ll need to make your first development project a reality.