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Where Are The Stars?

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I’m not referring to a new 22 year old footballer or even the football superstars’ virtual football game.  My concern is related to the property market and the apparent lack of star talent emerging.  In the past we had Paul White, Nick Leslau, Tony Gibbon and they are all still active today.  All these incredibly well-known names emerged whilst they were in their 20’s.  However today it is difficult to identify many, if any, stars in their mid 20’s who are showing true property entrepreneurial flair.

The credit crunch undoubtedly hit the graduate recruitment market badly in the period 2008-2011 and during this time fewer and fewer people joined the large firms of surveyors.  So does this mean that with graduate recruitment curtailed, the pool of talent is smaller and thus fewer entrepreneurs are emerging? I don’t think so.  I think it’s the environment in which they start is the problem.  Large firms tend to suppress talent rather than create the right incubation conditions.

Is it also possible that the continued move to larger and larger firms of surveyors means that the opportunity to demonstrate entrepreneurial ability is less and less evident.  The three superstars referred to at the beginning of this note all started their careers in small general commercial practices, where the ability to interact with clients and show deal doing ability was virtually immediate.  Whereas within an overall environment that is dominated by larger firms with fewer small practices, opportunities of this nature are rare.

I also have the impression that talent is maturing later.  A Levels followed by university then followed by a gap year mean that graduates don’t often start in the property industry until they are around 23 and they then spend 2 years or more moving around departments in order to gain the necessary experience and RCIS qualifications.  Therefore, tomorrow’s potential stars don’t arrive in the investment or development departments (and that’s where the stars usually come from) until he or she is in their mid to late 20’s.  The net result is – continuing my star analogy – is that talent doesn’t really begin to shine until they are circa 30.  This coincides with the age at which larger life decisions are more prevalent such as marriage, starting a family etc and this in itself often distracts financially or emotionally from the entrepreneurial urge.

Our own experience is that recruiting the right combination of intellectual ability and entrepreneurial drive and spirit is far harder today than in previous decades. We are currently seeking to make appointments at this level and it is proving difficult.  Much harder than it has ever been in my life at Palmer Capital or my previous life at Lambert Smith Hampton.

So what are we going to do to improve our talent spotting? What is the property world capable of doing in the twenty first century to create the right circumstances to nurture tomorrow’s star talent? Historically the property world has been motivated primarily through money, training and, to a degree, lifestyle.  Today we need to do much more than this.  Young people are moving from buying material things to buying experiences.  The long hours required of the “star” talent we nurture needs to be combined with the provision of real inspiration and meaning to their life.  If we achieve this, we should be able to spot – and then nurture – the difference between those that do and those that just talk about it.

Author: Ray Palmer, Chairman of Palmer Capital

Link: Property Week-