We talk exclusively this week with Alastair Young, who worked in a number of industries before moving to housebuilding and development, bringing his skills most recently to CNM Estates, which focuses on regeneration and is currently bring new homes to London and Berkshire.
Please tell us about yourself, your current role and how you got there.
I’ve been at my current role as sales and marketing director for CNM Estates for about six months. Before that, I worked at a real estate branding and marketing agency, where I was employed for six years. I’m still relatively new to the real estate sector in terms of my career, as before that I worked in advertising and publishing for a whole range of other products – everything from automotive to telecoms, healthcare to FMCG. It has given me a good grounding in overall marketing, which I hope brings some new thinking to the sector.
When did the housebuilding industry start to appeal to you, and what was it that attracted you to it?
Both my father and brother work in property, so I guess I was naturally going to be drawn to it. When I first started looking at real estate I recognised there were new opportunities that housebuilding could learn from other areas I have worked in. I have loved the diversity of my career so it was a great opportunity to add another string to my bow.
Are there projects/mentors that have been particularly rewarding on your career path?
My first managing director when I embarked on my career was a huge influence. Graham Lake at TPD showed me that business and hard work can be fun, rewarding and ultimately we can make a difference. No matter whether you are advertising Toyota cars in Italy or launching a new mobile phone in the UK.
Also, CNM Estates’ chairman, Wahid Samady, has been incredibly helpful and helped me in the transition from agency-side to working with a developer. The six months since I joined CNM have been a steep learning curve, but it’s been very enlightening and interesting to see things from this side of the fence.
Is there something about sales and marketing in the new homes industry that is notably different from other sectors?
Construction is being dragged kicking and screaming into the 21st century, where it was notably slower than other industries to adopt modern techniques. It’s improving and moving in the right direction.
The overall thinking has moved on enormously in the past few years. The rise of social media, online advertising opportunities and the vast improvement in the quality of CGI imagery and virtual reality have made an enormous difference to how we approach our target markets
We have many developments underway but the two coming to fruition most immediately – Sutton Point and Verto in Reading, both of which will be completed in 2018 – are allowing us to think out of the box and act differently. Decent marketing budgets are absolutely imperative to ensure new builds continue to compete in a busy market.
What are the personal qualities that are particularly useful to this type of career?
For sales and marketing, you need to be a good people person, with extensive knowledge of the property sector. Real estate is a personable industry, and being able to work with a wealth of different personalities is key.
Are there some major advantages for working for an SME rather than a national company?
I was very keen to work for a smaller business when I moved from my last role, and I like the autonomy of working at an SME, as it feels like less time is spent box-ticking and there’s a more inclusive approach. We can get things done rapidly and timely, essential for a business such as ours.
What do you think the future holds in the UK housebuilding and construction industries?
Brexit is causing uncertainty in every industry but I feel cautiously optimistic for the industry to pull through and continue to address the housing supply gap.
There is concern as the planning process seems to take forever and it takes a long while to get deals and permissions approved. There’s been recent talk that land is being sat on by those keen to build. This is a red herring. The government needs to address the planning process, employ more people (often workloads seem to great) and realise that as private developers we want to work together with the local community to provide a built environment to benefit us all.
That is why at CNM Estates, where we spot opportunities, we are keen to be heavily involved in community engagement programmes. In Sutton, for example, we sponsor the local business awards – in Kingston we do the same and are also are the headline sponsor for the local theatre’s Christmas performances. Our developments are aimed to be not only wonderful for those that live/work/stay there, but also the wider existing community as a whole.