A Conversation with ... the Wise Heads and Next Generation of Talent

26 Apr 2019

Our last London breakfast focussed on diversity, inclusion, and the future of the property industry.
With a panel debate mixing wise heads of the industry with talented newcomers, guests were first treated to an inspiring keynote speech from David Mann, Partner of Tuffin Ferraby Taylor & co-founder of Freehold, during which he highlighted the importance of truly creating a place for everyone in business.

The inimitable Steve Edge also took the stage to deliver an engaging 20:20 market bytes presentation, urging businesses to streamline their processes and focus on the core of their brands.

The panel debate itself was candid (and at some points, combative). Chaired by former Estates Gazette editor Peter Bill, author of Planet Property and a columnist for Property Week, it was set up to examine the issue of entrepreneurialism in the property sector and compare the new generation of property entrepreneurs with their predecessors. Representing the wise heads of the industry were John Burns, CEO, Derwent London plc, and Tony Pidgley CBE, Chairman, The Berkeley Group, while the next generation of talent were represented by Savannah de Savary, Founder & CEO, Built-ID, Reza Merchant, CEO, The Collective, and Angelica Donati, CEO, Donati Immobiliare Group. 

The debate kicked off with Bill asking Burns and Pidgley about their experiences in the industry, and if there was anything that they were certain about when they first started out, that they are still certain about now. He also quizzed them on some of the mistakes they have made over the years and what they have learned from them. The big lesson learned by John Burns was that businesses owners should stick to what they know and never buy the property next door. Tony Pidgley stressed the importance of focussing on the customer and remembering that everyone wants to buy a dream.

With a few less decades of experience to draw upon, the already successful younger entrepreneurs had plenty to offer with regards to the lessons they have already learned. Authenticity and trust are key for Reza Merchant, who said: “If you do what you say you will, then people will trust you, and they’ll want to buy your product. There is no shortcut to trust, there is only relentless hard work and delivering on the promises you make.” He also challenged the suited and booted mentality of much the property sector, saying: “I made a decision to be myself in business. I’d suggest you all question why you wear a suit to work each day.”

Angelica Donati also emphasised the importance of trust, especially as a younger woman in themale dominated property industry. She said: “If you know what you’re doing, people will be far more willing to take you seriously.” She also praised some of the changes that are happening in the industry and the move towards greater information transparency, saying: “We’ve got more information now than ever, and this is a good thing. More information means more transparency, which brings more value, both for the developer and the consumer.”

When asked if she consider herself a success, Savannah de Savary was humble in her response and suggested she wasn’t there yet, even if her product is showing early signs of success. She said: “We know we’ve made a good product when people come to us and say ‘it’s so easy to use’. That’s the goal: being user-friendly.” The biggest lesson she has learnt so far is that “what you say no to is more important than what you say yes to. Don’t be afraid to say no if it compromises what you’re trying to achieve”, she said.