EDITOR’S COMMENT: In tough times, perspective is valuable. So it was a pleasure to catch up with Simon Silver this week as he announced his retirement from Derwent – a company of which he was a director back when I was playing with action figures.
Even in the middle of today’s market uncertainty, Silver’s love of real estate and London shone through. He has worked through a golden age for property, he told me, taking in all the ups and downs the markets have seen since the mid-1980s.
But what stuck with me was Silver’s thoughts on what comes next, and who shapes it. Early in our conversation he sang the praises of the talented Derwent team he is preparing to leave behind. As our chat drew to a close, I asked him what advice he would give a young professional just entering real estate or weighing up an industry role.
“For people coming into the industry now, it’s obviously not the greatest of times – but I don’t think that matters,” he replied. “Property is an amazing industry. It’s a people industry, communication is everything, and I certainly wouldn’t deter anybody thinking of making a career in property from making a start now. When there are problems, there’s also opportunity, and where there’s opportunity, there’s a chance for young people to show their prowess.”
There’s an inspiring optimism to Silver’s logic. I’ve spoken with a lot of people recently about crises being an opportunity to make your mark, to bring something of worth out of even the most difficult of challenges. As Seaforth Land’s Tyler Goodwin put it in a piece for us recently, with a global recession looming, “these challenges could well be your career-defining moment”. And it could well be that the younger workforce finds that truest of all.
Whatever changes the real estate industry now goes through in the way it works, creates and assigns value, one goal must be for those changes to reflect a broader range of views than would once have been the case.
Initiatives like the British Property Federation’s BPF Futures scheme have already helped to give young industry professionals a louder voice, and those voices should be ringing out in companies across the sector. John Woodman of the Worshipful Company of Chartered Surveyors writes for us this week of the challenges of finding the next generation of property professionals. With so much effort put into finding them, it would be a crime to then make them feel as though their own unique experiences were not being drawn on to rethink an industry as it moves (we hope) out of crisis.
Our tech editor Emily was absolutely right when she said last week that the “new normal” is something to aspire to rather than accept. And as we all work out what it is we’re reaching for and how it will reshape what we do, the answers cannot be moulded by the same old suspects. That’s not to downplay the experience of industry veterans, but to acknowledge that the enthusiasm and innovation that often comes with a fresh pair of eyes counts for a lot too. As Silver might put it, let the next generation show its prowess in helping map out the next normal.