Tim Lowe of Lowe Guardians
Tim Lowe of Lowe Guardians gives us an insight into his career so far and provides his top tips for aspiring business leaders...
What is it the company does?
Lowe Guardians is a property management company with a difference. It provides affordable, inspiring places for younger generations to live and thrive in. At the same time, it provides property owners with a low-cost, professional and reliable solution to keeping their building secure.
For the Guardian, they get to live in central London and be part of a community for a fraction of the cost of traditional renting. Every site is fitted out to a habitable standard for comfortable living. For the property owner, it utilises vacant space by providing a free form of security, reducing business rates, lowering insurance premiums and generates an income on what would be an otherwise vacant building.
What does your role involve?
We’re a small but growing team so I am constantly being pulled in different directions. My typical day might include meeting with perspective clients and doing site visits to ascertain the suitability of a site for Guardians (I see some interesting places!), working with my design team to help get a new site fitted out to a habitable standard, liaising with clients and helping out with our marketing efforts. I like to be very hands on with everything.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I left Uni with a Master’s degree in real estate and started working at Knight Frank as a surveyor. It was while I was there that I started to conduct some research to see if any truly affordable solutions existed for London’s young workers today. My search involved me living in properties for under £500 a month in central London - this included office buildings, a horse box in a disused car park and a house boat amongst others.
One of my strongest memories of the investigation was living as a property Guardian. I shared one shower in a neglected disused office with twenty others, I experienced having the heating on 24/7 at the height of summer, as well as rat infestations in the bathroom.
I realised then that the Guardian industry needed to be radically improved. On the one hand, property owners needed to receive a service they could trust. On the other, Guardians deserved to live in better conditions. Consequently, Lowe Guardians was born.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
Honesty, integrity, true grit and determination. It’s hard to get a business off the ground in these uncertain times so you’ve got to just go for it. All guns blazing. It won’t always be rosy, and you have to take a few knocks at times but then you dust yourself off and you try again.
Looking beyond that, and probably more importantly when looking at where Lowe Guardians is right now, it’s now about having a strong and dedicated team around you. Having grown Lowe Guardians from my original research idea it’s been difficult to learn to let go of certain elements, but my team is what makes the business work. Everyone’s different skills and experiences coming together to build the bigger picture.
What has been your biggest challenge in your current position?
The biggest challenge for me when starting Lowe Guardians was having to overcome and change perceptions of what we were trying to do.
Five to ten years ago, Property Guardianship was getting a lot of bad press and it was viewed as very ‘alternative’ with people living in poor conditions. Fast forward to now and it has become increasingly popular among working professionals of all ages; people who want interesting, well-located accommodation with a strong community feel.
As well as benefits to Guardians, landlords are also starting to realise the financial benefits and we’re seeing record numbers of enquiries from property owners who are looking to generate a short-term income from a site that would otherwise be left empty.
Demand is growing exponentially. The biggest challenge we have now is to keep up with demand; it’s becoming increasingly high and supply must match that.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
I am a fanatical angler. I spend as many weekends and evenings as possible down by a river bank or out at sea. I am extremely impatience so it makes no sense, but it really relaxes me and I don’t think about anything else. I come back to work on Monday completely chilled out.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
When I was younger I was sure I would be a professional tennis player. I was pretty obsessed by it for a while and grew up watching Tim Henman. I am massive ‘Tiger’ Tim fan - his serve and volley was in a different league to anyone else. But sadly my tennis plans were shelved when I started losing and realised I wasn’t actually very good.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
I really dislike eating lunch at your desk. I just think it’s incredibly unhygienic and a bit depressing! I always encourage the team to take an hour out and go for a walk or do some exercise.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Recent government figures found that empty property numbers are at their highest level in 20 years, with 1.4 million ‘spare’ homes lying vacant; having been left empty for at least six months. Alongside this, the UK is facing a housing crisis.
Going forward we want to work closely with local authorities to help them use Guardianship to tackle this issue, and find a way to generate an income from the empty properties which can be re-invested for longer term, more permanent solutions.
Property guardianship might not solve the housing crisis, but it can provide sustainable housing which sits comfortably in-between social housing and luxury high-end and we want to work towards finding a sensible solution that achieves a win-win for all parties.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
It’s the old cliché but – if you have an idea, just go for it. Otherwise you will always wonder ‘what if?’. Someone once told me that you only regret the things you don’t do, and learn from the things you do. When I thought about quitting my old, safe, permanent job with lots of nice perks it terrified me. But looking back it was best decision I could have made. When it’s your passion and vision driving the business, you put invest everything you have into it – be it emotionally and financially – to make it work. And you get out what you put in.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
When I first started growing the idea of Lowe Guardians I had so many ideas and I wanted to do it all immediately. I would burn myself out every day trying to do too much and actually achieving very little. After a while I realised that it was far more effective to pick one or two projects at a time and focus on getting those off the ground. Instead of trying to do 10 things unsuccessfully, I was doing two or three things at a time really well. It was all about focusing and prioritising.
I would never have envisioned that at 29 years old I would be the MD of my own company running a team of six. But it’s hard work. None of what we have achieved at Lowe has come without blood, sweat and tears, and lessons to be learned. But I wouldn’t change a thing.
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