Chairman of Newcastle-based real estate development firm Lugano, Richard Robson, tells BQ about his career so far, the key to effective leadership, and what’s next for the company.
What is it the company does?
Lugano is a land and property development, management and investment business, with a portfolio extending from Cheshire to Northumberland with a keen focus on the North East.
We are building a high-quality commercial investment portfolio in the UK. With a varying range and type of property - including offices, retail and leisure establishments, business parks and industrial properties through to significant land holdings - we pride ourselves in sustainable development that contributes to the environmental credentials of our estate.
Today the Group is one of the largest investment and development businesses in the North East, with a land and property portfolio in excess of £120 million.
Describe your role in no more than 100 words
I have a fantastic job at Lugano, formulating and delivering a diversity of projects to both enhance and expand our portfolio. We have a small but highly skilled and dedicated who pride themselves in what they do and who genuinely care about our region and its future.
Give us a brief timeline of your career so far – where did you start, how did you move on?
I began my career in Town and Country Planning, becoming dual-qualified in Economic Development and Regeneration.
I was Deputy Chief Executive of the District of Easington until 2002 before being appointed Chief Executive of Tynedale Council in Northumberland, where I worked for six years. During that time, we achieved a number of national awards for excellence and innovation.
Following the reorganisation of Local Government in 2008, I was appointed as Executive Director to the new unitary county council, leading a range of services with an overall budget of £110m and over 3,000 staff.
I left Northumberland in 2011 to join Lugano as Development Director and have since become Group Chairman.
What do you believe makes a great leader?
I think the ability to form effective relationships with a diversity of people and organisations is essential as well as an ability to solve problems in an innovative and effective way. Drive, commitment and innovation also help along with the essential ability not to take oneself too seriously. Personally I don’t think I’m particularly good at any one thing, however the ability to build and work with strong teams has been a key part of my career to date.
What has been the biggest challenge in your current position?
It’s a cop-out answer, but the next challenge is always the biggest challenge. At the moment we have a host of exciting projects either just about to start or currently underway and those are all my biggest challenge…until they’re done and the next one comes along.
How do you alleviate the stress that comes with your job?
The great outdoors is also the great stress reliever. I love walking and cycling anywhere scenic, especially on the coast, but my real passion is skiing – at university, I was awarded the university “colours” for competing in the men’s slalom and I still try to get away a few times a year to hit the slopes.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Something involving nature and/or the environment. As a child, I loved nature documentaries and would be glued to anything with Sir David Attenborough in it. Indeed that was one of the reasons why I ended up studying Environmental Biology at University, he has been a hero of mine for as long as I can remember.
Any pet hates in the workplace? What do you do about them?
Anyone demonstrating a lack of consideration for others. I’m a tolerant person, but will always try to diffuse a potential conflict or ensure a colleague's views are respected.
Where do you see the company in five years’ time?
Lugano will continue to grow, seeking out and delivering exciting projects throughout the region. We work with a wide range of key partners both in the north-east and beyond and would like to see them grow with us.
What advice would you give to an aspiring business leader?
Never give up.
What do you wish someone had told you when you started out?
Don’t sweat the small stuff and always keep your eyes on the bigger prize. And it doesn’t always help to take everything too seriously!
Our BQ Bulletin emails will land in your inbox at 7.30am, Monday to Friday, with a mix of the latest local business news, national news, and features to inspire you. Sign up here!
Click here to read our privacy statement