Company director Mario Jaconelli, who’s celebrating 25 years of business fulfilment with the same firm, has proved loyalty still reaps rewards in business - and certainly in chartered surveying and property consultancy.
He began with Lofthouse and Partners four weeks after leaving St Aidan’s School in Sunderland in 1988, initially as a valuation assistant to the then senior partner Chris Lofthouse, who’d established the business three years before.
It was a steep learning curve for a young lad, being tasked for example to organise a change of locks on a suburban shop for a landlord client whose tenant there had defaulted
Jaconelli recalls: “Late in the day a rather irate gentleman turned up at the office asking why the locks had been changed on his flat. I only then realised I’d put the incorrect property address on the instruction to the locksmith, who’d locked the guy out of his flat. “As he actually owned the flat he, rightly, wasn’t best amused!”
At the front end of the memory album, though, is the e-mail received out of the blue a few years ago from the head of an international organisation wanting urgent help in acquiring a regional headquarters.
Jaconelli remembers: “They were in a pickle. They had to vacate their existing building within two months. They’d left it until the last minute. I met with the chief executive and his team members two days later who’d flown in from various parts of the world.
“We came up with a shortlist of available properties which had to be inspected the following week with a view to agreeing a deal almost immediately. Working round the clock, we pulled it off in an almost impossible timescale, which was very rewarding.” Jaconelli has never worked in residential and domestic surveying but enthusiastically advises young people to consider commercial property surveying as a career.
Apart from its rewards and challenges, he points out: “It’s made up of a small community of professionals who regularly help out competitors with local market advice when working out of area. I have some very good reliable friends who are actually direct competitors. In that sense ours is probably unlike many businesses.”
Every day can be different too when, as with Lofthouse operating from both Sunderland and Durham, operations extend from Northumberland down to North Yorkshire and into Lancashire.
“One day you can be looking at a retail unit, the next an office or industrial building or development site. No two days are identical,” he says. “After 25 years I still love what I do. Work’s never a chore. I consider myself very lucky.” He has worked with co-director Marc Weaver since 1996 when Weaver joined from university.
“Because we equally co-own the business outright we’ve no interference or red tape to cut through in decision making.
“I value his opinion and we work extremely well together.” They bought the firm when the founding owner retired in 2006. Their loyal staff, who’ve been with them for up to 17 years, are indispensable, Jaconelli says.
“I must confess I don’t tell them this as often as I should!” The Budget has affected the sector little. Small businesses still need more help and bank funding streams need to flow. “However,” he says, “I don’t see us ever again seeing the earlier reckless and risky levels of lending by financial institutions. Long term, this will make the commercial property market stronger, albeit with some continuing pain along the way.” With a few exceptions L&P finds Wearside affected by recession like most major conurbations.
“We’ve seen a decline in values. But on the flipside this has created activity in the market. “Whereas the office market has been hit badly, advances in technology - through Blackberries, iPhones etc - mean firms which perhaps had discounted Wearside as a business base before have downsized, enabling some of our business parks to compete massively now with non-Wearside locations in cases where companies are cost, not location, driven.”
Indeed, in the first four months of 2013 L&P has seen more activity in the office market than in all of 2012 in terms of deals in solicitors’ hands or completed.