Kirsty is the founder of KTD Surveying, specialising in landlord and tenant issues, advising on all aspects of commercial property leases and rental valuations. 18 months after setting up she was awarded Runner Up for Best New Business in the FSB Herts Business Awards 2014 and in 2017 was a finalist for Best Customer Service in the Herts SME Awards.
An advocate for small businesses, Kirsty is a member of the steering committee for the RICS Small Business Clinics and was a member of the RICS East of England Board from 2014-2018. She was part of the pilot mentoring scheme run by RICS, where female surveyors in the UK mentor those in South Africa, and also attends careers fairs to highlight Chartered Surveying as an attractive option for those who may not have considered it.
My Journey into Surveying
I got into surveying via a stroke of luck at school. We had to find a placement for work experience, and I wanted to work in the local solicitor’s office. Unfortunately, they couldn’t help that particular week, but the firm of estate agents and surveyors opposite could.
I’ll never forget on the first day putting my hand up to ask to go to the toilet, when they very kindly said that I didn’t need to ask permission!
Going out on site visits with the surveyor was so interesting to me, and really appealed. As it was mainly an estate agency, I was involved in preparing property details, inspecting houses to be marketed and some surveys. This was in “the good old days” when there was no internet, no email, no mobile phones and we had to wait for photos to come back from the printers before we could stick them on the details!
I was hooked – I knew I wanted to go to university so found out about estate management degrees and off I went to Kingston Polytechnic. Little did I know that the course was mainly about commercial property, which initially was a bit of a surprise
Having put my all into revision, I failed the first year of my exams, which was a huge blow. Always a fighter, I resat and passed into the second year.
Fast forward, and in my final year I saw an ad for a temporary placement at an investment company, and I got the placement. Can you believe they were doing spreadsheets by hand so I introduced them to Excel! They later introduced me to one of their clients, and I started at Chartwell Land.
But failure was to strike again, and I failed my APC the first time around. Believe me I put the effort in, but it just wasn’t to be. I was devastated, but took it again at the next opportunity and passed. What a relief!
I’ve mainly worked as an Estate Manager in the retail sector, negotiating rent reviews and lease renewals, new leases and managing service charges. I also deal with property management issues which can be challenging:
- travellers turning up on one of the retail parks I managed creating a huge problem of mess and disruption, and being threatened not so subtly by their children holding iron bars when I politely asked them to leave; (not to be recommended)
- protecting the security of staff when they have to work unsociable hours and the car park behind the store is dark and unsafe, and where intimidating groups of people congregate
- managing disputes between commercial and residential tenants when food waste is left in communal bin areas and creating a rat problem.
My last employed role was as an estate manager for AS Watson Group, which covered Superdrug, 3 Mobile, The Perfume Shop and Savers. Working in retail is fast paced, and involves communication between all departments. If there is a lease renewal, you find out from the operational side of the business whether they want to renew. If the decision is taken to close you then co-ordinate with HR so that it is managed in the appropriate way.
If stores are being rebranded, you have to co-ordinate with the development team to get landlord’s consents, and quite often at very short notice.
In 2012 I set up on my own and haven’t looked back since. Doing that has enabled me to get involved in so many other things that I wouldn’t have been able to do if I was still employed. Being an RICS Regional Board member, on the steering committee for the small business workshops, taking part in the mentoring initiative, being an ambassador for the John O’Halloran initiative – all hugely worthwhile and helping me to grow individually.
Working for yourself is difficult at times, as I have to wear not only the surveyors hat, but also IT, marketing, finance, insurance, compliance…However being in control of my own destiny is fantastic, knowing that whatever client work I win is down to me and me alone. I couldn’t have done it without the brilliant experience I have had over my career though, and the supportive people I met along the way.
Surveying is a community, and certainly in my sector you come across the same people all the time – relationships are absolutely key to success. Nurture those relationships, ask for help when you need it, and if you fail something, just get back out there and try again.
I came full circle, as my initial desire to be in the legal profession has ended up with me specialising in the legal side of surveying, so you never know where your journey may take you if you are open to trying new things.
T: 01462 820092
E: Kirsty.email@example.com Twitter: @ktdsurveying