Early in May I kayaked the River Thames. From Cricklade in Gloucestershire to Putney Bridge in central London, we covered 150 miles over four-and-a-half days.
We averaged 10 hours of paddling per day. Through the generosity of friends and supporters, we raised more than £20,000 for Great Ormond Street Hospital, Whitbread’s national charity partner.
Every aspect of this whole initiative was about targets. Paddling to that next rest break, focusing on that next horizon, working to that next collective goal for our group. It got me thinking. Our industry is very good at talking targets and numbers. We love a new research report, metrics on occupancy rates or stats on investment returns. We positively lap up demand-and-supply information and many firms are excellent at producing data-rich trends analysis. Equally, many of us (occupiers, developers, investors and agents) put figures out frequently, informing the market of where we are heading and how we have set our sights.
During the past few weeks, Whitbread has published two very big targets of its own: to grow to 85,000 bedrooms by 2020 and to create 15,000 new jobs and 6,000 apprenticeships in the same period. Taking what I have learnt from my Thames trip, I know we can’t expect to succeed unless we focus on our strengths, push ourselves very hard and work as a team - in this case with the property industry and the supply chain. The targets we have published are a rallying call for others just as much as for ourselves. They are opportunities for other organisations to participate and feel the reward of working to the same objectives.
As our industry gets set for five years of a new government and we anticipate potential new targets that will affect us all - in terms of opportunity, regulation, tax and planning and development policy - I’m reflecting on what I learned from those days on the water. Namely that we all need targets, indeed we all love targets, but we’ll only ever achieve them if we work together.
When everything clicks, we forge ahead and it’s plain sailing. When the targets aren’t right, realistic or shared, people are more likely to find themselves up a certain type of creek without a paddle.
Personally, I think there’s an excellent opportunity for the property industry to engage effectively with the new government and that the wider market conditions and relative buoyancy in the economy - get it? - are cause for optimism.
As far as our own targets are concerned, there will need to be some stiff paddling, but by working with the type of quality partners we see right across the UK property industry, we are confident we’ll be tying up safely at the end of the journey, not cut adrift somewhere on the way.
Mark Anderson is managing director - property, commercial and Premier Inn Germany at Whitbread Hotels & Restaurants