Jacob Loftus, the founder and chief executive of General Projects, on how he got started in property and his cultural recommendations
How did you join the property industry?
I convinced Resolution Property to give me a two-week work experience opportunity right after I finished university. At the end of the two weeks, I just continued coming into work there every day for another two months until they finally succumbed and offered me a job.
What does your job entail?
I like to think of it as being similar to a movie producer. My job is to find scripts with unrealised potential; create a vision for what the movie could become; bring in investors to fund the project; and recruit and manage a team of actors, directors, engineers and others to ensure we create something that will delight and excite our customers and contribute positively to society.
What do you like most about the property industry?
That you genuinely learn something new every single day.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The terms ‘landlord’ and ‘tenant’, which date from the medieval feudal system. Nothing better represents the antiquated elements of the industry than these two words. It drives me mad every time I hear them!
What would you change about the property industry?
I would like to see the industry adopt more of a tech-sector approach to innovation. There are a lot of barriers in place that resist change – whether through the planning, financing or regulatory systems – which limit the opportunity for new ideas and products to be brought to market quickly. This is such a missed opportunity, as there are wonderful people with brilliant ideas trying to solve key issues in the sector. We should be breaking down the barriers to enable them to happen.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I feel very proud of so many things. If I had to boil it down to three things it would be: the fantastic team of people I get to work with every day at General Projects; staying true to our original vision of only delivering pioneering, innovative buildings that really strive to do things differently; and proving through our various social impact programmes that profit and purpose can be combined to deliver 2+2=5 results, which is what we are always trying to achieve.
What do you value in people?
Integrity, hard work and being willing to take a risk and go against the herd.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Continually focus on the ‘why’. Much of this industry can be quite traditional and set in its ways. The world is changing faster today than at any other time in history, so questioning ‘why’ and continually thinking about new ways of doing things is critical.
Embracing technology – not only in buildings but also across society – is essential, as real estate is continually evolving to match the needs of society.
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