Eleanor Deeley, deputy managing director of Deeley Group, on change in the property industry, developing the family business, her cultural recommendations and the perils of after-work Sambucas.
How did you join the property industry?
As a child, I used to come to the Deeley offices with my father to open the post on a Saturday, but I never had ambitions to be in property – I was going to be a lawyer and studied theology at university. I did some work experience in law and realised it was not for me. I still did try to escape and was an assistant brand manager at Procter & Gamble (on Tampax!), but property pulled me back.
After a few stints of work experience I decided that I did enjoy property, so went to Reading to study for an MSc in real estate management. I secured a spot on JLL’s graduate programme in London and my property career began.
What does your job entail now?
Since joining the Deeley Group two years ago, my job has encompassed everything from choosing kitchens for our beautiful Cotswold homes to tracking down lifts yet to be imported from Spain, to buying land and working with councils to structure funds to deliver regeneration.
What do you like most about the property industry?
The people. There are some great characters and property people are pretty straightforward in nature too, which makes business so much simpler without the politics involved.
And what do you dislike most?
The slow pace of change can be frustrating. There are things that should change much more quickly such as planning regulations, zero carbon buildings and how the media portrays the industry.
What would you change about the property industry?
I would like to see the industry opened up to more people. Most young people in schools have no idea about what it means to work in property. It doesn’t appear to be on the careers list. This is why so many people who have a property background in the family go to work in the profession, because they are the only people who know how great it is.
What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?
I found it very difficult after coming back from having a child to get people to take me and my career ambitions seriously. I wanted to still give it everything and, initially, it was a struggle to get my employer and peers to understand that.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The honest answer would be when my dad asked me to work here at the Deeley Group. I’ve spent my career working for some fantastic firms, but there is nothing more important than family and being asked to take forward towards its centenary a business my grandfather started by building air-raid shelters in Coventry is very exciting.
What do you value in people?
Enthusiasm. Integrity. Ingenuity.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
It’s a very small world in property and it’s essential to develop a large network around you. Make friends with everyone and make enemies with as few as possible: you will see these people at all different stages of your career. It’s amazing how phoning a friend can be useful – and the more friends you have to phone, the better.