Oona Collins, founder and director of Potential Plus International, on working with entrepreneurial people, the need for female role models in property, her cultural recommendations and why travel beats material possessions.

Oona Collins

Oona Collins

How did you join the industry?

I spent 15 years in the property industry before deciding to qualify as a business and leadership coach – first as a land buyer for a developer, then in agency, launching a central London office for a large chain and running the Far East operation for another.

After returning to the UK, I bought two plots of land in London without planning permission to do my own developments and was asked to consult to help an agency develop its people in line with its growth strategy. I was later appointed to Hamptons as group training director.

What does your job entail now?

Some clients retain me to work with their directors or as a resource for senior and middle management. Others bring me in to work with the senior leadership team at a time of transition. I also work one to one with individuals who are business owners or senior executives.

I generally work with ambitious people who want to accelerate their success and influence those around them to grow their businesses and careers.

What do you like most about the property industry?

It is filled with driven, entrepreneurial individuals, which fits my mindset, having come from an entrepreneurial family. There is a real trend for senior people moving out of the corporate world to enable them to be more creative in the way they run a business and the different models they use, which is creating a huge opportunity for people.

And what do you dislike most about it?

There is a lack of diversity, especially at senior level. Businesses need a mix of backgrounds and experience in their leadership teams to be able to draw on a wide mix of opinions and insights.

What would you change about the property industry?

We need to see more prominent female role models, not just industry leaders, but in each business to provide mentoring and influence so more women are promoted and can see first hand the possibilities of a fulfilling career.

What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?

When doing my own developments, I felt lonely and missed people, which impacted my motivation. I realised the importance of doing what you love and the impact that happiness in your career can have on the rest of your life, which is something I focus on a lot with clients.

What are you most proud of in your career?

All the times I pushed myself to say yes to opportunities put in front of me, and then worried about it after. This has enabled me to travel, work with some great people and change careers.

What do you value in people?

Curiosity, particularly at times of disagreement; integrity; a hard-work ethic; and authenticity. Leaders who get the right balance between a driving ambition, humility, humour and giving people time to feel heard and invested in usually create the best cultures where people and the business thrive.

What advice would you give someone starting a career in the industry?

Start thinking early in your career about where your interests lie and what makes you happy so you can focus on those aspects. When you do what you enjoy you tend to be good at it.