Roland Verniers, director and head of Netherlands and Germany at consultancy Hollis, on how he got started in property, the historical figure he would like to meet and his number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
Pure luck. I was keen to start working and a recruiter I met at university convinced me to give real estate a go, so I joined Turner & Townsend as a junior quantity surveyor. It really opened my eyes to all the property industry has to offer and gave me a solid understanding of how it works. From there, I went on to project management, working across both public and private partnerships. And in 2016, I joined Hollis to set up our Amsterdam office.
What does your job entail?
I am responsible for operations in the Netherlands and earlier this year I was appointed to head up Germany as well. I oversee a co-ordinated strategy in line with the firm’s common business goals, while adapting and aligning them to each market. On a day-to-day basis, this means working closely with our cross-functional team in key service areas to help our clients maximise efficiencies in multiple cross-border portfolios.
What do you like most about the property industry?
How the whole ecosystem is connected. No matter the role, everyone has a broad understanding of other disciplines, and the mutual respect between people working towards a common goal is amazing to see.
And what do you dislike most about it?
Given the hours and the need to be available at all times during transactions, it can be difficult to get the work/life balance right. I think it’s this ‘always-on’ nature that contributes to its reputation as a non-inclusive industry.
What would you change about the property industry?
Exactly that. Getting the work/life balance right. As an industry, are we measuring the right KPIs? I believe that introducing a purpose-driven productivity system (i.e. results and not the number of hours worked) which prioritises wellbeing will actually contribute to creating a more inclusive and accessible environment for everyone.
What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?
Creating an acceptance that, if you are running an international business, the same models or economic factors don’t necessarily apply from one region to another. There are cross-border nuances – for example, differences in government policy responses during Covid.
What are you most proud of in your career?
My Hollis journey. In Amsterdam, we have grown to a team of 11 providing building surveying, ESG, cost management and more to our clients. We work on a number of great projects, no two days are the same and it’s a privilege to work with some of the industry’s best and brightest talent every day.
What do you value in people?
A combination of entrepreneurial spirit and openness and honesty. If you can get that combination right, you can build pyramids if you want to.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
When it comes to real estate, there are so many things to choose from, so find a company that has a multitude of service lines/departments. That way you can sink your teeth into the industry and gauge what it is you really want to do. Also, learn from the old guys and then make it your own.
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