Stuart Henderson, head of operations, UK north, ROI and Germany at GSA, on how he got started in property. He also shares his cultural tips, his best and worst purchases and his favourite historical figure.
How did you join the property industry?
I joined The Student Housing Company as a general manager to open our four new residences in Scotland (three of which I remain responsible for) just after I had returned from living in Australia for 18 months. I was invited to interview, offered the job that Friday, started the following Monday and I have not looked back since.
What does your job entail now?
I lead our operations teams across the north of the UK, Ireland and Germany to deliver service for our students, a positive employee experience for our teams and performance for our investors that will set us up to exceed and grow across the globe.
What barriers or challenges do you feel you have overcome?
As a (relatively) young leader in our business, it can be difficult sometimes to build up trust with investors, development professions and board members. However, I feel I have managed to build and maintain a reputation as a subject-matter expert in my markets and that has resulted in me having a voice and being trusted with the responsibility of leading our teams in new markets.
What are you most proud of in your career?
How far I have progressed in a short space of time. I don’t spend enough time reflecting on specific achievements, but when I do look back on my overall experience in PBSA, I have learnt so much about the market – and leadership – and I still have a hunger to learn more and progress further.
What do you like most about the property industry?
No two days are the same, and there are different types of asset classes that are alike and yet offer different opportunities.
And what do you dislike most about it?
Too much spreadsheet analysis and not enough walking the cities to understand if your model does actually add up.
What do you want to change about the industry?
Specifically, for the PBSA sector, more collaboration between universities and PBSA residences in cities (and competitor PBSA residences in general). More needs to be done to provide support to students spending the majority of their time at university in the residences, so whether or not there is a commercial agreement there is a fantastic opportunity for universities to gain access to different engagement mechanisms with their students. Similarly, PBSA operators all face the same challenges, so working together through sector bodies such as ASRA or ANUK to ensure standards continue to rise with regard to student wellbeing and support.
What do you value in people?
Honesty, and an attitude that makes them want to ‘have a go’.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Be nosey, ask questions, get as much exposure as you can, and don’t say ‘no’!