Will Kinnear, director at HEWN, on how he got started in the property industry, his top book and podcast recommendations, the best and worst things he has spent money on and his number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
Hands up, I come from a line of surveyors. After going to university to study surveying, I started my career in Sheffield then moved down to London for a stint at Rogers Chapman before going to Grubb & Ellis in San Francisco – to enjoy the boom of the telecoms and dot.com world. After it crashed, I came back to the UK and set up my own business.
What does your job entail?
I advise property owners and flexible workspace operators, bringing those with space together with providers and assisting them through the process – from supporting a management agreement through to thinking about the final offering. I work across the UK and Europe with a range of clients from funds to government councils, which is exceptionally exciting post-pandemic as it has really accelerated the sector.
What do you like most about the property industry?
It is social, with scope to change society. Flexible working is not just about commercial property; it supports individuals to set up companies, encourages diversity and addresses work/life balance. The sector is trying to understand how to adapt to new ways of working, which is what I like most about it.
And what do you dislike most about it?
There is a reluctance on the part of the old guard, who are not changing and adapting workspace. This can be frustrating as it is such a barrier. The sector needs to be more inclusive in order to respond to societal demands and we need to attract diversity to it. I think we forget the role of space – property – in supporting this challenge.
What would you change about the property industry?
We need to be more open as a sector and invite new talent. I would like to see more apprenticeships and more minds with different experiences to attract and support diversity.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
I have had to self-fund all the businesses I have started and create space for my business. The property sector is notoriously a closed shop and this has been a barrier to entry. However, things are changing quickly and smaller consultants are more welcome.
What are you most proud of in your career?
When I came back to the UK from the US, it was a risk to do my own thing, but I did and it has paid off. There have been challenging moments but I am still standing. I have learned to be confident in my knowledge and vision for the sector, and not to be afraid of being different.
What do you value in people?
Honesty – it can make or break any relationship. I am doing more and more management agreements at the moment, and the success for both parties hinges on a trusting working relationship where both are honest about expectations and ability.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Don’t pigeonhole yourself too early and don’t be afraid to be different. Take a look at all aspects – development, professional, investment, agency, asset management – as there is something for everyone. You need to take time to find where you belong.
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