Director at WK Nowlan Real Estate Advisors on spilt whiskey, the housing crisis and good curries
What is the worst travel experience you’ve had while working in the property industry?
My first significant business trip was to Seattle to make a pitch to Boeing in the late 1990s, travelling with my then boss. In taking advantage of the in-flight hospitality, I spilt an entire glass of Jameson over my boss’s lap – beige chinos. Not an attractive look for him for the rest of the flight and he stank of whiskey.
What has been your most embarrassing industry moment?
There have been many. As an apprentice surveyor working on a building survey in an old house, I managed to lock the owner’s cat in the attic. Thankfully it ended well; the owner heard it whimpering and a lawsuit for the death of a cat was avoided.
What’s the best work decision you ever made?
Moving to Ireland in late 2000. It was a game-changer for me in terms of development experience and opportunity. We’ve had a rollercoaster ride since.
What’s your greatest work achievement?
Seeing the Westin Hotel Dublin open in late 2001. It was a really complicated and challenging city centre, five-star, US-owned project and then 9/11 happened. But with dogged team determination it got completed and helped transform a previously run-down and derelict part of Dublin.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
That understanding you will never be great at everything is a real strength. Know what you are great at and focus on that.
What’s the best industry after-party you’ve attended?
There were a few in the early 2000s I can barely remember. The best are those where the crowd is on great form and everything happens impromptu.
What is your business motto?
Never be afraid to ask questions.
Who is your business idol and why?
I love it when people give back. The philanthropic example of Chuck Feeney, the Irish-American who became a billionaire out of his duty-free business then gave it all away, is a wonderful thing.
What’s your favourite property in Ireland or the UK?
The Convention Centre in Dublin’s North Docks is a credit to Kevin Roche’s design – a great showcase for Ireland Inc and Irish business.
Who do you most admire in the property industry?
There are too many to mention. What separates them is their ambition, tenacity, vision and at the same time the way they retain a sense of the greater good.
What’s the best thing about the industry?
The people who work in it – there are so many great characters – and the diversity of work.
And the worst?
The housing supply problem in Ireland is a big issue at many levels. Delivery needs to speed up and the system is still far too lumpy.
What one thing would you change about the industry if you could?
It is still too male dominated.
What could have the biggest impact on the property industry in the next 10 years?
Resolving Ireland’s housing problem will be critical. The population growth forecasted will demand proper, fit-for-purpose housing and infrastructure. This will need an efficient planning and delivery process that relies on public and private co-operation. The PRS has a big part to play and the sense of ‘owning’ your home should cease to be about whether you rent or pay a mortgage.
What was the first record you ever bought?
Into the Valley by the Skids.
What was your first car?
It was a 1968 Ford Cortina.
What’s your ideal holiday?
With young kids, the venue is less important but sun, pool, family and a cocktail or two are a must.
What was your childhood ambition?
To play soccer for Swindon Town – alas, it was not to be.
What’s your favourite way to relax?
Watching sport with friends and family.
What’s your culinary guilty pleasure?
Most Indian dishes, but it’s hard to turn a chicken Madras down.
If you had a dinner party and could invite three famous people, alive or dead, who would they be and why?
Jesus Christ, George Best and Barack Obama. We’d have some great craic and also get forgiveness.
What’s the best restaurant you’ve been to anywhere in the world?
La Colombe d’or in Saint Paul de Vence, a beautiful place near Nice, for its relaxed atmosphere and amazing food.
If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
I love living in Ireland – in many ways it’s hard to beat. If we could turn up the sun a bit more it would be perfect!
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