Reece Mennie, founder and chief executive of HJ Collection, tells us about his time in the property industry, and gives his cultural recommendations.
How did you join the property industry?
In my early career, I had a number of prestigious sales positions, which included a sales management role for a low-risk investment firm. In working for the company for several years, I created an effective and ambitious business development strategy that aided significant growth. However, the firm failed to implement strong due diligence processes, meaning client retention was low and individual investors were not receiving the levels of service or return promised.
From here, Hunter Jones was born – an innovative and ambitious investment-introducing firm, dedicated to delivering well-researched and highly lucrative property investment opportunities to all clients, working to the mantra ‘Be Smart. Be Alternative’. After several successful years in sourcing large-scale developments for alternative investment opportunities, we decided to utilise our expertise, experience and contacts to establish a dependable property company and investment ﬁrm under the umbrella of HJ Collection. Since launch in April 2019, HJ Collection has acquired and built out eight large developments in strategic locations in the UK, comprising a GDV of £35m-plus.
What does your job entail?
Like all business leaders, my job role varies considerably. However, having built an experienced and effective management team in recent years, I am not as hands-on as I used to be when it comes to day-to-day operations. As a result, I now have time to dedicate to sales and marketing, where I focus on ensuring HJ Collection is at the forefront of the industry and has the right brand and market positioning – all while continuing to source and secure consistent acquisitions in strategic locations across the UK.
What do you like most about the property industry?
The property industry is rife with opportunity. I thoroughly enjoy driving the process from acquisition through to refurbishment and then letting or sale, particularly when it comes to providing affordable homes for people to live in amid the growing housing crisis.
And what do you dislike most about it?
One of the best and most lucrative ways to invest in property is to ‘be a lender not a landlord’. However, there are many alternative investment firms that have contributed to a negative perception of this part of the industry, by either failing to complete due diligence properly or not paying returns to investors on time or at all.
What would you change about the property industry?
Right now, the cost of materials are very high, so I certainly think it would be beneficial for the entire industry if more materials were produced and circulated within the UK. In addition, planning authorities are incredibly slow – the system needs to be improved to ensure developers can meet the growing demand for housing across the country.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
The initial Covid-19 lockdown period proved incredibly challenging, with construction forced to cease and investors both UK and worldwide concerned about the economic downturn. However, the team and I developed an effective strategy that meant we could continue to grow throughout this period. Key to this has been leveraging new and recent changes to permitted development rights to identify dormant commercial buildings in regions with low levels of affordable housing but growing demand. This approach enabled HJ Collection to acquire seven developments between March 2020 and March 2022, attracting multiple new investors and increasing potential returns.
What are you most proud of in your career?
There are many things that I am proud of, but two clear standout moments include the awards that HJ Collection have been nominated for and won, together with the impressive growth we have been able to achieve over the last few years.
What do you value in people?
Honesty and integrity, particularly when it comes to investment.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
You need to do your research, be persistent and work hard. There are many ups and downs when working in the property industry and a lot of things that go wrong when least expected. However, when it all falls into place, and you get to witness the end result, it is incredibly rewarding.