Sascha Lewin, chief executive of London-focused commercial property specialist W.RE, on how he got started in the property industry, his favourite book and album picks and his number-one travel destination.
How did you join the property industry?
It all started during childhood. My father was a workaholic and on weekends he used to sneak my brothers and me into his office, pretending to my mother we were off to the park. We’d roam around those long, dark office corridors, playing games and having a great time. With its heavy wooden doors and places we were not allowed to go, the office exuded a mysterious allure that caught my childhood imagination. I knew back then that I wanted to work in an office.
What does your job entail?
My job is to find unloved buildings that can be transformed into great workspaces for tenants while generating value to investors. I spend a lot of time working with architects and engineers exploring the relationship the user has with the building. Design lies at the heart of positive and sustainable development; buildings that last are the most sustainable.
What do you like most about the property industry?
I get to interact with a vast array of interesting people, including architects, engineers, contractors, authorities, local communities, investors and, ultimately, the occupier of our buildings. Every day is different and enriching.
And what do you dislike most about it?
The industry is plagued with overregulation. Regulation is mostly well intended but often ill conceived, stifling creativity.
What would you change about the industry?
Tackle the lack of diversity at the grassroots level to see a more inclusive industry evolving.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
Starting my company 10 years ago was exhilarating yet lonely, and revealed that my true friends were fewer than expected. The first few years taught me the value of perseverance. If you believe in yourself and your plan, keep pushing forward. The other critical factor is communication. Trust is the foundation of investment, and proactive and honest communication with all stakeholders fosters this trust.
What are you most proud of in your career?
Since its inception, W.RE has built an amazing portfolio of projects across London. We are currently busy reinventing the iconic Arding & Hobbs department store in Battersea, while across town we are developing a beautiful new mixed-use campus in the heart of the King’s Cross/Camden Knowledge Quarter. While I will remember every project, the relationship with our team is what really matters. I am most proud that W.RE has grown from a one-man company to a business run by an exceptional team of professionals.
What do you value in people?
Honesty and integrity mixed with professionalism and good humour – coming from a German, the last may be a low hurdle.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
Build good relationships. Networking is still the lifeblood of the property industry, and a lot of successful relationships that helped W.RE came from the most unexpected places. It is important to always be sincere, authentic, helpful and kind to everyone.
Something to read:
Michael Chabon’s novel The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay is set in New York in the 1930s to 1950s and draws you deep into the golden age of the comic book.
Something to listen to:
When I was 15 years old, The Cure released the album Disintegration, which included the single ‘Lovesong’. Teenage angst mixed with a deep crush on a girl can be very potent and ‘Lovesong’ wrapped it all up together. It remains one of my favourite songs of all time and still sends shivers down my spine.
My best purchase:
I recently made a minority investment into a League One football club and I still haven’t figured out if this was one of the best or worst things I have spent money on.
Top travel destination:
My number-one travel destination is Austria. I love the mountains – to ski, to tour, to hike, to climb. I have been holidaying in Austria since I was a child. I am fortunate to have visited many holiday destinations all over the world, but for me nothing compares to the mountains.