• Setting up in Practice – Tips for Surveyors



    Dayle Bayliss talks to Les Pickford, Freelance writer and former Editor of the RICS Construction Journal (RICS), to discuss tips for Surveyors setting up in practice.

    Dayle Bayliss discusses why she set up her own practice and gives some pointers to others thinking of striking out on their own.

    I had been working for a principal contractor but was made redundant during the recession. I decided this was a great opportunity to set up on my own.

    It was hectic as I was very reactive to losing my job and had lots to do to get started. But after 12 months I entered the Local Business Accelerator award and won it for the Ipswich area. This gave me free advertising and business support.

    I’ve learned a lot since starting-up, and am still learning through things like an MBA, but here are some ideas for anyone else thinking about going it alone.

    Know where you’re heading

    You may initially say yes to most jobs because you’re chasing cashflow. But after 12-18 months you should be asking: “What do I really want to offer? What is my niche? What makes people come to me?” Focus on building the business you actually want.

    Use a mentor

    Winning the Award gave me access to a mentor and I’ve just signed up with GrowthAccelerator. A mentor helps you keep focused on things like business planning and finances. My MBA is also making me focus much more on my business

    Build a Reputation

    Be known as the expert in your area or for a certain type of project. Promote yourself by updating your social media profiles with current work. Be the ‘go to’ person.

    Choose your network carefully

    It’s easy to spend your time going to every network event available but be selective to make the best use of your time. Unless you’re networking with the people who make decisions and have influence, you’re not going to win work.

    Is the price right?

    Market knowledge will help you set an initial price for work but keeping timesheets allows you to be far more reflective on where you’ve made a profit on a job and where you haven’t. You can then try to adjust things on the next job.

    Be prepared to walk away

    Sometimes, gut instinct tells you when a client or project is going to be particularly hard work. Listen to that instinct and do your best to avoid any potential for a long-running conflict throughout a piece of work. There are times when it may just be best to walk away.

    Have a little knowledge

    Do introductory business courses on things like writing press releases. You don’t have to be an expert in everything, just have enough knowledge to understand the concepts so you can get the best from someone else.

    Know your customers’ needs

    It easy to think you know what customers want, but have you ever asked the question? You may not do this straight away as, being a start-up, your focus is on establishing yourself and building up a name, but don’t forget it.

    Ask for feedback

    You might think that you’re brilliant at what you do – but are you really that good? Can you do better? The only way of knowing is to get critical feedback from your clients and other professionals and then try to improve.

    You can’t do everything

    Be self-critical and really know your own capabilities to assess what’s an effective use of your time. Anything else, just pay someone else to do it. You might be OK at doing accounts but would you be better going out and promoting your business?

    Write it down

    At the start, everything about your business will be in your head. But this might slow your growth as an external funder, for example, will just think: “What are they doing? Where are they going?” If you want to grow, document everything so you can show it to others.

    Social media is personal

    It isn’t just about plugging your business, it’s about engaging with people and having conversations. Someone could run your Twitter account but it won’t have your personality – without this, how can someone get to know you and start to trust you?

    Don’t feel guilty if you’re not surveying

    Some days I’ll look at my timesheet and I won’t have ‘earned’ anything – but I’m not meant to be 100% fee-earning, that’s why my hourly rate covers the time that I’m not working on a job. How can you build a business if you’re always earning a fee?

    Ask for advice

    My main pointer for anyone starting-up is that there’s lots of advice available – from enterprise agencies to local Chambers of Commerce. This has been hugely helpful to understand business issues. I know I’m a great surveyor but running a business is something completely different.

    For further help, advice and resources for Small Businesses visit www.rics.org/smehub

    The full article can be found on the RICS website.

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