Feature article: 30 years of property solutions
Extracts of this article have been published in The business magazine and B4 magazine, May 2016.
Established by Malcolm Kempton and Michael Carr in 1986, Kempton Carr Croft is a multi-disciplined firm that has grown to over 40 staff and seven local offices that support its head office in Maidenhead to provide property solutions across London and the Thames Valley. 30 years has seen Kempton Carr Croft become an award winning, trusted and recognisable, regional firm for property consultancy services.
Here, business owners Michael Carr and Malcolm Kempton reflect on their time working together and look ahead at what’s to come for Kempton Carr Croft………
How did you meet?
- MC: We were Scouts together as teenagers then met up again by a chance encounter via volunteering as Scout Leaders after university. Unbeknown to each other, we’d both pursued property careers independently and after putting the world to rights in a pub catch up we felt it was the right time to give our own practice a go. Kempton Carr was formed eight months later in May 1986, and the rest as they say is history!
The early years
- MC: We began in a serviced office on King Street in Maidenhead. It was absolutely tiny with just enough room for a desk, phone and filing cabinet! As you’d expect the first few years were tough but a big breakthrough came when we invited local professionals in Maidenhead to a reception event which resulted in our first valuation panel appointment with Barclays bank. Prior to this, the majority of our work consisted of private valuations with some landlord and tenant cases. Now we had regular commercial instructions, business picked up and we made our first professional hire in 1998 with Dave Jones, who is still working alongside us today.
Steady growth & acquisitions
- MK: We were fortunate to experience steady business growth over the next two decades despite some precarious moments when the 90’s recession hit. Our first acquisition was sole trader, Geoffrey Carr (no relation) in 1990, and further acquisitions of Croft and Co and Mead Briggs followed much later in 2007 and 2009 respectively. Each acquisition diversified the services we could offer our clients and played a big part in becoming the multi-disciplined firm we are known as today.
- During the first 20 years we split our staff between our Gerrards Cross and Maidenhead office before regrouping in 2005. This is when we reworked our business plan, incorporated the firm in 2006 and hired several new surveyors to pave the way for the next chapter of KCC.
- MC: We’ve always worked with graduates at the firm and at any one time we have surveyors with over forty years of experience working alongside the next generation of surveying talent at the start of their careers. It’s a nice mix to have in a firm our size and to see them progress through the firm is very rewarding.We firmly believe that employing graduates, nurturing, training and guiding them through their Assessment of Professional Qualification (APC) to gain Chartered status yields excellent home grown talent that only enhances our team. To date we have brought seven graduates through this cycle, one of the first to complete this cycle is now operations manager for the business and two others have become Heads of Service for their respective departments.
- MC: By 2010, we were up to 17 staff and had outgrown our office space again. We moved our head office to Chatsworth House on Broadway in Maidenhead where we remain today. This move became synonymous with presenting a new image for KCC. Rather than contract through the 2008 recession, we expanded from Maidenhead and re-positioned ourselves as London and Thames Valley consultants. Rapid growth ensued and between 2013 and 2015 we went from 17 – to 40 staff to keep up with the demand for our services.
- MK: Doubling our headcount in the last three years made us realise we needed to update our organisational structure so we have a scalable business platform to continue to build upon. In 2016 we defined operations and service delivery areas of the business with six heads of service responsible for progressing their respective teams and service area. We’re now in a place where we have a solid operations team in place with experienced accountants, marketers and administrators who are capable of supporting a much larger firm. This allows us to focus on growing the business by finding the correct surveyors to join our delivery teams. Kempton Carr Croft has never been in such an exciting place as where it is today and we hope the next generation is going take the firm onto bigger and better things. When anyone asks “what’s been your best year?” We always say “We haven’t had it yet!”
What’s important to you as business owners?
- MC: Perception. Our business is built on strong, shared moral values of honesty, hard work, professionalism, integrity and fair game. It’s important to us that these values are also perceived as characteristics of the firm by people who work with us. Building solid relationships with clients that come back to us time and time again because they trust us to do a good job is much more important to us than making a quick buck. In property, you need people you can trust and that can be hard to come by. Thirty years on and we’re still working with some of our very first clients – so we must be doing something right!
- MK: People. Running a business becomes such a huge part of who you are. You live it, breathe it and never stop thinking about it, so having a happy and stable team around you with clear objectives and a shared ethos is a recipe for success. Getting the right team in place is very important to us. We don’t hire just anyone and I believe the only limit to our future growth is finding the right people to join us.
What’s your greatest achievement to date?
- MC: Survival! Bringing a small business through several recessions and maintaining both a successful business relationship and friendship between us for so many years is something we’re proud of. Our working styles complement each other well and our shared moral standings mean we always know where the other sits on an issue. Malcolm is the ideas man, I take care of the regulations and then together we put things into practice. We like to think our ethos and friendly but professional approach to business has created a team that is well nurtured and works well together in a happy environment.
- MK: Kempton Carr Croft is an evolving journey so it’s very hard to pick out a single milestone. One memory that does stand out to me though is a month in 1990 where we invoiced £10,000. Our average at the time was five or six thousand a month, so this felt like a big success and the four of us working at the time all went out for a big celebration! Going from £22,000 annual turnover to invoicing over £300,000 a month shows how far we’ve come.
What does the future look like for KCC?
- MK: Defining heads of service areas this year and bringing in new CRM technology to manage our business processes and professional report creation is a big milestone for us. Both of these changes means we can continue to nurture our staff properly, re-enforce our commitment to delivering excellent customer service and professional expertise, whilst paving the way for the next phase of business growth and development.
How will you be marking the milestone?
- MC: We look forward to celebrating the anniversary throughout the year with the clients and staff that have made this milestone possible. We hosted a staff dinner and dance in April and will be inviting clients and key contacts to join us in a celebration later on in the year. Our marketing team are pulling together some great stories from the last 30 years and will be sharing them across our social media platforms throughout the year.