Real estate companies are facing more compliance challenges than ever before; and in their deal-driven culture, real estate pros can have difficulty accepting the necessity for increasing levels of corporate structure and reporting. That's where Andrew Waller and his colleagues at Remit Consulting LLP come in.
"We help them find the right balance to stay flexible and agile, but also efficient and compliant," says Andrew, a founding partner.
We recently checked in with Andrew to learn more about real estate consulting and the culture at Remit. Here's what he had to say:
Tell us about Remit Consulting. What services do you offer? Who should be using them?
Remit is a specialist management consultancy in the real estate industry. Our clients are amongst the leading property companies, fund managers and services firms, and we work in the public and private sectors. Our job is to help property people become more efficient, do more with less, and become more profitable - all of which involves working closely with people to help embed change.
Although we are a change consultancy, Remit is best known for its experience in technology - everything from defining technology strategy to tendering contracts for, say, desktop support. Our "sweet spot" is helping clients transform the way they do business at a detailed level, such as improving the way they collect rent or organise their maintenance management; and we have developed tools and models over the past 12 years to do that effectively and quickly.
Tell us about your position at Remit.
I was one of the founding partners at Remit; there are three partners in the U.K. and two in the Netherlands. I had previously worked at Ernst & Young (now EY) and am a Chartered Surveyor by background. I look after marketing in the team, and that means I tend to lead on business development. In a small team, though, you have to be ready to deal with anything.
Can you give us some insight into the type of work real estate consultants do?
It's important for our consultants to understand the property world, including the terminology, the drivers, and the need to network, whether at the annual conferences at Cannes or Munich, or in the wine bars of the West End. However, we do not generally advise on property itself. We specialise in how the businesses run, and we look for trends to see how the best firms will be working in the next few years.
Some of the work involves strategy, like classic market analysis or business management structure; some is far more mundane, such as mapping the future state processes for a property management team. In between, we are asked to undertake "beauty parades" for property services or technology tenders and reviews of teams against leading practice. We never quite know what the next phone call will bring. One great thing about our market is that we get to work with the very best real estate companies; and within a short space of time, even our junior consultants are able to work with some of the most senior people in the industry.
What qualities make someone a good fit for being a real estate consultant?
A good fit for a Remit consultant may be slightly different from a traditional real estate consultant! We don't work on transactions, and that's all many RE consultants do. Where we are similar to the rest of the industry is in the need to be quite self-confident, because the industry is still based on people and relationships. Not only that, but much of our work involves standing in rooms full of senior decision makers helping them to change the way they work - which is not something for shrinking violets.
Our consultants need to have an enquiring mind and that extra attention to detail which clients are looking for. Like most firms, we like to have some completer/finishers in the team because a lot of our work involves long hours of detail; but our clients are also looking for a spark which will bring them new ideas and inspire their teams to change.
What is the culture at Remit? How can potential hires evaluate whether it's a good fit for them?
We like to think of ourselves as open and not hide-bound by formality. At a recent internal meeting, one of our associates said:
"I think the most striking thing for me about the whole afternoon was the wonderful atmosphere in the room. I don't think I've ever attended a business-related meeting of similar numbers with such a relaxed and positive feeling."
We work flexibly. Consultants are encouraged to not only be in our office regularly, but also to work at the client's office and from home if they will be more efficient. We work on management by results, not attendance.
Our consultants are responsible for managing the work of our associates who are subject matter experts; that means working with, and sometimes challenging the work of, much more senior experienced professionals. Some of our RE graduates get to manage the work of one of their University lecturers from time to time, and that takes quite some maturity.
For those looking to get into this type of consulting, why should they consider Remit? Access to work and clients that few firms our size get involved with
We like to think we offer three things:
Flexible working with an emphasis on rigour and quality output
A broadening of our consultants' options in their future careers; all of our alumni are in roles that would be hard to find directly from the market
How long does your typical consulting engagement last?
We usually have two or three projects a year which will last nine to 12 months. Most other projects will last two to three months. Hopefully, these will lead on to others with the same client, and we are proud of the long-term relationships we have developed with our clients.
What do you think makes for a smooth consulting experience for both the advisor and their client?
We focus on two things. First, we clearly define what it is the client is expecting at the end of the project, and write this down in the proposal. Then comes client sponsorship to see the project through until the end and support it across all the different stakeholders and to the Board.
What can sour the relationship?
Thankfully, this doesn't happen often! I'd have to say failing to agree on the definition correctly. This process will sometimes identify that the reason for hiring a consultant is a political play to avoid making a decision; if that is the case, it's best to walk away.
Connect with Andrew on Twitter.
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