Our MD, Les Meikle has given an interview to the Building Scotland magazine about his life and his plans for the future of Wise Property Care. Here are the Q and A’s from the interview session with the magazine:
Q. So why did you choose a career in the property preservation sector?
A. I started off training as a quantity surveyor when I was 15 and I honestly could not stand it - it was a bit like being an accountant. So when I was about 20 years old I got the chance to go into building preservation and I absolutely loved the freedom and the fact that I was meeting people and talking to them etc. So I have been doing it since and I'm as enthusiastic now as I was 34 years ago.
Q. Why did you choose to start your own business?
A. Well, at 43 I got made redundant from the company I'd been with for about 20 years so I had two choices - I could try and work for someone else in, probably, a lot lesser position for a lot less cash or I could do it for myself - and I think at the age of 43 and because I had been in the business for about 23 years I knew the formula for success in the preservation industry. So knowing that formula, having the experience, having worked in Glasgow all my life, I knew a lot of the people in the industry, I was able to make the decision to go into business for myself.
Q. Life as your own boss got off to a stressful start. What made you stick with it?
A. One of the main things was pride, in that I knew I had been successful for someone else for 23 years and my own pride made me believe that I could do it for myself and that, whatever obstacles I was ever likely to hit, I'd probably overcome them in the past for my previous employer. But also, we very quickly made a success of the new business and I've always had this passion for the preservation business. So I think when you've got passion and things start to go well reasonably quickly, it just drives you forward with a huge amount of momentum.
Q. What advice do you have for anyone starting out on their own?
A. Every business has a formula for success - it might be similar for all businesses but it will have its own differentiations for each business. So rather than try and learn the formula for success yourself, work with someone else first, learn the formula of success with them and then replicate it in your own business, otherwise you're trying to recreate the wheel.
Q. How has the property preservation market evolved since you began your career?
A. It has not evolved a great deal since I started out, but it is going to change hugely with the introduction of the Purchasers Information Pack late in 2008 (Scottish equivalent to the Home Information Pack) which will mean the seller will have to instruct a survey of the property rather than the purchaser. So I think, before the seller carries out this survey, they will instruct a company like us to come in and do a health check of the workings for the purchaser, the bulk of the work for the seller.
Q. Where do you see it going in the future?
A. I think we are going to be much more weighted towards a prevention company rather than a cure company. I think we will do both but I think we will build long term relationships with homeowners to try and help them keep their building in a better condition.
Q What are your ambitions for the future, both for the business in general and for yourself?
A. We believe that we are very close to being number one in Scotland in preservation and we want to be considered as the contractor of choice for all the solicitors and estate agents in the housing transaction process. So that is what we are gearing our whole marketing and IT programme towards -setting a standard that very few other companies will be able to achieve both from a technology point of view and a quality point of view. And I think there is the potential that if we achieve number one in Scotland, there may be acquisition opportunities in England that will help us become number one in the UK.
Q Have you got any personal ambitions?
A. A sentimental one is I would really love to see my kids grow old and see my grandchildren - that's a bit of a soppy answer! Other than that, I would like to get a private pilots licence to fly a plane - that's something I've wanted to do since I was about 12 years old.
Q. What has been your proudest moment?
A. Personally the birth of my son - I believe there is not a prouder moment in anybody's life than the birth of your first child.
Business-wise - getting the cash to pay the first months wages.
Q. Tell me something about yourself that not many people know?
A. Most people don't release that I'm actually a very quiet guy. I'm an introvert at home but in business I have to be an extrovert - it's almost like a Jekyll and Hyde personality!
Q. Greatest fear?
A. Business-wise - the company going bust. Personally - my son has had some serious health problems in the past so my other greatest fear is that recurring.
Q Ideal dinner guest(s) (alive or dead)?
A. John Wayne and Martin Luther King. Robin Williams and Eric Morecambe for a bit of comedy. Also it would be great to have Nelson Mandela to dinner because I think he would make you feel humble in his presence given what he's been through in his life. And from a business point of view, maybe someone like Andrew Carnegie.
Q. What Quote or saying do you most overuse?
A. ‘Opportunities are rarely lost. Others grasp those that you miss.'
‘Don't be afraid to go out on a limb” or
‘Persistence prevails when all else fails'
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