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Silver Surveyor InterviewBy: Richenda Oldham

Derek Hellier, Hellier LangstonDerek Hellier FRICS is the founder and director of Hellier Langston, an independent, general practice firm of commercial property agents, surveyors and valuers based in Fareham, Hampshire. Derek formed the company in 1988, having spent 19 years with south coast agents Whiteheads. 

What do you like best about your current job?
You cannot beat being your own boss because nobody can fire you. I like the variety of work that I do.When I first started the company in 1988 I came from a general practice culture and rightly or wrongly I have carried on this way. Most clients seem to like it where I deal with all aspects of their property matters, but maybe they don’t like to put me straight!
What was your first job/what inspired you to become involved with commercial property?
My first job was in the residential department of the Portsmouth office of Whiteheads who at that time had about 25 offices from Southampton to Hove and up to Farnham. The emphasis was very much on residential sales and the commercial property department was the “poor relation”. After one year in Portsmouth and two in Waterlooville, I was moved to the Petersfield office and by this time I was getting the hint that they were trying to move me as far away as possible!
However, in 1973  Roger Ellard, who ran the commercial department in Portsmouth, called me to ask whether I was interested in becoming his assistant and I jumped at the opportunity to distance myself from the world of residential agency.
What is the best advice you have ever been given?
Get a professional qualification.
Having been academically challenged and having left the Portsmouth Northern Grammar School without troubling the A Level examiners, qualifying was not easy. However, in about 1972 Mike Taylor, one of the partners at Whiteheads, told me that an HNC/HND Course in Estate Management & Valuation was starting in Portsmouth giving partial exemption to the professional bodies final exams and that Whiteheads would allow me day release to pursue this. However, the week before the course was starting I had a call to say that there were insufficient numbers to run the course, but that a similar course was starting in Guildford. I then began my four-year weekly trip to Guilford (pre-Hindhead Tunnel). Fortunately, the fifth year needed for professional qualification took place in Southampton.
Who has been the greatest influence on your life and why?
Kim Jong-iI after he shot 38 under par with 11 holes in one. An inspiration for us all! As far as property is concerned, it would have to be John Gutteridge, the partner at Whiteheads, who employed me in the first place and then presumably saw some potential in me to promote me to run the Portsmouth Commercial Department when Roger Ellard left in 1974. He took me under his wing and taught me everything he thought I should know and a lot I shouldn’t…
What is the best decision you have every made?
Without a doubt the best decision I ever made was leaving Whiteheads - who had been taken over by GA - to start my own business. GA managed to decimate a successful commercial property agency in about two years.
If you could be a super hero, which one would you be?
Grammmar Man – serving and protecting the English language against abuse eg misuse of apostrophes and the use of the mythical “haitch” sound.
If you could ban anything what would it be?
Big egos in the workplace.
What is on your list of things to do before you die?
Only this week a client said that he thought our fee arrangement was to keep me in beer for the rest of my life. Hopefully he hasn’t been speaking with my doctor! I have no great ambitions to bungy jump, hang glide or jump out of a plane, although I do have some suggestions for candidates! I would like to play some of the best golf courses in the world and see Pompey back in the Premier League. I’ve probably got more chance of playing at Augusta National than achieving the latter.
What has been the greatest achievement of your life?
Hopefully, helping to create a successful company that will continue to grow and be well respected.
What has been the most exciting moment of your life?
Turning left on British Airways and Virgin Trans Atlantic flights rather than right.

Features May 2012

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