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Vail Williams reports best ever year

Property consultancy Vail Williams has reported its best ever year, with increased revenues of £18.3 million for 2022-23, up 5% over the previous financial year.

Growth continued in line with the current three-year business plan and included the highest grossing single quarter since 1988 when the firm was founded.

Crucial to the success story was agency work, along with planning, property asset management (PAM), building consultancy, a growing residential presence, energy and environmental sector work and an internal reorganisation of how the firm’s 175 staff are managed.

Managing Partner Matthew Samuel-Camps said: “What is absolutely clear is that once again we have had our best-ever year as we continued to increase our fee income and outperform previous years.

“We have seen an excellent collegiate performance. We increased our team numbers, productivity improved, we did a lot more multi-disciplinary work and we continued to serve high-quality clients across a range of sectors. We continued to advance our expertise, our client base and the type of work undertaken.

“The agency team continued its strong performance from the previous year, our planners made significant inroads and grew our offering, while the Building Consultancy and restructured Property Asset Management  teams pushed ahead on all fronts.

“Our business plan is one where we are seeking to continue to grow and exploit opportunities to increase our service lines, develop new areas of expertise and look at appropriate geographic expansion to enhance our existing footprint.

“However, we could do none of this without our exceptional and valued clients who trust us to act on their behalf across a huge range of property matters and whose continued support drives us forward to grow the business, uphold our high standards and deliver ever better levels of customer service.”

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Last month Vail Williams opened a new office in Oxford to meet growing business demand. Located at New Barclay House in Botley and forming an extension of the firm’s Thames Valley region, the office is headed by Richard Dawtrey, Partner and Head of Investment.

New members of staff, including experienced Partner Mike Watson, who has 25 years’ presence in the city, Surveyor Clark Tersol and historic buildings specialist Chris Bailey, were recruited with VW seeking to build on its existing Oxfordshire presence.

Vail Williams employs 175 people – of which more than 50 are partners, including 17 LLP members – is based across its 12 offices in the Midlands and south of England in Oxford, Birmingham, Crawley, Brighton, Woking, Heathrow, Leeds, London, Portsmouth, Reading, Southampton and Bournemouth. 

Vail Williams was again awarded the prestigious Investors In People (IiP) Gold accreditation which is given to just 17 per cent of the UK’s businesses and indicates employee satisfaction as well as validating the firm as ‘a great place to work’ and also retained its We Invest In People standard.

“We were absolutely overjoyed at retaining our IiP Gold accreditation for another three years. It is very much a reflection of all the work we are doing and we are continuing to learn from it. We always seek to improve.”

Matthew said a key contributor to success was completing the first phase of the project decoupling people management from operational heads by introducing dedicated people managers into the business.

He said Vail Williams’ philosophy of continual learning, development and improvement was really starting to pay dividends. The appraisal system was overhauled and the arrival of specialist people development managers (PDMs) was accepted and embraced by his colleagues who appreciated the interest being shown in their careers.

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“Nobody comes into this profession with the sole desire to manage staff, so we have enabled them to get on with their jobs without distraction. People are our most valuable asset and every time we put, say, a specialist surveyor or planner in charge of something else it is a compromise.

“We have a whole new learning and development philosophy being instilled into the business. We have expanded our training budget and are really focussing hard on training, personal development and inculcating expertise and experience throughout the business.

“This is all very much part of our business plan. We are spending a lot of time around how people are managed to the highest standard, how we can get the best from them and how they can get the best out of themselves.”

Matthew, with Vail Williams since 1988, said significant challenges had been very evident during the last financial year, including the onset of the Ukraine conflict, interest rates rising dramatically after 10 years of record low rates and the cost of living crisis.

There were also significant wobbles in the commercial property market, residual effects of the pandemic still being felt, and major decisions being made around how people were returning to work, particularly offices.

“We continued to see a flight to quality in terms of demand and an overall shortage of space – which is starting to ease now – yet there was more confidence in the property market this time last year as the impact of those interest rate rises had not been fully felt.”

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He added that decisions made in October 2022 had a very evident impact on the firm’s quarter three (December 2022 to February 2023)

“Enquiries for space fell by 20% in our Q3 as a result of decisions made by other people. It was like a train hit the wall and the phone just stopped ringing. Thankfully, it was short lived and enquiries bounced back by 35% in Q4, but let’s hope we don’t have to experience that again.”

During the financial year ending May 2023, business rates specialist Danny George, Gatwick Regional Managing Partner, was appointed as an LLP member.

Experienced Carl Grint was hired at Partner level to head for the expanded and comprehensively restructured Property Asset Management (PAM) division following sustained business demand.

The firm’s Bournemouth office, established following a merger with Dorset-based Cowling & West in March 2021, became fully bedded-in and continued to make a significant contribution.

Vail Williams’ full-service property advice includes commercial agency, investment and development advice, building consultancy, property valuation, planning, lease advisory, property asset management, business rates and occupier consultancy. 

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