Secrets of my success: Simon Baynham, property director at The Howard de Walden EstateComments Off on Secrets of my success: Simon Baynham, property director at The Howard de Walden Estate
Simon Baynham, property director at The Howard de Walden Estate shares his secrets about working for a major London landlord.
What do you do?
The Howard de Walden Estate is a major London landlord, which has over £3.5 billion of property assets including offices, medical retail and residential premises. We are very hands-on and don’t employ managing agents. We do many things in-house, from management, lettings, project management, acquisitions and rent reviews to our own legal work and PR. I am fortunate to oversee all of this.
What do you enjoy about it?
The most satisfying thing is the investment and construction work that goes with creating a new, lively environment and securing a tenant who adds to the area rather than just occupies the building. We are now working on Harley Street to turn it into a world centre of medical excellence, which has enormous potential to contribute to the London economy through private patients. As part of this, we are in a race to build the UK’s first Proton Beam Therapy Centre which will be particularly beneficial for treating childhood cancers. How rewarding is that? But first we must get planning permission.
What don’t you like?
I have been at the company for 21 years. Initially, the most challenging task was to change the image of the estate to an approachable “we can do” company, and I led the regeneration of Marylebone High Street. Having seen income rise by sixfold and staff numbers by 150%, we are now a very different organisation. I can’t do everything and am learning to let go, which I find very difficult. My instinct is to interfere, which must be annoying for my many very capable colleagues.
In my twenties, I just wanted to have fun. Naturally, I wanted success but I didn’t have the drive or necessary focus. Getting married and having responsibility for more than just myself changed my needs and approach. Without that, I would have stayed at my old job. So moving to Howard de Walden was my biggest break. I was previously at Weatherall Green & Smith, where I got on well with Howard de Walden’s then boss Andrew Ashenden, and was lucky enough to be offered the job.
I am not sure of the biggest, but self-promotion sits uncomfortably with me. An example that still hurts 40 years later was being dropped from the 2nd XI football team at school. I had scored two goals in the prior match, which we won 3-1, against a tough adult side. In the school’s end-of-year magazine, the goals were credited to someone else who wasn’t even playing. It taught me that you cannot just rely on your ability and results, but that the people in charge need to know who you are.
How do you juggle your work-life balance?
Badly. I am married to Susie and we have five children aged 23, 21, 19 and two at 14. I also commute from Newbury to London. At work, I am in wall-to-wall meetings every day and catch up with emails on the train. It means I am working 12-plus hours a day. If I can work from home once a week, to catch up on paperwork and phone calls, I find I have so much more energy the next day, which hopefully will be a Saturday. I am not good at tennis but in the summer I like to go home early once a week and play doubles.
The property industry is much harder now than in the late Seventies and Eighties. I think going to college and getting a degree is important and then working in London for one of the big firms to get a rounded experience provides the best start. But the world is much more competitive now.