Country of origin: United Kingdom
Entrepreneur Development Manager, The Royal Bank of Scotland
As part of his BA in Management and Entrepreneurship, Carl completed his placement year at Chantry Estates, an estate agency in Newcastle set up by his father in 2002. In the profile below, written during his placement, he describes the experience and what he was learning from it.
He returned to the company when he completed his degree, and then formed his own company, Keystone Estates, before moving into entrepreneur development with the Royal Bank of Scotland.
I’ve always had an eye for making money and seeing opportunities, even as a kid. Often it was as a way of keeping myself occupied and earning a bit more pocket money! I started in estate agency when I was 13, to fill my summer holidays. My dad worked as an estate agent, and the first time he took me into the office, the girl on the front desk didn’t turn up for work. So I was put on the desk and shown how to answer the phone. It really was in at the deep end.
I hadn’t initially planned to study Management and Entrepreneurship at Lancaster. Originally I was thinking of Accounting and Finance, but when I came to the open day, I spotted the Entrepreneurship course in the brochure, so went along to find out more. Once I’d talked to the course director I was hooked. I wanted something different from the generic business studies. I liked the course structure and the fact that it specialises in small business, which is where I’d ultimately like to go. The guest speakers on the programme talk about things directly relevant to myself, like family business or start-up. I also like being in a small department. The staff in the Department of Entrepreneurship, Strategy & Innovation know me personally, and that’s one of the best feelings. You can always go in and talk to someone.
Now that I’m on my placement, I’ve found it so much better than just working for a few weeks at a time during the holidays. In a holiday job you don’t build up the same relationships with those working alongside the business: the contractors, tenants and landlords. When you’re there over a period of months, you really get to know the staff and see jobs through from start to finish.
Being the proprietor’s son has advantages and disadvantages. People are more willing to talk to me because I have the family name. On the flip side, I also get more pressure put on me than other staff – and it’s longer hours. You can’t go home when your own dad hasn’t left the office. There’s definitely an unwritten contract. Over the years, I’ve seen him work incredibly long hours, so it wasn’t a surprise to me – and it shows me what to expect when I eventually work for myself.
"It's very hands-on, very varied – just like you'd expect in a small business."
I'm the office manager, so I’ve gained experience of people management, PAYE and of resolving issues generated by our large managed property portfolio – from co-ordinating contractors to accounting the monthly landlord settlements. I also do property viewings and oversee training of new office staff. This seems almost incomprehensible when I only started a few months ago myself, but when you live and breathe a job it's amazing how much you can take in. I'm involved in evaluating existing marketing campaigns and exploring new opportunities for press and internet publicity. So it’s very hands-on, very varied – just like you’d expect in a small business.
Next year, back at Lancaster, I think I'll be able to grasp new business strategies and concepts more easily through my new-found experience. The placement experiences provides a much better basis for understanding the theory – for example, management of people. I had never managed people before – or not to the same extent. You’ve got to keep them happy. If not, you'll be facing high sickness and absence levels. One of the biggest things I’ve learnt is that not everyone is motivated by money. Especially in this industry, which doesn’t pay high wages, you’ve got to find other ways of keeping people happy at work, by giving them non-monetary bonuses. So, for example, I organised a team-building day at relatively low cost – which was great fun and really got people interacting and bonding with one another.
"One of the best things ... is the confidence I've gained through networking with people and learning to interact with them."
I’ve certainly matured during the year. My day has stretched: now I’m up at 7, and sometimes going through till midnight. I can now see things from the landlord’s perspective, whereas even a year ago, I’d have been just a typical student. Working has also changed the way I think about money – it’s made me much more appreciative of how much things cost. I don’t earn much in the placement, but I think more carefully now about what I spend my money on!
One of the best things about this year is the confidence I’ve gained through networking with people and learning to interact with them. That will be a big help in the group projects in my final year as well as in the future.
I’d really recommend to anyone to do a placement year, to get out into business and experience it for yourself. What you learn on placement you just can’t replicate in the classroom. It all adds to your life, to what you can do in the future, and to what you can take with you to another job.