LSH aims to triple market share within three years

Jessica Middleton-Pugh

Place North West met with head of the Lambert Smith Hampton Manchester office, Abid Jaffry, to discuss plans for the business, nearly one year since its takeover by Countrywide in September 2013 and following several senior departures.

Jaffry was named as Manchester head in March 2012, just over six months after he joined the company from Knight Frank. In September 2013, estate agent Countrywide announced it was acquiring the company for £31.4m in cash.

Over the past year LSH has experienced some notable departures, such as head of office agency David Thwaites, made redundant in July 2013 and later to join GVA.

Jaffry said: "The Countrywide takeover in September 2013 led to a restructuring from a divisional business focus to a regional focus, to be office location-led rather than team-led. It is the beginning of a new business cycle for us, and it was a business decision to restructure. Lots of people had been with the company for over 20 years and decided that it was an appropriate time to depart.

"We're thinking about building a business long-term, and there was always going to be pain at the beginning in order to move forwards. Radical changes will always bring opposition, but there hasn't been any surprises."

It is understood that the restructuring from a divisional to a regional and local focus meant many roles were redefined and some of the positions no longer existed.

Peter Skelton, former head of the Manchester office, moved into a consultancy role in September 2013 before leaving for WHR in March 2014. Acting head of office agency Mark Bamber left for Knight Frank in April 2014.

James Ogborn, Northern head of planning and development consultancy, and Nick Davies, head of valuation, departed in February to set up their own consultancy. Richard Wackett, national head of rating, was then confirmed as moving into a part time role with a view to leaving the company shortly.

The telecoms team, made up of six people, moved client-side to work with Clarke Telecom in Oldham earlier this year.

There are now 66 people currently based in the LSH Manchester office, compared to 76 a year ago.

Place North West asked Jaffry what plans were in place to fill the void. He said: "There are obvious areas that need addressing, which we are looking at strategically, and are talking to a lot of people to identify the best appointments for the roles. This is not about quantity, but about the quality of the appointment to drive the company goals forward. It's not numbers of people that equal profit, it's quality that equals profit.

"Office agency is the obvious shop window, and we are in the process of looking for a head of office and a senior director."

The office agency team is currently made up of Adam Jackson at associate director level, new recruit Tom Brown as graduate surveyor, and a sales negotiator.

LSH said there would be a raft of senior appointments in the next three months across a number of teams.

Ahead of the takeover, LSH posted a pre-tax loss of £29.23m in its financial results for the year ending March 2013, with £694,000 due to activities relating to staff redundancies and reorganisation, on turnover of £63.6m. In new owner Countrywide's annual financial results in February this year, the parent group said LSH had exceeded its expectations for the first quarter since the acquisition by contributing £16.6m in revenue, and committed to boosting LSH's 3% market share nationally. LSH declined to give its regional market share.

"The focus is profitability and market share," Jaffry said. "We want to triple the LSH market share, and increase numbers to over 100 staff over the next three years. The Manchester office is one of the big three for LSH and sits alongside London and Birmingham in terms of scale and we want to build on that."

Along with the restructuring, LSH has welcomed some significant new hires to Manchester in the past 12 months, including Richard Platt from Westminster City Council as head of public sector, and Julian Warbrick, relocating from the Birmingham office to head up the corporate recovery team from Manchester. Jaffry also said that LSH would be launching a specialist hotels division, with expansion into Manchester expected once the team had bedded in in the London office.

When asked about what his intentions were as head of the Manchester office, Jaffry said: "For me, the future of the LSH Manchester office is about collaboration, not a silo mentality.

"The projects we have done best, at Omega North, and for Cerberus Group, and the Waters HQ project, have been the ones that have engaged everyone and have given all parties a good service.

"Response time is important now, LSH has to move forwards as quickly as possible. It has been a bumpy beginning [to the new corporate structure], but the next phase is serious recruitment. Market share has been consistent, but it's now about strengthening certain streams to increase that."

In terms of how much the changes had been driven by the Countrywide takeover, Jaffry maintained that LSH had retained its autonomy. He said: "Countrywide provides investment, put back in to the business, which before the takeover was difficult. However, LSH is very much its own business, and the Manchester office is master of its own destiny."

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Interesting use of stats although I believe a current office of 40 people would be slightly more accurate……