For this month’s journey into the entrepreneurial stories behind South Yorkshire businesses, unLTD caught up with Annie Buckley BSc (Hons) and Joshua Weston BSc (Hons) MRICS, who three years ago decided to take their relationship to the next level and become business partners, founding chartered RICS building surveyors Fourth Wall …

Can you start by telling us about the ‘lightbulb moment’ which led to you setting up your business?
Joshua: To say I live and breathe building surveying sounds cliché, but my passion for this industry is a driving factor for me personally and professionally. I’ve always seen the potential in the surveying profession to do better for itself, the general public and the environment we live in. My time in the corporate world was a privilege, allowing me early in my career to work with some of the largest institutional funds on world renowned buildings, but I always knew there would be the opportunity to create a more dynamic and personal practice that would do better for its clients and its people.

Annie: I’m sure mine will be the answer of many… Covid. As we went through that crazy period of change and uncertainty, we were forced to adapt. For me, being at home took me away from a feeling of loyalty and a fear of change I harboured and gave me the time to think about what I really wanted. As we went on our daily walk around the local park, we began discussing our ideas for business and how to bring our different professional experiences and personalities together to create something of our own.

“You face challenges every day in business, it’s undeniable, and you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The most essential thing for me is being able to self-reflect.”

What are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced while building and growing your business, and how have you overcome them?
J: Building a new brand from nothing. We’ve been fortunate to work with some great clients who’ve trusted us and seen the value we offer, but it’s been hard at times when competing with a corporate marketing budget. As we’ve grown, finding the right people who share our genuine drive for doing things better for the right reasons has also been difficult. It’s so critical for any SME, especially in the early days, but I’m glad to say we’ve got a good team of people.

A: You face challenges every day in business, it’s undeniable, and you have to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. The most essential thing for me is being able to self-reflect. Whatever challenge we face, be that with recruitment, finance, workload, training, you always have to look inwards and question yourself. It’s not always comfortable but it is always necessary.

Can you describe your typical client and how they that benefit most from your services?
J: We work with owners and occupiers of property across residential and commercial sectors, so whether you’re buying a house, leasing a business premises or developing a site, we can help.

We work with a lot of small businesses and charities, and we feel we can really add value here, as we bring large corporate level experience into a small business where we provide a personal service – we’re always on the other end of the phone to help every step of the way. We recently helped save a charity £77,000 on their dilapidations claim from their landlord when they left their recent premises. With a further £120,000 saving on future liability at their new premises, achievable through proactive negotiations on Landlords works and lease terms.

“To say I live and breathe building surveying sounds cliché, but my passion for this industry is a driving factor for me personally and professionally.”

It’s incredibly rewarding to see the difference we can make, as they now have a significant extra sum to put into supporting their service users and the important work they do in the mental health space.

How do you feel you differ from other building consultancy businesses?
A: The personal service we’re able to offer is essential for our clients. You’re not going through to a switchboard or struggling to get hold of your surveyor, you get the direct email and phone of the surveyor working on your property. We’re here to support as much or as little as you need.

Looking ahead, what are your plans for the future?
J: This will sound like a tease, but we have some incredibly exciting new surveyors coming. We’re investing heavily in our team, ensuring we have wide ranging experience across commercial and residential to provide the very best expertise to our clients.

The next couple of months sees us going live on site with another £1m project, bringing in two fantastic Chartered Surveyors, and upping our capacity across dilapidations, project monitoring and heritage consultancy.

Our goal has always been to build a business that supports both our clients and our team, so our focus is on ensuring this is a reality at every stage.

fourthwallbc.com

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