10 years of Dunlop Heywood – a personal tale of ups, downs & potatoes!

Stuart Hicks, Manchester Office, Director - Dunlop HeywoodBy Stuart Hicks – Director

It’s ten years since we set up Dunlop Heywood but, at that time, I often wondered if we would get to 10 months.

The papers were signed and the historic name of Dunlop Heywood secured for a new Manchester practice of Chartered Surveyors in June 2008 but little did I know that the biggest financial crisis in 80 years was about to hit.

At the time, I had other things to worry about, the business enjoyed a healthy start but it also attracted some challenges that took their toll financially as well as emotionally. The first 12 months I refer to as the “Baked Potato” period!

Despite the financial pressure, I do remember the turning point. I was walking in London and happened to pass my old offices in Piccadilly. As I looked up my phone rang, it was the Procurement Director from a national company. He wanted me to tender for the company’s rating work as they had seen results from my pre-DH days. I remember my journey to that meeting, I had to get a train, a tram and a bus (my car wasn’t taxed) and I will never forget one of their directors leaning over at the end of that meeting and saying: “I think you’re going to do a really good job for us.” I’d got the work.

Eight months later and another pivotal moment arrived with the winning of another major national client. This meant we could finally invest in Dunlop Heywood. We bought out a small business and opened our Leeds office.

We have also got some important, high profile results for clients along the way, such as Dublin International Airport where its Rateable Value was reduced by €20,000,000. This helped us to launch and expand our work in the aviation sector where we now advise 25 regional airports. We also grew strongly in the retail, ports and the leisure sectors.

We continued to expand, opening offices in Newcastle, Liverpool and Belfast, and grew to a staff of 45, but this brought its own set of problems. I quickly realised having so many staff took me away from the clients and led to a loss in the “one team” feeling with staff. More of my time was spent managing the business, travelling between offices and time away from winning and meeting the clients. We got into the classic cycle of profit chasing overhead. Bottom line? it wasn’t fun anymore.

At that point we took the decision to close Liverpool and relocate the Newcastle office. The team is now back down to 28 and it feels much better.

Ten years on, the business is in a place I am very happy with; 12 months ago, we launched an Energy & Renewables Department led by Mick Rowbottom based in our Leeds office. We have won 19 clients in less than 12 months, looking after more than 100 sites nationally.

We have a tight team who are focused on our clients. Our financial year has just closed and saw us with our largest ever profit but on a marginal turnover increase and less staff. We are investing all of that back into Dunlop Heywood for 2018/19.

With a big thank you to the team and to our clients, here’s to the next 10 years but the lessons of the last decade are never far from my mind – as is my absolute loathing of baked potatoes!