We recently caught up with Craig Watson, associate partner in our Manchester asset advisory and recovery team, to ask him a few questions about his career and the North West property market.
What was your first ever job?
It’s difficult to recall my first ever job as I was a bit of a mercenary as a youngster, flitting between part-time jobs in various hotels, restaurants and shops in my home town, Scarborough.
The job that I remember most clearly, however, was working as an office junior for a local estate agent during the summer holidays which gave me my first real taste of working with commercial property in an office environment, and gave me the impetus to go on and study Urban Land Economics at university.
What is your favourite building in the North West, and why?
There are so many fantastic buildings to choose from but for me it’s tough (literally) to see past the former Midland Bank, 100 King Street, which I can see from the window of our Manchester office. The building is Grade II* listed due to its amazing gothic Art Deco style architecture which certainly stands out amongst a number of more modern office buildings. Jamie Oliver opened a restaurant in the former banking hall in 2011 and the upper floors were recently converted to Manchester’s newest 5* hotel, Hotel Gotham, which has become a favourite of various VIPs and celebrities….and Simon Cowell.
What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career to date?
My placement year was spent in Sanderson Weatherall’s Valuation team in Leeds during the very turbulent 2007/2008 period when the property market took a severe downturn and the whole world of secured lending seemed to turn on its head. As a relatively inexperienced surveyor at the time it was a significant challenge to adapt to the ‘credit crunch’ and a rapidly changing property market, particularly having joined the company in early 2007 when property prices were consistently rising and nothing could go wrong!
What does the future look like in the North West property market?
Despite a couple of unexpected ‘bumps’ in the road, 2016 was a largely positive year for the North West’s commercial property market and I expect 2017 to provide more of the same. Although it may still be early days, Brexit appears to have very little impact on the region and there continues to be strong demand and increased activity in most, if not all, property sectors.
There is an increased requirement from international investors seeking deals outside of London’s heated property market. This, coupled with continued investment in infrastructure, such as the airport expansion and Metrolink upgrades, have played a significant part in bringing investment to the North West. The region will undoubtedly remain a key market for both national and international companies and 2017 will hopefully prove to be another positive year.
What one thing would you change to influence the future of the North West property market?
Although not specific to the North West, I would conclude Brexit negotiations with the EU quickly and amicably to remove any uncertainty in the property market and allow us all to get on with doing what we do best. “Brexit” has been in the headlines for long enough already and it would not be in anybody’s interests to let negotiations drag on well into 2017 or beyond, further increasing uncertainty and hesitation in the property market. A swift agreement would allow property investors, developers and occupiers to continue making the key decisions required to drive the property market forward.
If you could give one piece of business advice to your younger self, what would it be?
I’m not a fan of the word ‘networking’, but I would tell myself to get out there and meet as many people as possible, no matter how fruitless it might seem at times. You never know who you’ll get speaking to and it’s amazing how often you come across the same people further down the line in your career.
Name three people, dead or alive, that you would pick to work in your team.
Muhammad Ali – A fantastic character and probably the greatest sportsman that ever lived. They say confidence breeds confidence and he would be sure to bring that to the team if we had him in our corner.
Steve Jobs – He was a visionary thinker, knew how to succeed in business and never seemed to be satisfied which is essential in order to challenge the way things are done and come up with fresh ideas. He may be able to kit us out with the latest Apple gear too!
Frank Skinner – Besides me being a big fan, every good team needs a joker who can pick them up every now and again (assuming I’m having an off day, of course…)