Richard Findlay originally set his sights on becoming a dentist, studying dentistry at Otago University for a year before switching things up and going down the commerce route for a further year.
“The beauty of university, I think, is that it’s where you really discover yourself and you’re free to chop and change, as long as you settle with something that you enjoy doing.”
At the end of those two years, however, Richard decided that he wanted to leave uni and enter the workforce.
“I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do, but I was lucky that my father introduced me to a friend of his whose job in property management sounded interesting enough at the time. After speaking with him and also looking into other options, like the film industry, I decided that property seemed to interest me more – not that I knew much about it.
“Once I got my teeth into it, I really enjoyed it and found that this was what I wanted to do. It was luck more than anything that got me into property management”
Richard completed a three-year cadetship then decided to go back to university full-time and complete his degree, graduating from Lincoln University with a Bachelor of Commerce in Valuation and Property Management.
“It was quite a tough choice to stop working because by then I’d been working for the company for about four years and was earning good money, but I knew if I wanted to be good at the job and really advance my career then I had to go back to uni and get my degree.”
After graduating, Richard travelled to the UK and took on the responsibility of 30 to 40 buildings, predominantly in central London, for a large property management firm.
“It was one of the most interesting jobs I had, and getting it – especially coming straight out of uni –was awesome. As property managers, we were responsible for maintaining our clients’ properties, basically taking care of them as if they were our own.”
This included making sure the buildings were regularly cleaned, painted, strengthened and refurbished, plus dealing with tenants and rental payments.
Not surprisingly, Richard recommends that aspiring property managers are well organised and skilled communicators who have the ability to recognise problems before they arise. The part of the job that he enjoys the most is problem solving – which he readily admits is a continuous learning curve – so the more experienced he became, the better he got at catching the ‘curved balls’ he was thrown.
“Experience is everything really – the more you do something, the better you become at it. I definitely think the best way to go about becoming a property manager is to work under a firm with a good reputation and learn from experience as much as you can.”