It’s been an exciting few years for Eli Kauffman. He was the first-ever apprentice that we took on (as opposed to a fresh-out-of-uni graduate) and he has now successfully completed his training through the University College of Estate Management (UCEM), achieving AssocRICS status in under three years.
To find out how his apprenticeship laid the groundwork for future success, Associate Director Rafael Jacobs sat down with Eli to discuss the key ingredients for a successful and rewarding career in property management – and Lee Baron specifically.
RJ: Was it always your goal to have a career in the property industry?
EK: In short, no. I grew up dreaming of being a car dealer!
RJ: How did your apprenticeship benefit you?
EK: The main benefit of an apprenticeship is the blend of theory and practical. One day I would be learning the theory in a lecture setting and the next day I would be at my desk actually carrying it out side by side with chartered surveyors. That hands-on experience is invaluable.
RJ: Do you think your apprenticeship was more useful than a degree?
EK: Personally, the structure and responsibility that an apprenticeship gives benefitted me far better than a degree. That being said, degrees can also offer a broader subject knowledge. For my way of working, the apprenticeship was best.
RJ: What skills have helped you be successful in your current role?
EK: Attention to detail: management surveyors are quasi-lawyers, accountants, negotiators, contractors, safety experts… the list goes on! Keeping all areas satisfied takes a lot of attention to detail.
Approachable: being the main conduit between clients and occupiers, we have to be able to relay, relate and react.
Ambition: being surrounded by capable professionals, young and old, I’ve learnt that there’s no right or wrong way to progress through the industry.
RJ: Describe your job in three words.
EK: Rewarding, challenging, innovative.
RJ: What is the best thing about working at Lee Baron?
EK: The people. Anyone who has worked at Lee Baron would say the same – without question. Knowing that you are part of a team that is ambitious, diverse and dedicated to one another gives you the confidence to do your job to the best of your ability.
RJ: What have been both the challenges and opportunities that you’ve experienced, particularly during the times of COVID?
EK: Challenges: Covid. Obviously, there has been and will be the challenge of my generation to pick up the pieces and move on. The challenges have been huge: taking into account occupiers’ liquidity whilst ensuring that the client is able to meet their necessary requirements; actively managing multi-let buildings and parks whilst making sure that they are operating in a safe manner without being allowed to visit them. These are just a couple of challenges in my role!
Opportunities: Covid. Older industry figures have lamented that trainees have lacked oversight, mentorship or guidance during long periods of working from home. Contrastingly, I believe that these long periods of home working have provided trainees with an incredible opportunity which has led to an explosion in innovation across all sectors. Young team members have been given the opportunities to handle situations themselves, which they may haven’t been able to do before. It has provided a level playing field and deep sense of humility across the corporate sector. One example that springs to mind is big banks such as HSBC embracing open plan and remote working in ways that they’d never imagined before.
RJ: What would you tell your younger self?
EK: Be patient. Building up your skills and fortitude is necessary in the workplace, specifically the property industry. But this takes time and can’t be rushed. You’ll get there.
RJ: Do you have any advice for younger people wanting to enter this industry?
EK: Real estate is surprisingly diverse and multi-faceted. From finance, planning and proptech, there is something for everyone! It is also one of the few corporate industries where you find yourself out on site and not perpetually stuck in the office.
RJ: Would you encourage more young people to train as apprentices?
EK: As mentioned previously, if you want the structure, responsibility and opportunities right away to get stuck into the corporate world, then an apprenticeship is a great route. If someone isn’t sure which area they want to work in, then going to university and seeing the variety of opportunities can help them find their forte.
RJ: What makes the training/apprenticeship scheme at Lee Baron stand out?
EK: Knowing that the majority of the executive board, including our CEO, started out on training contracts with the company many moons ago shows me that there is a clear progression to the top if I were to choose that pathway.
Graduate vs apprenticeship – the Lee Baron perspective
RJ: The challenge for Lee Baron with taking on an apprentice in comparison to a graduate was our staff members having to combine the roles of teaching how the job should be done, together with explaining the actual theory behind it, which would normally to taught at university. Having the ability to explain an element of surveying to someone, without any preconceptions, was actually really enjoyable and I think that our staff got as much out of Eli’s apprenticeship as he did.