Having a business in lockdown presents numerous challenges for all of us. For BB&J Commercial it has included arranging for a team to work remotely from home, which is a challenge in itself when we have traditionally been office based and there is a need to ensure adequate IT support, client communication channels and remote access to all necessary systems.
But rather than just take the approach of ‘keeping ticking over’ until we emerge from this, we have instead taken a good look at our business to see how we can keep working and ensure our business remains sustainable during this challenge. The results have been surprising.
Operating within the constraints of both ‘home working’ and ‘social distancing’ gives us challenges not only in terms of keeping a team working together whilst being apart, but also in how we can operate on a day to day basis given that we are a property business and that involves inspecting properties where people are present.
To start with, we have had to immediately rule out any property inspections which violate government social distancing guidelines. This does not however mean that we have had to stop our valuation work for banks, developers, pension funds and other clients.
Many of the commercial banks we work for are still operating and still in need of RICS compliant ’Red Book’ valuations so they can lend on property. The RICS were quick to amend their guidance and helpfully lenders have in most cases changed their requirements and will accept a desktop or drive-by valuation, subject to a later reinspection when restrictions are relaxed and this is permitted. On this basis we continue to work and have recently valued a property portfolio of over twenty units on a desktop basis.
We also carry out a lot of development valuation work and of course this is largely unaffected as we are valuing a proposed scheme and a site rather than an existing building, so social distancing isn’t an issue.
We are also working hard to be as flexible as possible. We were asked to value a factory recently which was still operating albeit with reduced staffing. To ensure protection for all involved, they opened up for us at the weekend when the premises were otherwise empty. Looking around a factory is not the way we would normally spend a Saturday afternoon but it got the job done in the best way possible under the circumstances.
In terms of commercial property agency we operate via a cloud-based system so remain open and able to deal with enquiries. We’ve also been asked to bring to market three new instructions this week, all vacant units so again there is no breach of social distancing. We have been able to prepare details and market these via our website, extensive database and social media campaigns. Enquires for these units have been significant, and it shows not only that latent demand still exists but that people still actively want to keep doing business.
On the back of this, BB&J has remained consistently busy and we have spent April fulfilling a significant demand both for valuation work and agency business. As such, rather than just waiting for the ‘lockdown’ to be over and returning to normal, we are working hard to ensure we maintain an economically viable business that continues to operate and service our clients throughout challenging times for us all.
We hope that you are all remaining safe, and we look forward to continuing to work with you.