Journey to Partner: Oliver Keeble, Partner
Current role: Head of Client Accounts
Joined Workman: 2008
In what ways did your early years at Workman prepare you for your career in property and your role as a Partner?
My early years at Workman were an eye-opener, as most traditional accounts departments are slower-paced and repetitive, so working here was a complete change of pace. It meant that I had to adapt to juggling multiple clients’, property managers’ and partners’ requests all at the same time and still manage to tick off the daily jobs that we all have to do. In addition to that, each task was different for each client, meaning that I rarely completed the same process twice and had to get used to adapting to all kinds of different ways of doing things.
What did your Workman grounding teach you in terms of technical knowledge and softer skills?
My Workman grounding taught me a huge number of things, but some of the most valuable were:
- Just when you think you know everything, there is always something you haven’t seen yet.
- Curiosity might have killed the cat, but in business it’s a good thing as the more you understand the easier it will be to identify what’s gone wrong or how things could improve.
- Relationships are key in this industry, being able to pick up the phone or contact someone who will help resolve a situation when things go sideways goes a long way – so my advice is to cultivate good contacts wherever possible.
Were there any memorable projects / properties you worked on that you now look back on as invaluable experience? If so, why?
In the 15 years I’ve worked for Workman, there have been too many to count.
From a client perspective, it was working on CBRE; this was the first client system I had worked on and it made me realise that all property systems have the same basic principles, so if you know how one works you can relate it to the others.
From a project perspective, it was the implementation of Dwellant, as it has already helped improve efficiencies and still has a lot of potential.
What single thing did your closest Workman mentor teach you that’s been most valuable in your career so far?
When you think things are falling apart or you can’t work out a solution take a breath, step away and gain a different perspective.
Things often look very different from the outside and aren’t as bad as when you’re in the middle of the action. Often the answer comes when you stop searching for it.
In your journey to becoming a Partner at Workman, what have been the most significant or pivotal moments?
This isn’t an easy one to answer but the one that stands out for me still was the first pitch I ever went into. Nothing can prepare you for it, I didn’t think I had done very well but we won the business so I can’t have been that bad!
It showed me a glimpse of what I thought it would be like, which is really just a small part. Now I know there is so much more to the pitch process, but I still enjoy that side of it now.
Now in your role as a Partner, when mentoring younger staff, what do you think are the most important aspects of coaching and developing younger staff in your team?
I think the most important aspects are being approachable and always making time when someone needs help or advice, even if it can’t be given exactly at the point they ask.
The other important aspect is allowing people to make mistakes. Everyone makes them, they are rarely they end of the world, and each one is an experience that someone learns from and rarely makes exactly the same mistake again.
What advice would you give to graduates on the Workman scheme starting out now?
I would say if you don’t understand ask questions, but ensure those questions are well thought out. Instead of simply saying: “I don’t understand,” explain what you do and do not understand.
Often it isn’t that someone doesn’t understand the whole process, it is one small piece of information they are missing, so explaining what they understand enables the person they are asking to tailor their answer to add the small piece that is needed for understanding to click into place.
What one attribute do you look for when recruiting graduates and junior staff?
I look at whether they are inquisitive, and whether they ask questions which show they’ve thought about the industry or type of role they are going into.
This gives some insight into how they might apply themselves when they are at the firm and are looking at tasks or situations they come across for the first time.