Here we meet Ruth Gardner, AssocRICS, Associate, part of the Workman Retail & Leisure team, who joined Workman in 2022 as a Senior Surveyor.
What three words describe Workman?
Supportive, inclusive, friendly.
How are you putting your skills to their best use at Workman?
I am thorough and a bit of a perfectionist, so those skills work really well when it comes to managing property.
It helps when taking on a new instruction that I’m able to advise a new client, for example about the particular nuances of managing a specific shopping centre. I’m currently setting the new service charge budgets for 2024, for The Springs shopping centre in Buxton, which is the first full budget there since the local council took it on. So I am going into a lot of detail and making sure the needs of the centre are reflected in the budget. Being thorough and knowing the details can pay off because as a property manager it allows me to fully inform the client about what the site needs.
Tell us about your role, and why this is important to the firm and its clients?
My role as an Associate within the Workman Retail & Leisure team means I’ve managed predominantly retail parks and shopping centres. I also have experience managing different types of properties in previous roles.
Consequently, I’m quite flexible in my approach, which ensures that for Workman’s clients I can adapt my method according to the type of property I’m dealing with. Understanding the differing needs of each property enables me to make appropriate recommendations to the client, depending on what each property needs; even if it’s not always what the client wants to hear! In which case, I go into the details behind my recommendations and show evidence to support what I believe is the correct course of action.
How do you hope to develop your role in the coming months and years?
I want to continue to be a vital cog within the Workman wheelhouse, and to be able to progress and support new members of staff. I also want to help instigate changes that can make the firm better, whether through being part of the Women’s Equality Employee Network, or by making suggestions about more efficient ways of working to management where appropriate.
What has been your standout moment at Workman so far?
I started at Workman as a Senior Surveyor in September 2022, and was promoted to Associate in May 2023. It was a standout moment for me because it’s been a personal goal for quite a while to reach Associate level, so it was rewarding to be able to get that recognition here.
I was previously at JLL and came back from maternity leave to start my role at Workman. Being able to balance a new job, while looking after two children under the age of five at the time, and also managing to gain a promotion within seven months of returning to work is an achievement that I am really proud of.
As a member of Workman’s Women’s Equality Employee Network, what difference do you believe it, and other groups like it, can make to the industry as a whole?
As women in general, we are often expected to work as if we don’t have children and parent as if we don’t have jobs.
However, groups like Workman’s Women’s Equality Employee Network can help address the gender imbalance. The group helps ensure that Workman as a firm is doing what it can to support the balance, and I feel quite lucky to work for a firm that is quite aware of societal gender inequalities and strives to address them.
The firm has recently updated its parenting policy and is supportive of working parents who don’t necessarily work five days a week, but still want to progress their careers. I think it’s a progressive way to be as a firm.
What more could the property industry be doing to make change happen for women and those that identify as female?
The industry needs to make more changes to flexible working; it’s about understanding that life and work can be a tough juggling act. It’s all very well for individual companies to develop their own flexibility and understanding, but I think it needs to come from the industry as a whole as well.
The property sector needs to be brought into the 21st century with the removal of the old-school feeling where in the past it has been very male dominated. The industry needs to work with companies to enable women to break through that glass ceiling.
What change would you make to the wider property sector? And why?
There needs to be change to the business rates system. Over time, the government has been trying to change it to be more supportive of small businesses, but I still feel that they’re just putting sticking plasters on the problem. And it’s not actually fixing it. They need to address it, so that more retailers feel supported on the high street. I think Covid obviously accelerated what was already happening to the high street in terms of the fragmentation of physical and online shopping and browsing. But there is still more change needed to ensure retailers can be more omni-channel.
What first led you into the property industry?
I started in residential, in council housing. And then I followed my nose towards what I felt were the best moves for me at the time. I had hit a ceiling dealing solely with residential property, and saw that there was more scope to develop and progress my skills and career within commercial real estate – plus it was more interesting to me as a whole.
What are your spare time pursuits and how do they feed into your role at Workman?
I enjoy going to the gym because it helps me maintain both my physical and mental health. I also like reading when I get the opportunity, and watching Netflix, I’m not going to lie!
What is your favourite building worldwide, and why?
I love the Musee d’Orsay in Paris, located in a former train station. There’s a feeling of peace and serenity, walking around an art gallery that we can’t get elsewhere. And I remember seeing that building when I did my degree at Manchester University, which was Art History. And I just loved the work on display.
What book or podcast do you recommend?
I love Elizabeth’s Day’s podcast: How to Fail. I like listening to how people have turned what they perceive to be their failures into successes.