Mark Hobbs, managing director of Howells - Wales & West Midlands Regional Conveyancing Firm of 2014
1. Firstly, what is your role?
I am the Managing Director of the business and head of the volume conveyancing department.
2. Why did you choose a career in conveyancing?
Whilst at school I always had an interest in the legal profession. In my earlier career I had a mix of work and started to specialise in conveyancing about 20 years ago. I was instrumental with two of my other Directors in setting up Howells in 1996 since which time the business has grown significantly and gone from strength to strength.
3. What attracted you to your particular specialism?
Contrary to the popular view conveyancing is neither boring nor easy. It is a process that is fraught with risk and stress and that there is immense satisfaction in getting it right. At Howells we try to demystify the process, put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and try to offer the very best level of service possible.
4. What is the most enjoyable part of your job?
The most enjoyable part of my job is seeing the business grow and shaping the careers of the hundred or so staff that work with us. We have a very young workforce and I like to think that the Directors’ enthusiasm for the business cascades down to all members of the team all of whom work very hard but still manage to keep smiling. A smile goes a long way!
5. What particular challenges are you or have you faced in these tougher times?
The downturn that we faced in 2008/2009 was truly shocking. No one was predicting such a sharp recession and the speed and severity caught most businesses off guard. It was very disappointing to see the business contract for some years simply as a result of market conditions but as the business was well run in the pre-recession years and well capitalised we were able to trade through the leaner period without too many difficulties and in fact managed to pick up a number of excellent team members who had been let go by their former firms.
6. What do you think will be growth opportunities for the conveyancing profession over the next couple of years?
We believe that there will be significant opportunities for growth over the next few years. Barring some unforeseen disaster, market conditions look good. There is still significant demand, property prices are increasing (but not at an unrealistic rate) interest rates are low and are likely to rise slowly and modestly and there are a number of house building and buying initiatives in place. Demand is certainly in our opinion likely to remain strong. On the other hand supply within the conveyancing market place is changing. The smaller firms and those firms that are not serious about conveyancing are struggling and are likely to continue to do so. The SRA, the Lenders and the Insurers are all applying pressure to ensure that only the fittest survive. These two aspects will undoubtedly result in opportunities over the coming years which Howells are eagerly wishing to take advantage of.
7. What’s been your most enjoyable or high profile recent piece of work?
A little earlier this year I was instructed by a premier league footballer player currently playing for one of the top London sides. The transaction was at a multimillion pound price and was subject to strict time constraints. We were able to meet those and ensure that the player was in situ for the new season.
8. What inspires you when it comes to your work?
I think I am inspired to do better and that is an ethos that I try to instil across the whole firm. As a business we would be nothing without our staff and we have to continue to recruit and retain the very best people.
9. Do you work by a particular mantra or motto in your business life?
I would like to hope that my people skills have improved over the years. It is easy to forget that every person who works for us is an individual and they will sometimes come to work with worrying issues that may or may not be apparent but which can significantly affect their performance. I have tried therefore to be as fair minded as possible in dealing with people and this extends to those organisations that we have trading relationships with. Every company that we work with is instrumental in the success of the business and we have to ensure that they enjoy dealing with us as well.
10. Can you give one piece of professional advice to your peers?
I think the best advice that I could give would be to say that if you want things to happen in life you have to get out there and make them happen.