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Secrets of Success: Katherine Croom, MD of Sorbon Estates

No two days are ever the same within the property industry. Pushing forwards with commercial builds and leases also benefits the surrounding communities.

As the business’ core values align so closely with her own: to invest back into the communities in which it operates, Katherine Croom shares her journey with Business Matters …

What products or services do you provide?

Sorbon Estates is a commercial property owner and developer operating across the South East, with a head office in Beaconsfield. We have over 300 commercial properties in our portfolio and about 1,300 tenants. Our portfolio is very varied and includes commercial, retail, industrial and residential properties, as well as moorings.

What type of businesses do you work with?

We work with many different business as our portfolio is so varied, including occupiers of our premises, building contractors and suppliers. We particularly love working with unique independent retailers who we can offer a British Independent Retail Association (BIRA) membership. We are passionate about ensuring a good tenant relationship to help build a thriving high street location in the areas where we have a presence. We own a number of properties across Bucks and Berks including in riverside towns Marlow and Maidenhead. We invest a lot of time finding tenants to complement the existing mix of opportunities on the high street to ensure thriving destinations that locals and visitors alike enjoy spending time in.

What problems does your company solve?

A common problem in high streets is a lack of variety, which consequently does not draw people to the area. Our mission tackles this issue as we strive to support our tenants’ needs and create welcoming, enjoyable, and high-quality places and spaces for the local community and visitors. A prime example is the mixed-use redevelopment we have completed in Maidenhead town centre, called Waterside Quarter. This has transformed this area of the town and forms an integral part of Maindehead’s ongoing regeneration programme.

What is your USP?

All of our business is undertaken in house, we don’t outsource. We have a full development team including Project managers, Architects and Planners. On the managed estate we have in-house estate managers, leasing managers, credit control and a full finance team. Sorbon Estates is part of the Shanly Group and benefits from the affiliation with Shanly Homes, a major regional housebuilding company.

What are your company values? Have you ever had them challenged and if so, how have you dealt with it?

Our company values are to be rooted, professional, welcoming, and caring. Sorbon Estates is rooted in heritage and community. We’re positive and enthusiastic, whilst being honest and straightforward to deal with. When communicating with clients we’re welcoming and helpful. We care about the communities we are involved with and give back to them through our work with The Shanly Foundation.

Sorbon Estates typically invests in its properties over the long term, redeveloping to make improvements that will maximise their potential. The innovative redevelopment work underway in places like Maidenhead helps to ensure a positive impact on the local community.

How do you ensure that you recruit a team that reflects your company values?

We are huge believers in helping people onto the job ladder and run a graduate scheme to support young people coming into the industry. Our robust training programme is based on our core values to ensure everyone is pulling in the same direction. Bringing young people into and through the business is vitally important to us as they offer different styles and ideas which benefit the business.

Are you happy to offer a hybrid working model of home/office post-Covid?

We are based in the office and our teams don’t work from home. All of the team are out of the office visiting our sites and customers every single day, so having the office as a base is essential for some face-to-face contact and communication. It suits our business and allows for maximum collaboration. We are also passionate about working with young people starting out; they benefit immensely from being in the office and hearing from us as leaders.

Do you have any tips for managing suppliers and customers effectively?

Communication is key in any relationship be it with suppliers or customers. We endeavour to be approachable and communicative when our customers need us. Having a clear line of communication involves setting expectations to minimise the risk of things not going to plan and to prevent any disappointment. Finally, having an open dialogue means that we are able to resolve disputes quickly and efficiently, with no drama.

Any finance or cash-flow tips for new businesses starting out?

Often the most basic item is forgotten so I would recommend that new businesses make sure that their revenue comes before their outgoings. The best way to ensure this is to agree payment terms that work with your particular supply chain. Don’t forget to always factor in a contingency when running figures and appraisals – there are always unforeseen items.

Starting out in any new business venture can be challenging so it is important to understand your competition and what they offer. You need to be sure that what you offer is different to these competitors and is truly special to customers, so that you can build a loyal base.

If you could ask one thing of the government to change for businesses, what would it be?

Working in commercial property, we routinely run into issues with the business rates systems and feel that it could definitely be much better. In addition, from my perspective, I would like to see unnecessary bureaucracy within local authorities removed, so that individual teams are empowered to achieve positive results within their area.

What is your attitude towards your competitors?

We don’t focus too much on other companies working in the same sphere, however we recognise that competition is not only healthy but important for every industry. We are very clear on our direction and vision, so focus our energy on delivering the best job we possibly can. Having said that, I am very inquisitive, and always keen to learn from other companies who are pushing innovation.

Any thoughts on the future of your company and your dreams?

Sorbon Estates is passionate about developing new and innovative commercial real estate, which underpins everything we do. This includes a special focus on contributing to the regeneration of Maidenhead Town Centre. The development has been carefully designed to create a stylish yet functional mix of retail, leisure and eateries, alongside 260 new homes overlooking Maidenhead’s rejuvenated waterways.

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Secrets of Success: Katherine Croom, MD of Sorbon Estates

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