Interview with Rhea Balfour, founder of RJB Property Consultants and Surveyors
Find out how Rhea Balfour has survived the ups and downs of the property market, and what inspired her to set up her own business, RJB Property Consultants and Surveyors.
What’s your career background?
I first started working a summer job in admin at the offices of J&E Shepherd in Inverness, at age 19. My uncle was a surveyor there, and I eventually started going out on survey with him to see what the job was like, and really fell in love with it.
I went back to University in Edinburgh and got an HND in Estate Management before taking a trainee surveyor position with Allied Surveyors back in Inverness, where I also continued to help out on the admin side as well.
After nearly four years with them I moved back to Edinburgh to work for David Adamsons and, with a two-year break when the property market crashed, I worked with them from 2008 to 2019.
In that time, I became qualified, worked my way up to senior surveyor, moved home to Shetland and ran our office there for four years, and then back to Edinburgh for a year before moving to another firm. I was made redundant in November and while travelling around the Philippines in December I decided that I was going to fulfil my career dream of setting up on my own.
I had had the idea for the new service to the market, the private property concierge/management service, for over 10 years by this point, and it really felt like it was the right time to launch that and my business and really bring all my experience together to provide a really niche and exclusive service to the market/clients.
Where did the idea for your business come from?
When I was made redundant, when the property market crashed, I decided to take a course as part of my ‘signing on’ for unemployment benefits while looking for a new job. The project/task was to think of a business, ‘set it up’, and use all the tools provided to us to virtually set up the business.
When you are a tenant in a property, there is a property manager or factor, and maintenance (like boiler service, repairs etc) would be taken care of by the property manager.
I remember wondering why this service did not seem to exist for private property owners. If you have a second home and don’t live in Edinburgh/Scotland or even the UK, or you are busy working parents with children in school and all the after school activities that come with that, it really is a lot to manage your home on top of that as well, and some people just won’t have time or won’t enjoy doing it.
All of a sudden, it’s time for the boiler service, or the roof needs to be checked, the chimneys are blocked, or you come home wishing a cleaner had been in! And so, I came up with the idea of the private property management/concierge service.
How did you move from idea to actual business?
In November 2019 I was made redundant and, five days later, I was going travelling for a month!
Admittedly, I was worried about going away and not coming back to a job, but when we were away, and after much discussion with my (super supportive) partner, I decided that I would create the job to come back to.
I really felt this was the universe’s way of pushing me to put my idea in place and create the company to provide a boutique property consultancy and surveying business that would allow me to launch this brand-new service to the market for the private homeowners.
When we returned to Edinburgh, I started to do more research into what I would need to do. I came up with a name, registered with Companies House, found an amazing company to build my website and do my branding etc and just went from there.
The firm is also registered with the RICS and I renewed my Valuer Registration, meaning I can provide a wide range of property services with the nearly 20 years’ experience behind it, and, RJB Property was born.
What’s your USP?
There’s a huge gap in the market for private property management and concierge services in Edinburgh and RJB Property Consultants and Surveyors fills this by providing a qualitative selection of bespoke property services to property owners and investors across the city of Edinburgh, supporting clients with buying, selling, renovating and maintaining property.
What’s been the biggest obstacle you’ve had to overcome?
I think the biggest obstacle I have had to overcome is myself and of course, Covid! I just had to put any doubts in myself or what I was doing to the side and trust in the process and go with my gut feeling that this is 100% the right thing to be doing.
Covid has certainly made things interesting but, instead of seeing it as an obstacle, it enabled me to really take the time to get the website the way I wanted it, connect with so many people on Zoom meetings etc that I would probably take ages to get a chance to meet, if at all, and just spend the time getting the company out there and making people aware of what I do.
And your proudest moment so far?
My proudest moment so far, apart from getting qualified, has definitely been setting up my business. I think all things came together to make this exactly the right time to do this, all the experience I have gained over the years and the amazing contacts I have now mean that I can provide the best possible service to our clients.
All roads and experiences have definitely led up to this moment and I am so proud to be able to say I did it, and excited about the future of RJB Property.
Why is work so important to you?
Work is super important to me. I didn’t get my degree and had to work my way up through the ranks with job training, helping out in admin, doing anything I had to do, because I knew I wanted to be a surveyor.
It’s been hard going at times and I did try going back to uni to finish my degree a couple of times, but it just didn’t work out for me and so I just kept working away. Thankfully it all paid off. As well as being super hard work, it’s also been very rewarding, and I am proud of myself for achieving what I have in the way I have had to do it.
Having the business now just cements that I have the experience and knowledge to give my clients the best possible service. I love meeting clients and working with people and pride myself on being very approachable and reassuring when they might not understand something about a survey, or home reports when buying a house, or managing a project for someone who may not know where to start from.
Being very hands on and approachable is so important.
Who inspires you?
100% my dad! My dad started up his business with a loan from his parents and my mum doing the admin side of things and built an amazing business from scratch.
He is extremely hard working and works as much now has he did when he set it up and is still running a very successful business 38 years later. We definitely get our work ethics from him!
Find out more about RJB Property Consultants and Surveyors.