Larry Russen is a well-known speaker, trainer, Chartered Building Surveyor and Spurs fan with more than 40 years’ experience in residential, commercial, and industrial property. Many of you may have heard him train through Sava, deliver CPD or used one of his many books to learn more about surveying or perhaps worked with him at Russen & Turner, Allied Surveyor or BlueBox Partners. When he is not travelling the world to visit his family, he can most likely be found playing 5-a-side football, running 5k or cycling to Caffe Nero to drink coffee.
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Marion Ellis 0:50
Today on the podcast, I'm chatting to my dear friend and colleague, Larry Russen from Kings Lynn. Some of you may know Larry from Allied Surveyors, Russen and Turner, of BlueBox Partners, and many of you have probably attended at some point, one of his training sessions or read some of his books or papers. Welcome to the podcast, Larry.
Larry Russen 1:12
Hello. Hello. Good morning, Marion.
Marion Ellis 1:15
So where on earth do I start with a podcast with the great Larry Russen? Do you feel like the great Larry Russen, you've got quite a reputation and the alphabet after your name. I think it's fair to say,
Larry Russen 1:27
Do I feel like no, of course not. Of course, I have impostor syndrome, because most of what I might have achieved in life has simply been achieved through luck, and through being really lucky to be associated with some really good people. In my personal life, my professional life, most of it is luck. So no, and I have to think when I'm standing up, as I was yesterday, in front of 60 surveyors from Allied Surveyors, and, and I was telling them about no- traditional housing, and I'm thinking, why on earth am I standing here? And I think most of it is just the fact that I've got, I suppose the balls to do it. I don't actually know much more than anybody else. I've just got a certain ability to stand and throw a few jokes in, put some photographs on some slides, because surveyors love photographs, and be able to tell a half-decent story. So the great Larry Russen, I'm not sure that's true.
Marion Ellis 2:23
I guess, I did wonder if it was because you were the oldest in the room? Oh,
Larry Russen 2:26
That's well, okay. That's it. I'm ringing off now. Yeah, you know, over the last three or four months, somebody has been telling me I'm very, very old. So yeah, I suppose if you're able to survive, then eventually, you will become great in the sense that you've always been around. And so you'll always know a little bit about property. But yeah, possibly, we can put great in single quotation marks.
Marion Ellis 2:54
Okay. I think now, though, more than ever, we need people like you to be visible, to share what you know, and to offer, I guess, a layer of reassurance, because these are quite scary times for a lot of surveyors, in terms of what on earth is going to happen to the property market? Will we be getting claims, what's gonna happen to our small businesses? Will we even get qualified for all of the students out there, and then you've got whatever's going on with the world economically, and we'll be cold this winter. So as I'm recording this, now, we're just at the end of November. And so there's a lot of uncertainty. And there's quite a few surveyors that I come across who've never been through rocky times in property, we've had it quite good for the last 10-15 years, give or take. So I think we need more people to be about and to share some of that experience in a blitz spirit, you can get through this, which is part of the reason why and apart from you, being a dear friend, and good to have you on, and chat about lots of different things. But it's also important to share some of that as well. So tell me a bit about how you got started as a surveyor?
Larry Russen 4:04not there. I was not there in:
Marion Ellis 6:49
And you're out doing inspections, aren't you? You're not just sort of doing the speaking and writing books and all the other things that you do.
Larry Russen 6:59
Yeah, so So I'm still doing building surveys Level 3 reports. Where is it? Where is it? I keep class to my hair. It is very worn and very standard. Because I take it I take it to bed and read it. And it's sort of falling apart now. And it's the original copy that Anna Barbary gave me RICSs surveys in practice to thank me for what little I contributed first. Yeah, sorry. What What was the point of forgotten
Marion Ellis 7:27
About you going out doing inspections.
Larry Russen 7:31
Yeah. So level three reports. Level two reports. schedules of dilapidations, expert witness reports. Unfortunately, I've just got going to a potential boundary dispute, which is more actually to do with drainage and venturi roots and party walls. So I do quite a lot of party wall work member of the faculty of party wall surveyors. So yeah, I'm still full time. My youngest is 11. Horatio is 11. George is 13. So they've got so while the two girls, one is finished, and the other is in her second year at Nottingham, George and Horatio are going to need help getting through unis. So I'll be working for a few more years. And as I say happily, I still really, really enjoy it. I love the training, love the training, really doing?
Marion Ellis 8:18
So let's just have a chat then. So you decided to go into surveying. What did you do in a surveying degree in some way?
Larry Russen 8:26
So I did. I did a surveying degree at what was then the Polytechnic of the South Bank, now South Bank Uni, and worked for a couple of years for the Inland Revenue.
Marion Ellis 8:38
Was it like a Building Surveying degree or? No,
Larry Russen 8:42
That was estate management.
Marion Ellis 8:45
I did the same too. Oh, there you go. There you go. It was quite nice and nice and broad, broad enough.
Larry Russen 8:52
Very broad and in some ways I think that's quite good because that enables you then to decide where you're going to zero in on where you will specifically like to do and I chose to specialize in Building Surveying. So I did that for a couple of years with the DV district valuers in East London, just to polish my accent, because that happens when you're working in West Ham, sorry, wet West Ham and East Ham and Stratford. And obviously when you say that you have to do Stratford why, and then decide to move out of London. Again lucky enough to get a job with West Norfolk council, only to discover Mary and after I came back from the interview, and I just mentioned to my mum and lordy, lordy, I almost said something else there discovered that my parents met in Kings Lynn so a couple of people from the East End of London my mum and dad met in King's Lynn and they ended up picking strawberries I think the next Italian prisoner of war camp in a village just down the road. And that's why in a funny sort of way when I came up for the interview, it almost felt like home and it's certainly home now. So yeah, life is full of little little coincidences and synchronicities that you discover along the way that give you a nice warm glow in the heart.Marion Ellis:
So were you doing valuation at the time then for the Council for the district lawyer was it was it Building Surveying?Larry Russen:
No DV, it was primarily valuations for a state duty, as it was called then the compensation work enjoyed rating. And then when it came up to work for the council, it started to shift towards not just commercial and residential valuation, but also some Building Surveying. And then I left them and I worked for the couple of years for a firm that worked for Harry Hill, who became the chief executive, or was it MD of Countrywide.Marion Ellis:
Yeah, not not the comedian?Larry Russen:
No, no, no, not Harry Hill, the comedian, no, Harry Hill, the surveyor was very far from being a comedian, but Haley was he was very good at what he did, and then left there and set up on my own in 1981.Marion Ellis:
Okay, I want to ask you about your entrepreneurial journey and setting it by yourself. But can I just ask about CPD and training? Because you've just talked about different jobs that you've moved through? Did you go on any additional training courses? Was it all learnt on the job at the time?Larry Russen:
Well, becoming a chartered building surveyor, which I did very early on, was simply based on the fact that I was doing lots of survey work, and lots of specification, and design and contract management work. So eventually, my work became sort of at that time in the 80s, half of it was mortgage valuation work, which I really, really enjoyed, because I think mortgage valuation works and also, commercial valuation work is a massive intellectual challenge to be able, in a very short space of time, because that's governed to a certain extent by the fee, to enable to encapsulate in a very brief report that certainties that that the client needs in a valuation report is really, really difficult to do the inspection in the time to overcome the challenges that are sometimes put there by by the jolly old vendors. And then to get the report right, is a massive, massive challenge. But then the other half of the work was survey work, and, and design and contract admin work. And in fact, there were two of us. So Peter Turner and myself, firm is Russen and Turner, Peter and I, what we would do to keep the interest going, one month, Peter would do all valuation work, and I would do all the survey and contract admin stuff. And then the following month, we'd swap and I do that commercial valuation work, and he'd do the opposite. And that actually was a really good way of operating. I did imagine, yeah, we did that for about 10 years, and it really worked.Marion Ellis:
I like the way you described valuation there. Because I think valuers who do mortgage valuation get a rough ride. Sometimes it's seen as you know, doing a quick job run in, run out. No, you know, but it depends. Firstly, it wasn't you comparing it to it's not like survey work, you know, doing the building surveys, etc. It is very different. And you're right, you do have to be thinking it, I almost maybe this is how my brain works. Think of it as like a 3d matrix, kind of, there's all this stuff, and you're smiling now. There's that then you get to sort of tune into it and pull it together. On the one hand, there's, you know, the data, the comps and on the other hand, I find it very intuitive, looking at will, what will people pay? And why would they pay? And what is the difference? This is very customer focused, which is perhaps why I enjoy it, but you're right, it's not an easy job. And, yes, there's lots of valuation claims. However, they're not all due to surveyor error. You know, we think about, you know, my experience of the last recession, that was poor lending decisions, and, you know, just the the circumstances, you know, sometimes or the service that was provided, rather than what the actual value of did, and in my experience is very few claims where you can genuinely just blame the surveyor to vote for it. So yeah, so tell me about how you got started then with your own business then with Pete Turner.Larry Russen:
Well, I got to a point where, with the inevitable arrogance of youth, in my mid-20s, where I can do this, I can do this myself, and I quite like to do it myself. And so I literally set up a game with the help of a friend and a mum's old typewriter. So she gave me her old typewriter. And with Barclaycard, I bought a tape measure and moisturemeter and a ladder and a torch. And that was the content of my surveyor’s bag. And then with a loan that was backed by a friend, another chartered surveyor, bought a car, an old VW variant from East East Germany, and just went and spoke to the local building society managers, and said, Get a job. And the first one I was given, he walked it around to me at nine o'clock in the morning, and he had the report in his hand at 11:15. So I made sure that they understood that I could do the job, but also I could do the job in a relatively reasonable timeframe. And I still remember the look on, it was Graham Butcher, still remember the look on his face as a brought, as it brought it back? He said, he said, what's the, sorry, what’s a problem? And I've literally driven four miles down the road to a village called West winch, driven back and completed the report. And I handed it to him. And I've got all his work from then on. And I just went throughMarion Ellis:
You see now that rings alarm bells for me in terms of reflective thoughts.Larry Russen:
Yeah. Because? Because back in 1980, whenever it was, there was no guidance. There was no, there was no guidance from that particular bank. That comparables, we did it totally differently. It was all up here. Back then. And in fact, it wasn't handwritten. The report was handwritten. They were happy with a hand written report, because they weren't releasedMarion Ellis:
The B survey is listed now thinking doing a job with no guidance. Yeah. comps out of thin air. Yeah. Wow. Yeah. And you know, sometimes people say, what are the RICS ever done for us? Well, actually, they've given us this framework that we can use and protect us and others, but yeah, wow.Larry Russen:
Yeah. So look back then you had RICS guidance. We all knew the RICS guidance, because only an idiot wouldn't read the guidance. I still come across surveyors whoMarion Ellis:
Who haven't read this survey standard.Larry Russen:
You haven't read it. So we all knew the guidance. And we all knew the market, we were very close to the market, the market was pre the internet. So we were very close to all the estate agents, we chatted the whole time. And we just intuitively knew we were selling because we knew the one down the road that went on the market, well back then 11 750 and sold 11 250. So we were doing the job in the same way. What we didn't have was the ability to grab a file and say, Look, here are all my comparables. And this is my reflective thoughts. But we engaged in that reflective thought and we knew what the comparables were. And yeah, we scribbled them down on the file. But so far as the file was concerned, you'd be lucky if there was more than three pages in it. The original instructions, the site notes with the comparables scribbled on and the and the measurements, and the single A4 report. And the fourth one, of course, the really important bit is the fee, the 27.50 pounds plus VAT for the report.Marion Ellis:
Oh, it just makes me shudder. So how did that pan out then with like, was there a recession afterwards in claims because typical claims, you know, have complaints, then he got clearly I'm looking from my experience of delivering claims is nothing better than getting a file with some information that you can actually use. If you've got very little to go on then. Was it the aame claim punch culture?Larry Russen:
Well, again, in the 80s. As time progresses, and the surveying culture changes, then one understands the need for reflection, and one understands the need to have more information to back up your valuation and your opinion of value. And I don't want you to think, by the way, that I was returning every report within two and a half hours, I was just absolutely, this was the first instruction by hell I was. Yeah, I was gonna get that back quickly, because I needed to get some income coming in. And within two and a half months, I have more work than I could shake a stick at. And indeed, for about 18 months, I was working pretty much seven days a week. But as as the 80s went on, as a profession we were becoming more aware of the need, certainly because of potential complaints and claims although, I have to say, I didn't get a complaint or any hint of a claim for 10 years. You understand the need to recall the information so that you can later on return to it. Not not primarily to defend yourself. Not for audit purposes because we didn't know what the word audit meant anyway, but just to be able to go back and use that file as a comparable.Marion Ellis:
You started your business to get this working? What was it like running a business at that time? Did you find it quite pressured?Larry Russen:
Well, no, because what you don't know you don't know. So you don't realize that when you start a business, there is a significant responsibility, and to yourself, your family that primarily to clients, you're just buoyed I think bye, bye, the buzz. And as I say, I was working every hour that was sent by the Almighty for a significant period. I built up a nice stash of cash in the bank and had a really good accountant who enabled me not to pay any tax. I think it was three years I didn't pay any tax, all legal. Obviously, obviously your commissioners, commissioners of Inland Revenue, it was all legal. And I now look at people who set themselves up in practice. And and I realized again, I was really lucky, I had a really good business network, really good people supporting me, other professionals, lawyers, other surveyors because I was heavily involved in our RICS Building Surveyors division, and the East Anglian branches, it was then to have loads of help from people. And, and really, there was no manual to follow, just just got stuck in and just just did it and learned along the way. Whereas now I think that there's a lot more help available. And, and a lot more guidance, primarily because the internet.Marion Ellis:
There is, but also people don't always take it up. No, and you're right is absolutely about your network, who you know who you get to support how you support yourself. And there's lots of information on the internet, and out there as to how to start a business what you need to do. What I see though, is people look for a business out of a box, you know, kits, which I never give people, because I think you've got to learn what your business is like, yes, there's sort of regulatory things that you have to do. And you know, that framework depending on what your business is, but if you don't know your business in the way that you show up in your business, then you can't make the right decisions for you. And I see a lot of people go straight into it with very little support. They don't talk to many of the surveyors or they sign up to a franchise scheme or a panel arrangement, or they think they're just thinking about the money, when they're not thinking about how am I as an individual going to do this, look after my family, take the mortgage through a roof over my head, you know, they've got to look at things holistically, and ultimately they end up getting burnt out, or the tap of their work gets switched off. Because they've never learned to generate their own work in any way, shape, or form, they're left high and dry. But I think everybody comes to a point in their business where you start, you're on that buzz like you talked about. And then something happens and you get like a reality check in some ways. And that's when you realize how far you've come. You have to then reassess, and then work out where you're going next So it sounds like it was quite a successful start. Has it always been a successful business, or has there been tough times too?Larry Russen:
After 18 months, I did reach that point where I was getting burnt out. And so I advertised and had some really good applicants and Peter Turner joined me. And we worked really well together. In many ways. We're a little bit chalk and cheese, I learned a hell of a lot from him. And then we and then Rob Drewery joined us now a really good charter building surveyor. And he started working out of what we call the West beach office, I his living room. And then so we've gone through so we went through a recession in the 80s can't remember exactly when it was and then another recession turned up in the early 90s. And we decided to not only do valuation surveys and design of pretty much every type of property, but also get into residential and then lastly, commercial agency. So with the money that we got from a fairly large surveying contract with a housing association, we bought some premises in the High Street. We poached some really good negotiators from Royal Sun Alliance. Sorry, they decided to join us obviously, we didn't poach them that would be unprofessional and got agency going. And because we set it up in the middle of recession, we knew we could do it. And so when we came out of recession, in fact, I do remember lots of people talking to me and saying how clever I'd been at setting up in the bottom of a recession or now wasn't I just decided we just decided to do it because we knew we could do it. And only later on did we realize that it had been quite clever. And then we eventually got to five offices. By the time we turn the corner of 2000, but then we were hit by the really big recession into 2007. And from 38 people and five offices we had to shrink, an awful, awful period very, very stressful back down to one office and 18 people. So we've seen it up and down, been successful in the sense that we've survived. I often think that, that life is about survival, and just survival is success, because you learn so much along the way.Marion Ellis:
And I think that's it, you've got to constantly be adjusting what you need in the environment that you're currently in. Whereas I see a lot of surveys think, well, I'm going to expand, and I'm gonna have all these people and you think that is never a sustainable model or plan because you get curve balls thrown at you. Yes, you could aspire to great things, but you can earn more money and be more successful with less people if you work smarter. You know, and I see this actually with some one man bands where they think about hiring someone. But as soon as you get to employ people, you've got a whole other raft of regulations, employment law, and things like that. So there's, you've got to be thinking about different ways you can achieve the same thing.Larry Russen:
What I've learned in private life, and professional life is, before you make those sorts of decisions, always ask yourself why and what do you actually want to achieve? Why do you want to be a bigger firm? Why do you want to take on more people? What is the purpose? What is your goal? Because as you say, there are all different sorts of ways to skin a cat, I don't suppose you were allowed to use that analogy anymore, because we'll get complaints from the cat protection league. But there's always different ways. And so I always now ask myself, why, why? Why do I want to achieve that? And what will the results be?Marion Ellis:
What I see is a lot of surveyors do not know any other model than a corporate model. And so they just become many corporates. And I don't know whether it's a masculine thing, or whether they're just not got themselves involved in learning about different types of businesses, you don't need to go to business school to learn this stuff. It's just, I'm sure from your networking, and getting to know different people, you'll see, you know, lots of different sizes and shapes of businesses, how they operate, and that really enriches you. And it's then having the confidence to say, well, I'm going to be a surveyor in my own way, and work this way. Because this is what works for me, whereas I think for a lot of people I see starting up, certainly in the last sort of five years or so, it's this sort of standard type of model, and they're not experienced enough in their surveying industry or even given themselves permission to do things a bit differently.Larry Russen:
Yeah, one of the things I learned along the way, and I always recommend this to people is a book and it's been revised, I think by a chap called Michael Gerber, G E R B, E, the E-Myth. The myth being that well, just because you might think or even be a halfway decent surveyor, or architect or solicitor or whatever it is, doesn't mean that you're a halfway decent business person. And I certainly have significant challenges and failings as a business person. But yeah, I would recommend that book, I was always quite lucky again, I'm fairly open. I think most people can read me. And so I was always willing to talk to my mates that I'd met through networking groups around the table, the solicitors, the bank managers, the accountants, and talk to them and and just say, look, how the hell do I do this? Because I haven't got a clue. And they'd help. Of course they do. Because if you ask most people, they'll help most people will help you if you ask for it. Most people give, most of us are givers.Marion Ellis:
I will say, you know, there's no such thing as a stupid question. But you've still got to ask. And what I see is a lot of say is going straight into every piece of CPD and technical knowledge there is and yet they don't do anything to support them in building their business, you know, work-life balance, whatever it is, you know, they think they could do the marketing set up a website. So Well, anyway, a separate website, but there's like the copy you've got to write, that marketing the look and feel, there are people who specialize in this stuff. You know, and it's almost as though blind to that sometimes. So let's talk about technical competency. I went to ask you about this, because I want to know how you got into training. And I know you're, you've been involved in claims and things before so you've must have seen the best and worst of surveyors, I guess, over the years.Larry Russen:
So in the 90s, again 1990 it was. In that year, I still remember the figures. As a firm, we had fees come in from Halifax of 25,000 pounds. And then the recession hit. And also there been some really big fraud cases, run by estate agents and solicitors, and surveyors, and then all got together. And all the lenders had said, well, one, it's not very economic for us to manage 500 firms on our panel, and two, all these little firms that potentially could be more prone to diddling us, to fraud. So they started to go to the bigger firms. And so as a practice, our income from mortgage valuations dropped. So Halifax for example, one year was 25 grand the next year, it was 1000. So we looked around, and again, as a result of contacts through RICS in East Anglia, it just so happened that allied surveyors contacted us. And so we joined Allied, and at that time, Allied was nowhere near the sort of absolutely professional firm that they are now, and didn't have a full time technical director, and certainly not the sort of technical director that Pete Fold is now and, and before him, Chris Rispin. And so I got involved in giving a bit of advice, mainly on buildings today, and and then I got roped in to delivering some training at various meetings and AGM and eventually a chap who joined Russen and Turner, and had a an educational background, listen to me at one of these events and said, you know, you're sort of alright at this. Some of your jokes are a bit weird but you're all right. Have you ever thought of doing an educational qualification, so went off and did a postgraduate certificate in education, enjoyed that. And then I also got involved in SAVA. So I've been involved in SAVA from the beginning 1999. And there all sorts of really good people like Hillary Grayson, that blow Parnham met him there. Chris was on the committee that was set up to really try to knock surveyors into shape, sorry, helps surveyors into shape. Following on from a rather interesting program in 1999. Was it World in Action, can't remember, I think I'm mixing up minor armor. It was panorama, wasn't it, where they took a house in South London, and invited Hollis one. And they were advised by Malcolm on that, and they got 10 surveyors round.Marion Ellis:
I’ll put the link to the show notes on that, because we can talk about that in the podcast.Larry Russen:
They got 10 surveyors round, and in 22 minutes of a half hour program, one of the surveyors I think his ladder collapsed, and another was pictured sitting on the bed, bemoaning the fact that he was a surveyor. Anyway, they absolutely ripped it out of surveyors, and that I think, really prompted the formation of SAVA, and I was lucky enough, again, to be involved, and I've been training ever since.Marion Ellis:
Do you think this is something that worries me these days, the quality of what's going on out there, and today is surveying with people doing surveys? I worry about whether that's good enough? And is it being regulated enough and checked enough? You know, we've got a, we've got a standard, you know, which helps people and also, you know, comparing to what you what you started out with, you know, whatever membership body in whichever way you're doing surveying, because it's not just just the RICS, the standards, there's guidance, there is a support there, but I don't see it. Well, two things. One, who audits the auditors? How do we know those rules are the right rules? Are they are being tested, I'll be monitoring complaints and claims numbers to see that the rules and guidance is that we've created our right. And also who is checking the work that's being done to make sure it's fit for purpose, because from an RICS point of view, were there to act in the public's favor. And so therefore, we've got to make sure the quality is there. Now, with a larger firm, you'll have some kind of audit function, largely because you need that for the lender work that you might be doing. But I don't necessarily see that with smaller or medium size firms. And I see some awful things, and I worry about the next TV program, or YouTube video of the surveyor going round, but also then when you compare it too, the report that gets churned out, what their expectation is, and I worry about that. I worry about the next surveyor hiding in a cupboard with a TV program.Larry Russen:
Yeah, and following on from that 1999 TV program. What I very often say in training is assume that on every job there is a camera in every room, when you go in to do that inspection, be the property occupied or not, assume that you're being filmed.Marion Ellis:
They do sometimes, actually because people have CCTV.Larry Russen:
And I think you and I both. Have we ever discussed the case where somebody was filmed that, yes, it wasn't that good. So assume that you're being monitored. How do you want to be? How do you want to be seen as a professional bearing in mind, as you say, quite rightly, RICS is not trade union, the whole purpose of RICS is to serve the public, is to serve the population of the United Kingdom. And I always think now, bearing in mind climate change, potentially, every sentient being on this on this planet, RICS has a responsibility towardsMarion Ellis:
and that's why they look at the UN International organization, they have the Royal Charter and it's in the UK, it's very linked to valuation and our economy, because you have to be a registered valuer, to do that kind of work. But that's where Absolutely, we've got to look at the bigger picture and how do we bridge the gap between what's going on globally? In a survey on a wet Tuesday in Margate, we need to be curious about that. It's also got to be practical. And we can talk a lot about RICS, Yeah, I see yes or not and, and where they're at with things. Do you get that sense that quality might not be what it could be? Or we could tighten the rules in any way given?Larry Russen:
What if you look at the code code of ethics, and you look at those five codes of ethicsMarion Ellis:
I think there's six now.Unknown Speaker:
Oh, six? Oh, I think you're right. Yeah, you're absolutely right.Marion Ellis:
Those codes of ethics.Larry Russen:
Yeah, that code of ethics. I looked at it the other day. So it just goes to show what he does to memory, then what we should be doing and what we should be trying is on every job on every commission as a member of a profession, because that's what we are. And I do get a little bit ratty with people who describe us as being in an industry. I think you might have done that. Actually, Marion, soMarion Ellis:
I do it quite a lot. And every time I say it, I think Laurie would say profession. And I also say, you know in the business of survey, whereas some people are practitioners, whatever works.Larry Russen:
Yeah, okay. Yeah, yeah. Well, whatever, whatever, whatever. We are professionals, and we should, we should try. And I don't achieve this every time I do not. I'm not perfect. Even though I always strive for that. And I decided early on, I would strive to be the best chartered building surveyor in the world. That's always been my aim. We should try to do the best that we can on a wet Tuesday in Margate, or even worse in West beach. Sorry, Rob, then we have to accept the fact that we as surveyors get cold and yes, I see some reports. And I hear some stories. And you and I have discussed as you know, on our WhatsApp group, we all discuss what we know is going on. And there are horrendous stories. And I heard one only the other day of a surveyor doing a homebuyer report, a Level 2 report in 40 plus minutes, not taking any photos, not making any notes whatsoever, not going into the roof space, there are some horrendous things that get done and so and so on every job and every job that I do, what I try to do is comply with that document. Because that document is pretty standard. Yeah, the home survey standard is written by some really good people. And it's a really good standard. Okay, it's not perfect. And that isn't because Phil wrote most of it, but it's a really good document. And so my files, our files are set up in such a way so as to try to complete it. And so that means, if that inspection has to take six hours, and that report has to be 50 pages, then that's just it, and if you have to stay longer at the property that you've anticipated, and if you have to stay until seven, okay, taking into account work life balance, you've got to stay until seven in the office to complete that report. That's just what flows from being a professional. The whole point of being a professional is you're not the important person in the equation. You're not. Your client is the UK general public are the population of the planet are. You come forth after all of them.Marion Ellis:
I agree with all of that where I worry is the gap between the rules ,and then what actually happens, okay. And there's a lot of research on this in terms of health and safety among the work of Sidney Decker, you know, why failure happens and why mistakes happens. And I see that from my experience with complaints and claims, so they never go out to do a bad job. But sometimes the circumstances that they're in the framework, they're in how they're feeling in themselves mean that something gets missed or they make a decision or sometimes, you know, and there's I think there's lots of research on this with with pilots, they've got quirks, you know, I read something it might have been Mathew side in black box thinking might have been what they put a plastic cup over the gear stick to remind them to do or not do something. And that's the kind of thing that you don't get in a standard or employee manual in some way. Which is why I worry about someone doing an inspection in that way? Is anybody checking the quality of the report what the public and consumers are getting? But also then how do we call it out? Now, as we're recording this, we've just had the news over the last week about the little boy who dies because of moles inhalation in a Rochdale Housing Association property. But you know, I also think about the little girl who died due to air pollution a couple of years ago, and then you've got the whole Grunfeld situation. We do, as surveyors are, whatever we do in the construction industry, we all do this little part, but we are all in the business of helping somebody live well in that property. And I have concerns that we can't always call these things out. We don't think of the holistic job at hand, we just look look at our parts, or we look at the technical parts, and then you get judged for situations like that that happen.Larry Russen:
I think, Marion that that, again, this is why I'm so sniffy about the word profession, because regulation, in my view, needs to start with self-regulation. And we need to look at ourselves PowerPoint about professional reflection. It should be the equivalent of what you and I are doing, I've got a little picture of myself at the top of the screen. So your reflection is looking at yourself and deciding whether or not you've done the best possible job that you can for that member of the public who is relying on that advice. Because if that advice that you give them isn't good enough, then potentially you have adversely affected their life. So if you start with self-regulation, and I've pretty much always done this, it's just the way that I am. I always think, am I good enough? Is that report good enough? But I think a lot of surveyors, they just need some help. They just need some help. And so how can they be regulated? You and I know that most well, pretty much all level 3, level 2 reports. They're not regulated, and nobody is looking at those reports. And so it could well be that what RICS needs to think about what we because where are RICS. What RICS needs to think about possibly is not just regulations of regulation of valuation work, but survey work as well. And you know, what I dealt with a negligence claim on a level 3 report a few months ago, and this report wasn't up to standard and the surveyor who is involved he or she could well have thought following my joint sole expert report. Well, all right, for Larry to be clever after the event, what a swine saying those things about me. Now I spoke to him, he called me, he called me and said thank you very much. And on one particular point, how do you address the issue, Larry, and we had a really good chat. And he's gone away now. And I hope, well I know that he's gone away now reflecting as he should, having had a complaint, and that his reports now are going to be better as a result of that reflection. And I'm exactly the same. When I'm at a CPD do I listen, and when I read other people's reports, and when I'm chatting to them, every day is a learning day. I can always go back to my 130,000 words of standard paragraphs, and I can always tweak those and improve them. And and so yeah, just in terms of process, perhaps we do need to accept that as surveyors on level 2 and level 3 reports. We should be having a certain number of them called in for auditing by RICS every year.Marion Ellis:
Yeah, I raise a couple of really interesting points there. Yeah, it's a mammoth task to audit everybody because everyone does it ever so slightly differently. How do we self regulate? How do we learn to do that? You know, a lot of business owners I meet they're gonna have a balance their books, you know, they don't do you know, have any rhythm and pattern to their their business and work and, you know, what, week a month, but that's where you got to build in those those checks. But also, I think when you work for yourself or a small company, you don't always do things like peer-to-peer reviews, or read anyone else's reports. And I guess you and I, we're dealing with claims and things, you've got to see a broad range of different types, whereas the surveyors working by themselves, always in silo, using their favorite paragraphs, doing the things that they want to do and say, and we've got to be much wider to it's it's a great point, you know, actually can't How can any membership body go down into that detail, we've got to do it, attack it from both sides. Because ultimately, while she can learn from a claim, it's actually someone's had to suffer either physically, mentally, financially, had to suffer for you to learn that, so there's a lot that we can do in terms of being proactive and target CPD based on that rather than just showing up to fancy dues Larry.Larry Russen:
With fancy 80 pound ties from, from a very swish shopping Cambridge. Yeah, I think, well, that's why The Surveyor Hub is so good, isn't it? Because we can all learn from each other because what is The Surveyor Hub about? It’s about communication. And to a certain extent, we can all be open about that, and, and not judgmental, when people are asking what you might potentially think is a silly question. No, no question is silly. They've asked that question, because they don't know. So let's all let's all help. And on the CPD side, you’re absolutely right. You don't want to have to learn through claims because somebody has suffered that person to whom you owe that duty has suffered. But I think possibly a lot of surveyors think that CPD is about how to do evaluation or, or how better to do a survey. But perhaps we should be thinking more about how we act as professionals, go back to those six codes of ethics, and really drill down into those codes and decide and agree how we act as professionals as members of the our RICS. How should we as professionals, actually be professional in the way that we act? So instead of thinking that RICS is there to regulate us? The regulation starts from the inside. And we just said, You know what I do need, I do need to have a chat with Andy Holford in the town here, who's a really good chartered building surveyor. Andy, please show me one of your reports, I'll show you one of mine. And we trust each other sufficiently so that you could point out the bits I've got wrong, vice versa, we can do it over a nice cup of coffee over his car at Cafe Nero. And, and you know what, that helps us, but that's not the important point. The important point is it's helping the people that we serve, the general public.Marion Ellis:
And it's like, we need to get over ourselves. Yeah, remember the business, the profession that we're in, which is to help people. If that means we have to ask a stupid question, we have to have some extra checks and balances in, that's why we're doing it rather, and do it in a positive way, rather than be policed or regulated through fear of getting it, getting it wrong,Larry Russen:
Being a member of RICS,being a professional. In any profession, it's not about us, it's not about us. That's why the charter is written in the way it is. It's about the people that we serve, we serve people and their lives, rely on our reports. And so where it starts is inside us, we're going to get it right, the massive responsibility that we've got starts inside us. So we need to regulate ourselves, we need to become the best surveyor that we can possibly be, so that we can provide the best possible advice to the people who rely on our reports.Marion Ellis:
And I think this is when I coach people I often talk about or ask people, why did you become a surveyor? Because if you've got to understand what you're about, you know, the personal development side to then be able to do the technical side better.Larry Russen:
It goes back Marion, to what you were talking about earlier, sorry, interrupting you. But you're used to that, about your own internal culture. We talk about firms cultures, that culture needs to start within ourselves, our culture, why are we doing it? What's it for? What's the point? Why? Best question you could ever ask yourself? Why?Marion Ellis:
And I'll think on that. You know Larry, we've talked and it's just been amazing. We were gonna talk about loads of other things, but I think other surveys have found that really, really useful. I think they will and I hope it offers some reassurance of just the things that we can do through our work and through our businesses. You know, as we go through a bit of a tricky time. I know you're always working on a book, aren't you? Oh, yeah, just book that book out.Larry Russen:
Residential Property Appraisal, Volume Two, written by the highly intelligent Phil Parnham and me. I did the index. Yeah. And that's and that's just coming out.Marion Ellis:
How many volumes will there be all together?Larry Russen:
There's going to be three. Phil, Phil, two Then the chapter on services into another book, which the publishers were really, really impressed with. So sell out, sell out. So the first one is the legal stuff and the valuation stuff. Second one is building pathology. Third one is services. Just want to say, Yeah, look, it's gonna be a really good book. It's gotta be a really good book.Marion Ellis:
book. Yeah. Lovely. Great to speak to you, Larry, thanks ever so much for your time.Larry Russen: