Laura Liddell, Managing Director of Dezrez legal talks to Business News Wales about her role, the future of the conveyancing industry in Wales and she shares her top tips for success.
Can you give our readers a little background into yourself and your role within Organisation?
I joined Dezrez in 2006 having spent time working in Welsh Assembly Government Services. I was keen to develop my skills in the private sector and deal with the challenges that the environment presents. I got stuck in and over the course of 8 years worked my way through the company from Conveyancing Referral Manager to Managing Director of Dezrezlegal. I now have nearly a decade of operational and sales experience in the conveyancing industry and have developed my skills and knowledge from the shop floor up. My role is to forge and implement company policy in order to generate growth and resilience within the business. I love the vibrancy of the company and our ability to create high quality services from scratch in short time scales, responding to the demands of our market and customers.
What are your plans for the next five years, and where do you see your challenges and opportunities?
Our 5 year plan is to be flexible! Flexible and open to opportunities while continuing to be as agile as we can in a changing market place. We want to diversify our incoming business streams to increase the resilience of the company in an industry which is notoriously sensitive to external factors. The past year has been testing in the property industry as the result of several political events but our ability to change direction has served us well.
In terms of challenges, there is the fact that the legal sector as a whole is being pushed towards more open transparency of pricing which may reduce our ability to compete on quality of service. It’s a shift that we think the industry as a whole will struggle to adapt to, but it could offer benefits too so we’re viewing it as an opportunity. Otherwise the main opportunities we see are the increased investment in our local area together with a policy of build build build over the board in England.
Looking back at your career, are there things you would have done differently?
Not really. I haven’t planned my career in anyway. I didn’t know what I wanted to do when I left school and opted to read a subject at university that I was interested in rather than one which would definitely get me a job at the end of it. I’m glad I did, my history degree taught me many skills which have aided me in my everyday life and career without funnelling me into one industry. I have always looked to work in companies where I have liked the culture and the people – you spend more time in that environment than in your own home so it’s important that you are happy there. Having a connection with the people you work with naturally makes you care about what you are doing on a daily basis and I think that’s what has helped me to achieve what I have as part of Dezrez. I love the company; I get to work alongside people I care about, respect, and who teach me new things all the time. That makes me work hard and want to succeed. I’ve obviously made mistakes along the way but I’ve learned from them and I think that’s important.
What do you think are the most important qualities for success in business?
To accept that getting a job done is preferable to doing something perfectly and missing the opportunity. Also that treating people with respect is the only way to behave. Too many times I’ve seen people behave appallingly in a business setting and they rarely come off well in the long run. The most successful people i have met all share a common list of traits – they are normal, respectful, and interesting people.
What are your top three tips for success?
- Say yes and then learn how to do it
- Make the decision and own it
- Be kind to people – it doesn’t make you a push over
Are there any innovations within your sector that you believe should be adopted by the wider Welsh market?
I don’t think people associate innovation with the conveyancing industry but actually there is a large amount of background work being done by several companies within our sector to help make the process of buying your home a more pleasant experience. It’s one of the few service industries where a number of businesses are looking to use technology to improve the frequency and quality of communication with the customer. If you look at other service industries, technology has been used to remove this contact with the customer in order to make bringing products to market more efficient. We’re actively changing the way we work to help our staff have more contact with our customers and to be available to them when they need to speak to us without the need to go through a long automated message or needing to request contact through a web form. I think more sectors should be looking at how they can use technology to help the customer rather than increase the margin.
Do you foresee any issues that Welsh business will be facing in the short/medium/long term?
As a company that has benefited from European funding in the past i think that the ongoing discussions over the terms of the Brexit deal and how the government intends to fill the funding gap will be of particular interest to Wales in the coming months and years. We were/are a significant beneficiary of European funding and it’s allowed us to attract jobs to the region and to become world leaders in a number of industries, particularly service provision, innovation, and environmental energy. In addition to this funding schemes have helped new businesses to get themselves off the ground, creating jobs and improving the prospects of individual communities. We need to be clear about how we will continue to provide these opportunities to our citizens in the future and support our regional economy.
Do you have any predictions in regards to the impact of Brexit on your sector?
I believe that Brexit will have little impact on the property market in the UK. There is still a shortage of homes and consistent demand and that has resulted in there being more property on the market now than prior to the vote. In some areas the weak pound will lend itself to overseas buyers seeing opportunities for investment and that could impact on the type of buyer fuelling the marketplace. In addition, there is talk of our exit from the EU having a freeing effect on mortgage lenders to increase their ability to lend as they will no longer be bound by EU restrictions. That said I think other factors such as the increased stamp duty charge for second home buyers is proving to be more of a dampener on our sector. The property market has seen many up and downs over the years but it always bounces back. We have a love affair with property in this country and people will always need to move home.
What do you think Wales’ strengths and weaknesses are as a place to do business?
I think we are incredibly innovative as a nation in terms of how we create and transform businesses that is bolstered by the first-class facilities we now have in the further education sector. We also have a work ethic that is fuelled by our sense of community and national pride. Challenges include our sheer distance from the financial centre of the South East of England making transport links incredibly important. The cost of travel, including an inability to move freely from South to North Wales and the Severn Bridge charge makes us seem like a difficult region to do business with. The lack of coverage for super-fast mobile and internet connectivity only exacerbates this problem.
What can Wales do to attract more inward investment?
We need to get ourselves out there. The Brexit vote has made the globe a trading opportunity once more. We need to really believe that we can compete and shout loud about the huge positives about doing business in our region. We should be holding our political leaders to account on this point. Continuing to improve the infrastructure is incredibly important; this includes the investment in road networks and overcoming the issue of mobile and broadband connectivity. In addition the possibility of utilising devolved powers on business rates is an opportunity to keep businesses in Wales and encourage further investment. Finally, I believe that as a nation we need to do more to help our young people to develop the skills needed to support a thriving and diverse economy. The move towards pushing apprenticeships is a step in the right direction but a more holistic approach needs to be taken in order to make sure that as many of our people as possible are making the most of the talents that they have, and encouraging opportunities for both individuals, and by association the nation as a whole.
What skills should the education system be promoting to the next generation?
Our education system really needs to be able to meet the needs of all and not just the academically gifted. Whether you are great at exams or not, the system should be installing an interest in learning that will stay with people into their post education lives. I think we too often teach to pass rather than to understand and question and it’s stalling individuals when they hit the workplace.
In terms of specific skills, creative thinking, problem solving, and basic maths and language skills are all essential in the workplace. They’re invaluable to employers who rely on their workforce to be able to report back on ways that they can make a greater impact in their chosen sector. Above all our education system should be promoting the message that in order to succeed you need to work hard and create value – that holds true for all industries.
How important is it for there to be a close relationship between business and higher education in Wales?
Very important. How else are our educational institutions to keep up to date with the requirements of a changing economy? As a nation we’re innovative and we need to be able to provide individuals who can operate in highly flexible and often technical industries. I’m a big believer in creating jobs for the local community but those communities need to keep up to date with the demands of industry and business. Educational institutions are the gatekeepers of that knowledge and experience.