Edward Cooper Young Chartered Surveyors celebrate 10 years in business and are promoting Leicester as a land of opportunity to out-of-town projects owners
You’ll never run a successful business in Leicester,’ Ashley Cooper was warned after leaving London and a respected career to start a family in his hometown. A ‘Leicester lad’ through and through, the entrepreneur went back to his roots but couldn’t face leaving the company that ran through his veins and so commuted to London to continue being a partner of Professional Quantity Surveyor (PQS) company Gardiner & Theobald. But that was 11 years ago. At 31 he had become the youngest partner in the company’s history, and before this, had won awards within his first employer, Taylor Woodrow, and his Loughborough University course sponsor. Ashley made the painful decision to leave the company in 2007 and a year later set up his own business like his father and grandfather before him. Determined to make a success of Leicester, from his father’s shed with a virtual office in the city and knocking on company doors, Ashley battled through the start of the recession and Edward Cooper Young Chartered Surveyors (ECY) came to life. Now, ECY has an average of 100 projects on the go at a time with an average of just five per cent of this work coming in locally. ECY is keen to increase the workload coming in from property developers within Leicester, Leicestershire and the East Midlands. Excited to showcase what the region has to offer, Ashley commented: “Someone once told me that Leicester is a second rate place for business and that’s been a driver for me every day. We have lots of clients in London and the South-East but we’re looking to undertake work from high net worth individuals locally. We want to get involved with local entrepreneurs.”
With an estimated turnover of £1.6m for the 2017 tax year, the company has experienced rapid growth – right here in Leicester – over the last three years having grown from a turnover of £700,000 in 2015 to an estimated turnover of £2.2m in 2019. With more than £1m of work already on the order books, the company has taken on £50,000 domestic extensions through to £27m care village schemes. As this year celebrates ECY’s 10th year in business and with their encourment to invest in the city, a lot of change is afoot. Ten events have been planned to engage with clients, share ideas but ultimately have a great time. The annual ECY BBQ complete with bouncy castle and artisan ice cream truck will be one of the events, as well as round table lunches set to go ahead featuring a discussion on current topics of importance for clients such as Brexit and its effect on construction development and inward investment. ECY is also a sponsor of Team Leicestershire, which heads out to the largest property convention in the world; MIPIM, promoting Leicester as a place to invest. There is now an ECY TV YouTube channel where clients can pick up interesting industry facts, and drone footage and time lapse videos of builds from start to finish will be available. The staff have started a football team, have regular team meals out and no doubt all out trips planned as they did when they travelled around Europe for Leicester City matches. Starting with just two members of staff the business now boasts an impressive 32-strong team. It comprises of a development monitoring team, PMEA team, land team, HR and accounts, and marketing teams, with a new development arm focussing on residential construction. Ashley told us: “We are a traditional, pick-up-the-phone kind of practise. We embrace technology but we don’t rely on it and we treat our clients as friends. Since we’ve grown we want to keep the small company vibe but there has to be rules now. “We’ll be opening an office in Sheffield and our satellite office in London which will be manned by the end of this year so we’ve had lots of trainees in with the plan of sending them out to our regions so that they’re trained in the ECY way. We’re particular about who we employ and it takes about six months to get the right person. We always ask ‘where do you want to go in the company?’ We’ve had people like William, my right hand man and senior associate within the practice who did an unrelated degree and we gave him a chance, paid for his training, laptop and mobile. None of our trainees will ever have to put their hand in their pocket to work with us.” Ashley is big on training and currently has six apprentices learning the ECY way. Heavily involved with RICS, Ashley was Chairman for the London matrics group as well as national Chairman during his London days, he told us he loves giving his two penneth worth and has led lectures and conferences all over the world. Ashley’s past revolved around specialist banking giving him expertise with a sought after array of contacts and information access. In the beginnings of ECY he would advise banks on loan facilities for their clients’ projects, many of which involved care homes, and act as the ‘eyes and ears’ of the bank. He’s worked with Santander, RBS, Lloyds Bank, and Natwest and it was off the back of this project overseeing that clients would ask him to work directly with them. “I’d say 95 per cent of our work comes from repeat business or word of mouth. With over 20 years of experience, clients are very comfortable with me and I’m now a fellow of the RICS. We know all the major banks, where to get land from, the right architects, surveyors, we know all their ways, and we make sure the projects are set up right from the start as we understand exactly what the banks want. We rationalise design to fit purpose without compromising on quality. “If you’ve got land, rather than sell it to a developer to make all the money, we can fully manage a project to maximise your profit for that land. Everyone is always chasing land and we identify land that hasn’t come up for market yet, especially in Leicester and the East Midlands to show people the opportunities here.” So much for Leicester being a second rate place for business.