Since then, he’s found his specialism in the care sector, and was one of the first negotiators in this department at Christie & Co when it was established in the early ‘80s. Robert’s moved with the wave of this evolving industry and has witnessed a lot of legislative development and a big shift to technology in the workplace, all the while completing on an impressive number of deals.
We chatted to Robert about his time in the business and his highlights from the last four decades…
When did you join Christie & Co? And from where?
"I joined Christie & Co on 7 February 1981, after having worked for seven months at a residential estate agency in Felixstowe, Suffolk, which went out of business in January 1981 – hopefully not as a result of my input or lack of!"
Can you tell us a bit more about your role at Christie & Co?
"I am a Director, covering the sale and acquisition of care businesses in the Eastern Counties – Essex (outside the M25), Suffolk, Norfolk and Cambridgeshire."
What was Christie & Co like in 1980s and how has the business changed since then?
"Back in the 1980s, we had no computers; no mobile phones; negotiators shared a pool car; manual mailing systems; photocopiers that took up a whole room; big sacks of post; we all had to stay in to take the Daltons Weekly calls on a Thursday; fewer offices and in the UK only. Those of us sharing a car had to book the use and, in fact, I did not get my first company car until three years in – it was a Ford Escort 1.1 Popular (with a radio!).
"In those days, our office also covered Lincolnshire, so we very often had an early start to be on the road by 6:30/7am, drive 150 miles to North Lincolnshire, do three or four appointments and then drive back to the office to pick up and deal with messages. I was rarely home before 9pm.
"Despite all that, the basics of the business have not changed – we get to know people, understand what they want and introduce them to those who can fulfil that requirement."
What’s been your biggest career highlight from the last 40 years?
"After two weeks with Christie & Co, I attended a training day in London for new/trainee negotiators. Running the day was one of the founders of Christie & Co – Jim Owen. The next evening was the annual Christie & Co Awards Dinner Dance, Held at The Kensington Close Hotel, London attended by all Christie & Co staff and their partners.
"I was very surprised and delighted to receive an award that evening, presented to me by Jim Owen, in recognition for showing such promise (the day before) after only two weeks with the company. It was a career defining moment – yet to be topped!"
What’s been the most drastic change to the care market since the 1980s?
"From the early 1980s, residential care homes started to become big business, prior to which the majority of care was provided by local authority homes. The number of care homes providing for private pay clientele increased dramatically over this decade creating greater capacity for those who could afford to pay for their own care and, thereby, freeing up more beds for those who could not afford to pay privately.
"The Registered Homes Act 1984 required care homes/providers to be registered and this, thereby, formalised the sector further and restricted who could and could not operate. This, in turn, clearly identified a care sector and a market for it. It was, therefore, at this point in time that Christie & Co established the Care Homes Department for the valuation, sale and acquisition of such care businesses. I was in that first team of Christie & Co negotiators working in that new area of our business.
"Subsequently, regulation has continually tightened through bodies such as NCSC, CSCI and latterly CQC. Each of these changes, and the continuing changes, have made the running of a care business much more challenging while, combined with operators’ desire to provide quality care, has helped drive standards."
What’s next for your career at Christie & Co? Have you got a career bucket list?
"My ambition is to win the Christie & Co ‘Jeremy Hill Award for Outstanding Contribution’ – Jeremy was someone I, like so many, greatly respected and was a really nice guy. To win an award bearing his name would be the cherry on my career cake."