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COFFEE BREAK with… Simon Chaplin, Senior Director

Coffee Break with… is a Christie & Co series showcasing the brilliance, expertise, and diversity of our network of over 200 employees.

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Simon Chaplin, Christie & Co

When did you join Christie & Co?
I first joined Christie & Co in 1983 at the Ipswich office.

I had been in local residential agency for a year but the repetitive nature of describing a “24 foot by 14 foot through lounge diner with kitchen off” got me down, so dealing with a variety of properties with a business was appealing.

When I joined, Robert Mellamphy was just a boy and Tim Gooding joined soon after, so it was a long time ago. We had manual record cards, sticky photos for sales details and even worked Saturday mornings! No mobile phones though, so at least you got time off…

What was your first job?
I joined as a junior negotiator which, at the time, meant being a run-around for a Director called Michael Pegg. He was legendary in the company for his off-the-wall ideas and once produced a rubber chicken at a board meeting in London to make a point. However, he was full of enthusiasm and much of it rubbed off on me. So much so that I followed him to open the Bristol office in 1985.

In a couple of sentences, can you tell us a bit about your job at Christie & Co?
I am now an integral part of the Corporate Pubs & Restaurants team, building relationships with large and mid-sized pub and restaurant operators in London and the South. This includes working with the regional teams to encourage similar engagement with small multi-site operators who are looking to sell up or expand - these are very often known to us and can become the “corporate” of the future. I also work on a number of special projects with our VS and consultancy colleagues, mainly for administrators and the like, such as Jamie’s Italian, Byron etc.

What’s your favourite thing about Christie & Co?
We are small enough for each individual to make a difference, and large enough to be a force in our specialist marketplace. Like many others, I worked my way through the ranks to a Senior Director level. It took a while and may have been quicker if I had not left and come back, but it has been great fun and long may it continue.

What's a favourite project that you’ve worked on at Christie & Co so far?
Some of the multi-site disposals have been the best, maybe 50 pubs to sell in a tight time frame with a demanding client and a never-ending supply of buyers looking for a steal… it’s back to basics stuff but very satisfying once completed.

What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far?
There may have been many, some too close to call, but having seen off three recessions and now a pandemic they all pail into insignificance in a way. To some my biggest challenge, and to some my fault, is curbing my enthusiasm and getting frustrated when others don’t share my passion for the job. Makes my blood boil!

What’s been a highlight of your career so far?
Highlights come in all shapes and sizes. The big deals are always nice, especially when, like Project Topping, it involves a new and exciting sector like pizza delivery franchising. However, it can also be the smaller sales, such as these two recently - a pub in Canterbury to a fan of cask ale or the smallest pub in Brighton where the vendor had been in the business for 50-plus years and was a delight to help through the process.

How has the industry changed since you started at Christie & Co?
The game is the same, match seller to buyer, but the massive change has, of course, been technology. Gone are the days of phone boxes, maps, and film cameras when on inspections. Now you can make calls on the way, with Sat Nav to guide you, and images galore having researched, reviewed and seen the property inside and out before leaving the door. Well, that’s the theory, shame it’s not always put into practice!

Who in your industry do you feel most inspired by?
Love or loath him, Tim Martin at Wetherspoons has been a game changer in the pub industry.

Tell us a bit about your life outside work – what are your hobbies?
Hobbies… pubs, beer, and food, both eating and cooking it.

But, with three grandchildren, most free time is taken up with taxi runs to various clubs, trips to any form of entertainment and tearing my remaining hair out! Recently, I became a Local Parish Councillor to support my village. Inspired by Jackie Weaver and seeking my five minutes of fame, no doubt, but I hadn’t realised how real it was! Ever seen the Vicar of Dibley…. yes, yes, yes, no.

What’s your hometown? Where do you live now?
I am a long time “Tractor Boy” born in Ipswich, Suffolk and old enough to have been at the FA Cup Final when we beat Arsenal in 1978. My job took me around the country, but my wife dragged me to Kent where we have been for over 20 years now.

Where’s the best place you’ve been on holiday?
My bucket list included going to the Singapore F1 Grand Prix which I was lucky enough to do in 2019. The racing was great, and the food scene is a fantastic melting pot of Asian cuisine. Another was a week in Venice where we got upgraded to a suite on the canal big enough for six with its own lift!! Can’t go back now as it will never happen twice.

What’s your biggest pet peeve?
My mantra is to do this job you have to have a “passion for pubs”.

If you could live and work in any city, where would you go?
San Francisco with Sydney close second, both have a chilled-out vibe and culture, plus plenty of small batch brewers!

What would be your desert island meal?
Scallops with black pudding, pan fried Turbot with capers and a very large cheese board.

What’s your favourite film?
I stumbled across “Airplane” the other day - you’ve got to laugh! Otherwise, I’d rather Box Set TV drama such as Killing Eve or Line of Duty.

Tell us your favourite joke / What is your favourite movie quote?
One of my favourite comedians is Gary Delaney, for example “The hardest part of running competitively in Wales must be keeping up with the Joneses” - one for Neil Morgan!

What is one thing on your bucket list?
Fly in a Spitfire. They fly out of Biggin Hill over my house every day. One day it will be me…

What is your biggest fear?
Having nothing to do.

What news source do you read every day?
BBC (and Propel Info, of course).

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