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COFFEE BREAK WITH... Sean Ludden, Director - VS Hospitality

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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When did you join Christie & Co? 
This is my second time around. I first joined in June 2002 as a graduate surveyor, but I went off to see if the grass was greener on the other side of the fence in December 2010. Having had time to decide that for me, it wasn’t, I re-joined in October 2019.

Where were you when you accepted your role at Christie & Co? 
In a ground floor meeting room (in my cycling gear) in our London office having just popped in to sign my contractual documents.

What was your first job? 
Well, if we go back to June 2002, it was to make the Christie & Co valuation team tea five minutes after arriving (you know who you are)!

But my very first job was in a residential agency in Ealing, West London, where I stayed with the same firm (Grimshaw & Co) for 15 years, and I had a fantastic professional grounding and training in residential agency. Having qualified as a chartered surveyor later in life, those 15 years were invaluable for my professional surveying and valuation career ahead.

In a couple of sentences, can you tell us a bit about your job at Christie & Co? 
I am a valuation surveyor. I predominantly undertake loan security valuations on leisure properties for most of the UK High Street and ‘challenger’ banks. I cannot make that sound glamorous; some of us just love valuation!

What’s your favourite thing about Christie & Co? 
Working with like-minded, focussed, and driven people. There a very few egos here at Christie & Co, so we have a collegiate way of working.

What's a favourite project that you’ve worked on at Christie & Co so far? 
I have just finished working on a hotel portfolio valuation. I enjoy valuing any type of leisure property, but if I had to choose a favourite asset class to value, it would be pubs!

What’s been the biggest challenge of your career so far? 
Getting qualified as a chartered surveyor as an older candidate and as a parent with a young family. I sat the RICS Assessment of Professional Competence (APC) in December 2004 and, from the first week of September, I went into our Ipswich office each Saturday and Sunday to study. I spent seven to eight hours each day preparing for the APC, and the sacrifices were huge; not only in lost time with my wife and family, but also having to take a huge pay cut to start a new career in my 30s and accepting that I had start at the bottom again. I look back and think how lucky I was to have the support of my wife to help me get qualified. I could not have done it without her.

What’s been a highlight of your career so far? 
Valuing a tennis complex where one of the courts was having a roof fitted. 

How has the industry changed since you started at Christie & Co? 
We had the smoking ban in 2007 which affected the licensed trade, but the industry adapted quickly. I remember reading about a bingo hall putting a bank of one-armed-bandits (amusements with prizes being the correct name) in part of its rear garden area under a hastily constructed roof structure so that guests could smoke and gamble between bingo games. Ingenious. The leisure industry is changing all the time, but to coin a phrase ‘necessity is the mother of invention’ as seen in the bingo hall. 

Who in your industry do you feel most inspired by? 
All the pub and leisure business owners and operators. What the industry has had to go through in the last three years has been monumental and the collective drive, focus and passion for the pub/licensed trade sector must be inspirational for us all. 

Tell us a bit about your life outside work – what are your hobbies? 
I am the laziest person I know. Binge watching box set after box set and watching Netflix and Amazon Prime at the weekend is my perfect way to relax. I just love to do nothing at times!

What’s your hometown? Where do you live now? 
I was raised in Brentford, west London, and I now live in Ipswich which is a hidden gem. 1hr 10 mins from London (when the trains work) and 15 mins from the coast. It was great bringing up our two children here. 

Where’s the best place you’ve been on holiday? 
Zimbabwe. Victoria Falls was stunning and taking a booze cruise down The Zambesi at sunset was spectacular: until the effects of the copious amounts of booze kicked in!!! We bought the local currency from dodgy back street ‘currency dealers’ as the banks offered half the rate we got on the streets. Even the hotel was offering better rates than the banks. Scary stuff but all part of the experience. 

What’s your biggest pet peeve
I have more than one. 

People speaking loudly on their mobile phones is my number one dislike. People using mobile phones in the quiet carriage on a train is a close second. I used to police the quiet carriage on the 18:30 out of Liverpool Street each evening, telling folk to get off their phones (how sad, but I occasionally got told 'well done' by my fellow disgruntled commuters). The lack of punctuation and grammar in text messages.

If you could live and work in any city, where would you go? 
More of a countryside person now, so not a fan of big cities, but it would have to be Buenos Aires. Looks great on the telly and I would be able to enjoy the great Argentinian beef and a great bottle of red wine (or two) on the occasional working lunch. My O’ Level in Spanish might come in handy too!

What would be your desert island meal?
BBQ beef/steak cooked over coals.

What’s your favourite film? 
Here’s one from left field: Restless Natives, because my favourite band - Big Country - wrote the soundtrack. The music is brilliant… the film is er… watchable!

Tell us your favourite joke
A person goes to the doctor. They sit down in the surgery and tell the doctor  that when they touch their chin, it hurts, when they touched their shoulder, it also hurts… but when they touched their kneecap it really hurts. They ask the doctor what could be wrong. The doctor ponders for a few seconds and replies – “you’ve got a broken finger.”

The same person hobbles into their local Accident and Emergency Department on crutches two weeks later and tells the receptionist that they’d broken their leg in three places. The receptionist gave a stern look and said “well, just don’t go to those places.”

What is one thing on your bucket list? 
Don’t have one. Live the best life you can each day with what you have.

What is your biggest fear? 
As a QPR fan of 45 years, seeing Brentford playing in Europe next season. That is currently a real possibility. 

What news source do you read every day?
BBC News but it is getting a bit stale, so I am dipping in and out of GB News more and more. Controversial or what?!

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