x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Three is not a crowd in running a business

Q&A with LLJ property consultancy on the effect of the global boom and bust.

Jane Irvine of LLJ Property says the company survived the global crisis by focusing solely on property management.
Jane Irvine of LLJ Property says the company survived the global crisis by focusing solely on property management.

Jane Irvine is the "J" in LLJ Property, the Abu Dhabi real estate agency. Ms Irvine and partners Linda Loughnane and Lubna al Ruzeiqi launched the company in 2005, just in time for the property boom - and the bust:

What was your strategy in the beginning?

The three of us had worked together at Asteco since 1999. We could see that Abu Dhabi was going to be a market in itself and we wanted to be pure Abu Dhabi. It was where we lived. It was where we worked. It was what we understood. And that's what we really wanted to capture and we didn't want it to be diluted in a bigger company.

How did you decide on your individual roles?

Very, very natural. We always, always had different skills. Linda is absolutely the nuts and bolts of running the company. The finances. The vision. She's managing director for a reason. I've been very involved in promotion and sales and marketing of properties. And more the IT side, the systems that go behind customer service. And Lubna was just out and out sales. She's got the local connections. There's a real synergy because we're not all trying to do the same job. Massively important.

What did you learn about running a start-up?

I couldn't run a company on my own. Absolutely not. I would have thought I could. But what I've learnt from this, I've learnt that three is a good number. It's always balanced. There's always a majority.

How did you adjust your business when the market started to slow?

Went back to basics. And we did it far too slow. I think everybody would say that. We just didn't know what was coming.

What do you mean by basics?

We very much went back to leasing and property management, which was what we come from. Unfortunately a lot of entities in the market [concentrated on sales and therefore] have troubles because they didn't have the leasing and property management side of the business. We already had a big property management team. Leasing was already strong.

Was there a moment of doubt?

Yes. And there were moments when I personally felt like a rabbit in the headlights. This is where the three different skill sets and having three people was just key.

Do you feel more secure now?

I do feel secure because I've learnt. I feel better equipped now to deal with it. The end of the world didn't happen. It was scary. And we did take too long with hindsight to change direction. But we didn't know. It's easy to say we should have done it two months earlier. We didn't know where it was going.

kbrass@thenational.ae