20th Anniversary Celebrations Transcript

With Graham Cardoe


Host:        Welcome to the Cardoe Martin Podcast A-Z of Building Surveying, it’s Cardoe Martin’s 20th Anniversary so this episode will be a mini birthday celebration, neatly socially distanced of course with Graham Cardoe and Graham’s the Co-Founder and Chair of Cardoe Martin.  (0.12) Welcome Graham it’s nice to have you on again how are you today?

GC:           I’m good thanks, very good, it’s good to chat to you again James.

Host:        (0.22) This is quite incredible isn’t it. It’s 20 years since Cardoe Martin was founded, how are you feeling about the organisation you founded reaching a milestone like 20 years old?

GC:           I feel very positive obviously it started just with myself and Chris Martin and a few other building surveyors around the turn of the millennium and the business has gone from strength to strength both in terms of the personnel, the people we employ and the range of services we’re providing and the company’s increased in size geographically, we now own offices in London, Manchester and Sheffield and proposals to expand even more in the next few years.

Host:        (1.00) Tell us a little bit about how Cardoe Martin was formed it may be a bit about the early history as well?

GC:           Well I always wanted to work in a business where I could reap the rewards of my efforts and not wait in the hope that I might get a promotion in a company so after leaving university I worked for several surveying companies and got some good experience and then I started my own business, built that up partly with contacts that I had and some of them from university that went into the property industry and work that I got from previous companies and generally word of mouth and after 10 years I merged the business with a Building Surveying Division of another practice and that’s when I met Chris Martin who I immediately got on with, he was the sort of person you would always want to have on your side in a crisis he was unflappable and cool under pressure and he was very knowledgeable and good at his job and he had a long list of loyal clients and we worked together for quite a few years in the same company.  The company was starting to change away from the type of work that we wanted to do, we were always involved with commercial work, property companies, pension funds and the direction of the company was changing away from that so the merged company was a private practice but we didn’t own it, it was owned by a parent company that was going in a different direction to the way we wanted, it was going more towards public sector work and we were very much into the commercial type of work with pension funds and property companies, development monitoring and that kind of thing and that prompted us around 2000 to do a management buy-out which we did and fortunately our clients were loyal to us and came with us, we took as many staff as we could at the time and that was the start of Cardoe Martin as an independent private practice. 

Host:        (2.55) So Graham you talked a little bit about Chris Martin in the first question, people are aware that you are the Cardoe of Cardoe Martin can you tell us a little bit about who the Martin was. Maybe more about Chris’ background and who he was as a person because he sounds like he was a big part of the formative period of Cardoe Martin?

GC:           Yes absolutely, I first met Chris when I merged my business with another firm of Chartered Surveyors and he was the main Building Surveyor in that company and had a small team of Building Surveyors working within him and he was a larger than life character not just physically at 6’4” but also in terms of his personality, he was very knowledgeable and good at his job and he had a lot of loyal clients who gave him work and he was a West Country man and he had a strong Wiltshire accent and a very dry sense of humour.  I always remember his greeting to the surveyors when he came into the office in the morning regardless of the gender of those present was always morning girls, did cause some confusion especially among the male staff.  (laughter)

Host:        Yeah (laughter).

GC:           And obviously I got on well with him, we had very similar ambitions in terms of the clients we wanted to work for, we both had good commercial experience and works of pension funds, development companies and property companies and after a few years of working for this company which is tending to go in a different direction to the areas of work we wanted to do we decided to a management buy-out which we did around the term of the millennium.

Host:        (4.31) So did that go very smoothly? It sounds like you complimented each other skill sets and had a mutual understanding of things, but was it obvious that you wanted to go and set up Cardoe Martin off the back of this and you kind of knew it was destined?

GC:           Yeah, very much so. I think that the type of work that we were being led into was public sector, Local Authority work which neither of us had very much experience of and obviously we had our own clients, and we didn’t want to lose them, they were, you know clients are very difficult to obtain and very easy to lose it just takes one job to go wrong and you’ve lost your client.  We were keen to preserve those clients they were a very good source of income and business for us, most of the staff wanted to join with us and follow us to the new company, the business started off very well I mean it was obviously 9/11 occurred very shorty after we started the business but we managed to work through the issues surrounding that time and went from strength to strength. 

Host:        (5.34) Did you imagine at that time that you would be sitting here talking to me now about, on a 20-year anniversary birthday for Cardoe Martin?

GC:           No, I don’t any of us can look too far ahead especially in business. I think that the business had a good foundation in terms of its client base and to begin with we were quite protective about our clients and we realised that we had to share the client workload out and younger surveyors were recruited over time and trained up and that proved to be a very positive step because it enabled the company to expand and although Chris and myself were the Senior Surveyors in the business we were able to share the work out and expand and retain those clients and expand the client base as well.  Chris unfortunately he ran into problems of poor health approximately 15 years ago and sadly he died, he passed away after a very brave fight with cancer and it was typical of the man that he just carried on, kept on billing monthly and looking after his clients even if it meant that he had to have a surveyor come with him and help him on individual projects but he was an incredible guy and would do everything he possibly could to help the company even if he was in pain and suffering himself.

Host:        (6.58) I’m sure he’d be very proud about what Cardoe Martin’s become over the years and the amount of effort people have put in to carry on and develop the business.

GC:           Yeah I’m sure, he was very committed to the business he would work long hours to make things happen and always very loyal to his clients and he would turn projects around you know in tight deadlines to make things happen and I’m sure he’d be pleased to see how the business has progressed since his untimely departure. 

Host:        (7.27) So Graham, we’ve often talked in previous podcasts about surveys and jobs, but I’m interested to kind of ask the question about what memorable Cardoe Martin surveys and jobs perhaps either ones you’ve heard about or ones that you’ve been involved in that kind of have really stood out for you over the last 20 years?

GC:           Well I suppose the type of work we did is relevant in that regard Chris was involved with some very large refurbishment projects of buildings built in the 1920’s and 30’s which were owned by property companies and had fallen into disrepair, had steel frame corrosion and other defects and he took these projects on and delivered finishes projects that transformed these buildings and sorted out a lot of the inherent problems that they had.  Other sort of projects that we were involved with we helped companies where they were involved with merges and acquisitions, they would instruct us to assess the liabilities of the portfolio of properties that the company was being acquired responsible for so they may have considerable leasehold liabilities, we would expect these buildings and advise on the cost of repairing obligations and the like and the suitability of the portfolio for their proposed purposes.  We also did a lot of development monitoring for pension funds where we would be checking the work being undertaken by the development company and ensuring that the finished building was constructed to a good institutional standard which would enable the pension fund to incorporate that into their portfolio or possibly sell it on if required after the property was let.

Host:        (9.11) Okay brilliant, thanks for that.  You mentioned about when you first set up Cardoe Martin you had team members right at the beginning and what I’m interested in doing is just looking over how the team has changed over the last 20 years, the different personalities have arrived and come and gone and obviously you have different MD’s as well within the business, what are your thoughts about that?

GC:           We’ve always been proud to try and retain our staff so we offer them a good range of experience, we give them good incentives, we pay them well and we try and incentivise them with introduced bonus systems to encourage them to meet fee targets and well some of the surveyors that we’ve got have been with us for a considerable period of time, I mean our current MD, Alex Hayward, he joined us a 20 year undergraduate, 15 years on he’s now the Managing Director of the company and it wouldn’t have been possible to retain ambitious surveyors like Alex if we hadn’t given them incentives and give them a good working environment and treated them well.

Host:        (10.18) Have you noticed a certain change in kind of the attitude or approach over the previous decades from the people when you moved across first, is there any kind of change in the way surveyors are?

GC:           Inevitably you know as the generations change they introduce their own style of working but I mean the basic business principles are still the same, my fundamental business philosophy is that you to try and give the best possible service that you can to your clients, anybody can be average but if you’re average you won’t stand out, there’ll be no incentive really for your clients to come back to you and we have clients that come back to us 10, 15, 20 years on and there’s no way they would do that if we’d given them an average service so I think that’s a fundamental element of our philosophy really that we want to do the very best we can for our clients to encourage them to be loyal to us and to give us repeat business. 

Host:        (11.16) And I guess that’s going to be carried into the future but what does the future look like for Cardoe Martin from your perspective. What do you see Cardoe Martin developing into? As the Chair of the organisation what’s your ambition?

GC:           I think that the future looks very positive. Our parent company are very keen to invest in the Building Surveyor Division of the business, we have expanded our geographical base from between London, Sheffield and Manchester and there’s the potential for further geographical expansion and the range of services that we’re able to provide can also be expanded, there are so many other services that we can provide to our clients that will improve the overall service we’re able to deliver.  So I feel very positive about the future.

Host:        (12.01) Graham thank you very much for that. It’s great hearing about the Cardoe Martin’s past and the future and it’s an excellent opportunity to celebrate your 20th Anniversary.

GC:           Thank you for inviting me along.

Host:        It’s a pleasure.  So you’ve been tuned into Cardoe Martin’s A-Z of Building Surveying Podcast this is our special 20th Anniversary Celebrations Edition, thank you to Graham, Co-Founder and Chair of Cardoe Martin for such an interesting and entertaining trip down memory lane as well.  Thanks for listening.