What role do chartered surveyors play in the development of our towns, cities and countryside? Louise Palfreyman goes face to face with new regional RICS chairman Richard Moxon.
Richard Moxon is a man with a mission. Having just been made chairman of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), it is his job to put the organisation firmly on the map.
It is a task that Richard will approach with the same determined application as he has his own career.
A partner in charge of commercial property at Pennycuick Collins, he has grown with his profession over the past 25 years.
Richard, aged 44, started out at a time when everyone equated surveyors with the housing world.
It's still something of a misconception today, he reveals, and part of his job as chair of the RICS will be to illuminate people as to the incredibly varied nature of surveying.
"My job will be to promote the RICS and network within the business world to further our cause. Three years ago the RICS was a typical professional institution - a bit out of touch with modern practices," he says.
"We drew up an agreement for change to make us more in line with the requirements of the business community, and we've made tremendous progress, having close ties with Advantage West Midlands, the West Midlands business council and Regeneration West Midlands.
"Networking has established contacts with the Institute of Directors and the Chamber of Commerce, but we have to get further into the community through our members who are already working out there."
Richard is keen to point out that far from being restricted to the housing sector, chartered surveyors can be found at the centre of many endeavours.
"We work within industry, service industries, business, all matters relating to land, property and construction, regeneration, the environment, planning development, selling and letting," he says.
Chartered surveyors, Richard says, can be found where it really matters. But the business community has yet to pick up on this fact.
"The general public," he says, "has a good referral system in place in that they call up the Institute and are put on to a member, but we have a bigger message to put to the business community in terms of what we do.
"It's an incredibly broad spectrum, taking in issues of regeneration and development, such as the new airport plans for the Midlands. Chartered surveyors are influential in such matters in terms of advising and influencing debate.
"The airport plans for Birmingham and Rugby, and more recently talk of Wolverhampton and Cosford, affect urban and rural areas.
"Chartered surveyors are land agents who manage the countryside as well as what happens in cities, so we have an important role to play.
"Surveyors are at the centre of many developments which is good news for the city and the region - we are very supportive of the regeneration programme and our members are at the heart of it, working in and around Birmingham and across the Midlands.
"A firm of chartered surveyors is managing the new Bullring development and the city living wave is controlled by chartered surveyors, but we haven't been that good at getting the message across.
"Everyone tends to know about the developers, but behind them are the surveyors with the expertise.
"We advise developers as to what are the best sites and appraise whether a development will work, before we even get to selling and letting.
"There's a whole myriad of issues we encompass - there are surveyors in the fine arts, auctioneers, mineral surveyors, geotechnic surveyors who look at whether land is suitable to build on, and those looking at environmental issues."
Richard is proud of the way his profession has expanded to adapt to modern times. He graduated from Trent University 24 years ago with a BSC in Urban Estate Surveying.
He'd studied part time, having landed his first job already at James and Lister Lea as a trainee surveyor.
"I had no idea of the breadth of the profession, and was attracted by the sales aspect originally. I moved to Birmingham in 1977 and saw chartered surveyors in action," he says.
"I was impressed with their knowledge and expertise, and that has grown over the years of my career to making sure people coming to Pennycuick Collins get the full benefit of the service we provide, whether it's a #250 valuation or a multi-million pound deal.
"It's also good being part of a healthy partnership where you have similar views but also lively debates and frank exchanges. It's all about finding the consensus and moving forward."
Certain people along the way have inspired Richard to achieve - Roger Stone at James and Lister Lea, who was endlessly enthusiastic, and partner Glyn Pitchford.
"You look to people to provide guidance - it's a form of mentoring I suppose, something that I believe is very important when you're starting out, and that I will want to explore in my role as chairman of the RICS," he says.
He's also keen to get more women into the profession. Richard is married and has two children. His eldest daughter is doing well at school and is thinking of going into law or medicine.
Richard has noticed that not a lot of girls go into surveying. "The RICS has done a lot of work in promoting the profession to women," he says.
"Women get surveying related degrees but don't all go on to become chartered surveyors, and we're keen to address that, in addition to attracting more people from ethnic minority groups."
Richard believes the future is bright for surveying, and has his mind firmly on his chairmanship of the RICS.
"It will go very quickly so I'm determined to make an impact and look at the region as a whole," he says.
"We're getting better at marketing ourselves. I enjoy my job - the diversity of it, and I think that dealing with all types of people and businesses is very stimulating.
"I've seen our firm expand from a staff of 12 to 35, and move to Broad Street from Washwood Heath and Erdington.
"I'm lucky to do the job I enjoy. If you stand still you don't achieve anything and surveying as a profession has become very diverse.
"We've taken on board the Government legislation, and the fact that clients' perception has changed. They are now looking for whole solutions, which we can provide."
Present ...chairman of the RICS until July 2004. Partner in charge of commercial property matters at Pennycuick Collins. "My responsibilities are in the traditional property market of offices, shops, warehouses and factories. A lot of chartered surveyors specialise, but at Pennycuick Collins we've kept it broad to keep things challenging and stimulating."
Present 1998-1999 ...created Richard Moxon & Associates to provide quality commercial property advice to the local market in Birmingham. Merged with Pennycuick & Brown to create an enlarged practice and joined the partnership.
Past ...regional manager for estate management and valuation at WS Atkins. Managing a team of GP Surveyors in Birmingham and Nottingham to provide the full range of surveying services. "This was my first senior position, and it was very much about leading and providing direction. It was a scary challenge but very exciting, and one of the big factors here was gaining confidence."
Wolverhampton Borough Council - management of a large portfolio of residential properties.
"This job was about handling the public and private sector, from direct relationships with clients to where committees and policy-making was the order of the day. A lot of people knock bureaucracy, but local authorities are accountable to the public at the end of the day."
Where it all started ...James & Lister Lea, general experience. "I first did work experience with them from college, then stayed for the summer. They were thinking of taking on a trainee and asked if I would consider the position. I accepted the job and studied part time at Trent."