The Royal Automobile Club was the setting for the Healey & Baker 200-year party towards the end of 2021. It was a blast from the past. Familiar faces from the pre-Cushman & Wakefield era were mingling, hugging, joking and circulating the room from one scrum surprise to another with a precariously wobbling stemmed glass in hand. Some hadn’t seen each other for over 2 decades since the doors closed at St George Street off Hanover Square and moved to Portman Square under the umbrella of ‘Cushman & Wakefield Healey & Baker’ after the USA parent takeover.
Proceedings kicked-off with former Senior Partner Paul D. Orchard-Lisle CBE, TD, LLD(hc), DSc(hc), MA, FRICS….. aka ‘PDOL’. You could hear a pin drop in the vast Mountbatten Suite packed with professionals from both yesteryear and today. He reminisced about how many of those standing recalled their experiences upon receiving a ‘pink memo’ handed down from management and trembling at its potential consequences!
Healey & Baker’s footprint on the UK Commercial’s Real Estate market was evident and continues to be seen all around today. Beyond Cushman & Wakefield, H&B alumni are across the major advisory firms such as JLL, CBRE, Knight Frank and Colliers International. And then starting with A: ACRE, Acuitus, Apache, Aurum Real Estate, etc…. there was a veritable A-to-Z alphabet soup of Property firms out in force to enjoy the welcome outing with friends after severe lockdown restrictions.
While school reunions can be awkward. It was notable to sense the sheer ‘smell of the room’, a warmth and merriment of long-time colleagues coming back together. The odd tear in the eye after a hearty hug, no doubt compounded by months of solitary experiences. By any measure, the H&B people made the rather austere surroundings of the Mountbatten suite melt away and it was a joy to behold.
Peter Bill and Damian Wild from Estates Gazette compiled and edited a superb booklet to celebrate the occasion. Littered with anecdotes, profiles, and histories about those who built the Healey & Baker business.
Peter Bill and Damian Wild from Estates Gazette compiled and edited a superb booklet to commemorate the occasion. Littered with anecdotes, profiles, and histories about those who built the Healey & Baker business and the context of the surveying profession through the economic life of the country. About how the industry became less about countryside management and more about supporting the vital economic activity of unlocking property to facilitate rebuilding after the war – and then further professionalisation of the surveying profession as it served the boom of offices, the advent of major shopping centres, the recognition of ‘sheds’, and other asset or transaction types such as Sale & Leaseback activity and OpCo/PropCo splits. Setting Healey & Baker’s real life characters against these sweeping changes of the real estate industry is a recommended treat for any Land Economist and Land Management student.
There were also some reflections about how times have changed. Healey & Baker’s HR tactics wouldn’t go far in today’s environment. This included the ‘mushroom approach’, where they thought it best to keep staff in the dark and occasionally cover them with s**t. It’s of course very easy to compare old and modern standards – just like criticising MS-DOS applications compared to a very modern and intuitive smartphone app…! And while it may be grotesquely humorous in hindsight, the mushroom culture did create a work place in which life-long bonds were created.
As those retired Partners look back at our daily pace of work, there is a sense that the buoyant, rewarding and rich “work-hard-play-hard” culture they presided over has been diluted beyond recognition. It seems to be more about work today. And PDOL, at least, believes things are a degree less fun than what they used to be.