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‘Lockdown surveyor’ charts course to success on third anniversary

A firm of chartered surveyors that launched from a spare bedroom with a few hundred pounds and a seven-year-old laptop is eyeing major growth as it celebrates its third birthday.

In case you missed an article which was recently in the press celebrating our third anniversary, we thought we’d share here for you to read at your leisure.

James Baker wrote his business plan for Derby-based Invise Limited as a back-up plan while on furlough with his previous employer during the Covid-19 pandemic.

But when he returned to work at Edward Cooper Young Chartered Surveyors, in Loughborough, he quickly realised that his business plan might actually work.

So, with an initial float of just £450, an old laptop and zero clients, James arranged payment holidays on most of his household bills and launched Invise from the back bedroom of his family home.

After returning a healthy turnover of over £60,000 in his first year, Invise has grown rapidly in the two subsequent years, increasing turnover by around 95 per cent and 60 per cent respectively, as it hits its third birthday this month.

As a result, James has this year taken on fellow chartered surveyor Nathan Lovett as an associate director and business development expert Alex Kowalczuk as a consultant.

The firm is currently recruiting for a more junior-level candidate to join the team, which is now based in Sadler Bridge Studios, off Sadler Gate, Derby, having moved last month from smaller premises at nearby Riverside Chambers.

James, a Fellow of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) with more than 20 years’ industry experience, said: “Invise was something I came up with during Covid when work ground to a halt.

“I wrote a three-year plan and had a really clear vision, with a proper strategy in place. I wanted to create a chartered surveying business that was different to the rest.

“I sat down and worked out what was really important to me personally. The things I arrived at – integrity, honesty and accountability – remain the company’s three core values, and I strongly believe they have been the key to our rapid growth and success.

“I was also determined to create a business that had a good working culture, having experienced bad culture in previous businesses. My recruitment process is not just about skills, it’s about the individual, their personality and their values.

“The large network of contacts I had built up over 20 years in the industry clearly latched on to this, and we’ve now built up a strong client base and a healthy forward pipeline of work.”

The firm’s list of clients includes St Ralph Sherwin Catholic Multi Academy Trust, which has recently benefited from Invise’s expertise surrounding RAAC concrete, which caused panic among many other UK schools before the start of this autumn term.

Invise also has a strong working relationship with Derbyshire property investment and development company Henfox, as well as fulfilling contracts for the likes of the NHS and Country Court Care residential and nursing homes.

Invise, a combination of the words input and advise, provides building surveys and advice for public or commercial clients as well as offering a full project management service for any identified improvement works or new build developments.

James, a married father of two young boys, is a champion of sustainability, so the firm gears all of its advice towards achieving the best environmental outcome on each project.

“We should all be doing more in the face of the climate change issue,” he said. “Unfortunately, for many, it just becomes a tick-box approach – which is definitely not true of Invise. We think about the environment in all we do.”

“We also set out to be a bit more fun, friendly and approachable than many of our competitors and to not be seen as old fashioned. There’s a huge shortage of surveyors, so we believe our approach will help to encourage a new generation of younger people into the industry, whatever their previous backgrounds.”

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