Richard Cherry, co-chairman of Stonebond shares his experience in the property industry and his cultural recommendations.
How did you join the property industry?
I studied what was called land management at the University of Reading, before joining Countryside Properties, the housebuilding business founded by my late father Alan. He never sought to persuade me, or indeed my brother Graham, to join the business. When I did, I remember having to buy a new suit to attend a lunch with the then chairman Solomon Bobroff, as I did not own one.
At Countryside, I started as a trainee development manager in a small office above a grocery shop on Billericay High Street in Essex. Throughout my early career, I worked in land roles, before becoming a land director and then managing director of our housebuilding business.
Up to that stage, we had been a traditional housebuilder, but in the early 1990s we got more involved in partnerships housebuilding and bigger mixed tenure schemes. That business grew and grew, and for my last seven years at Countryside I was CEO of our partnerships business, which built exciting regeneration schemes in London, the Midlands and the North.
What does your job entail?
I was in my late 50s when I decided I wanted to spend more time with my wife and family, after so many years working non-stop. I had no less enthusiasm for the industry and, thankfully, I had the opportunity to focus on Stonebond, our smaller housebuilding business based in Chelmsford, where I am now co-chairman with my brother Graham. We have got a great niche in terms of the size of our sites, tenure mix and type of projects, and it has been a pleasure to watch the team develop and grow.
What do you like most about the property industry?
First and foremost, it is the people you mix with – to me, life is about people. In the property industry, you mix with people of all backgrounds and ages, from site workers to financiers, young and old. People make it exciting. There is also the creativity of it. In housebuilding, you end up with a tangible product, which in many other industries you do not. We can look back at buildings and communities knowing we played a role in creating them.
What barriers or challenges have you overcome?
The 2008-10 financial crisis was obviously very tough. The economy crashed almost overnight and it was a real shock. But we not only survived it, we came out of it in a better place. Personally, when my father died it was a huge blow to me. We had worked together for 35 years, so he was not just my dad, he was a great colleague and a great friend. I would love for him to have seen the way we recovered from the financial crisis at Countryside, and now the growth of Stonebond.
What are you most proud of in your career?
I have been involved in many large regeneration projects over the years, and transforming these and seeing the way they are thriving today is tremendously pleasing and rewarding.
What do you value in people?
Reliability and integrity.
What advice would you give someone starting a career in the property industry?
One, be positive and enjoy every day – that is key. Two, concentrate on your strengths – don’t obsess over improving your weaknesses. Three, be reliable and keep your integrity. If you say you will do something, do it – that goes a long way.