Episode 102

102 From Hairdressing to Award-Winning Surveyor with Zoe Baker

Zoe Baker is Managing Director & Founder of Your Surveyors Ltd and the Winner of RICS Young Surveyor of the Year 2022 Award in the Residential Surveying Category. 

She has been working in the residential surveying industry for almost 10 years in various operational and management roles, and now as a surveyor and business owner. She has achieved the Level 6 Diploma in Residential Surveying & Valuation, completed through SAVA and obtained an AssocRICS accreditation with the RICS.

Initially trained to be a hairdresser and working in the hairdressing industry, she has successfully tranferred creativity and people skills obtained in her early career to her surveying practice. 

What We Cover: 

  • How Zoe transitioned from hairdressing to surveying industry
  • The unique qualities and talents that Zoe developed in her early career
  • How to express your unique style in a technical profession such as surveying
  • The experience of setting up a surveying business and why Zoe decided to take that path
  • Why customer service and client relations are key elements in surveying 
  • Time management as a key skill for a business owner
  • What the RICS Young Surveyor of the Year Award means for Zoe 

Connect with Zoe Baker: 

Connect with Marion:


The Surveyor Hub:


Marion Ellis 0:50

Today on the podcast, I'm chatting to Zoe Baker from Your Surveyors. This podcast was recorded the day before Zoe won Young Surveyor of the Year Award for the residential category.

Marion Ellis 1:02

Hello, Zoey.

Zoe Baker 1:03

Hi, Marion, how are you?

Marion Ellis 1:05

I've been really looking forward to talking to you today of all my guests. But I was really keen because I haven't recorded a podcast for a couple of weeks, I tend to do them in batches. So I can get everybody all together. And I can do it, do it all in one. And I tend to do them in sprints. And I do it in advance. I'm not very organized. But this is something that I've learned to be be organized about, which is why it's a little bit bad timing in many ways, because we're speaking today, and tomorrow is the Young Surveyor of the Year Award. It's two things that I want to talk to you about. One Young Surveyor of the Year award. And two, I was going to ask what you are wearing.

Unknown Speaker 1:47

That is for the most important questions.

Marion Ellis 1:51

You know, I thought to myself, would I ask a man that, you know, sort of challenging my biases, and then I thought, men's clothes are really boring. And I know you've got some amazing dresses. So it's okay to ask you, but you don't have to answer that question. Brother, watch it, watch what you're airing. But for those who don't know us, introduce yourself.

Zoe Baker 2:12

der, I set the business up in:

Marion Ellis 2:32

What strikes me actually, about you introducing yourself there. I never describe myself as a managing director or a CEO, and I use Founder because I do all sorts of different things. And it gives me a bit of a bit of license. Did you ever think that you'd be running your own business?

Zoe Baker 2:49

I thought that I had that mindset, but I needed encouragement. And I think that with anybody, there's a bit of a lack of self-belief in whether you can do something. And sometimes you just need someone else to say, yes, go for it, you can do this, shoot, you're capable. It's that self talk, isn't it? And I think for me, I was confident, but I was always worried about coming across as arrogant, because there is a line between confidence and arrogance, isn't there? And as a very, very confident person. But I felt that actually worrying about coming across in the wrong way restricted me a little bit in the past.

Marion Ellis 3:25

And I don't think a man would ever say that, not to get into, you know, men versus women. But you’re right, you know, as women we come across, when we're confident women who want to do all sorts of things and have a voice, there is a perception. And I certainly see that with, you know, online, and the behaviors that I get sometimes with all sorts of different things that people think it's okay to treat me in a certain way,’ or when really I'm just a strong, vocal, visible woman, and people don't know how to handle that.

Zoe Baker 3:58

is very true. Yes, yes. No, I completely agree.

Marion Ellis 4:02

I'm sure there's a joke in there about my husband. But he doesn't know what I do for a living. So that's all right. He says that. How did you get into surveying Zoe?

Zoe Baker 4:13

So I wanted to change my career in my early 20s. So I actually started my working life as a teenager, doing a hairdressing apprenticeship. So it was a completely completely different industry, as you can imagine. And I got to my early 20s, and I was going to be buying a property with an ex partner and I was interested in property and wanted a bit more, you know, of a change of working life. Really, I'd been on, you know, the hairdressing floor for a number of years. I've worked my way up to senior stylist within a short space of time, and I've done so many things in that industry. And I felt that I'd come to the end of that journey, if you like. And then I got a job at a surveyor's office, and I absolutely loved it. I just fell in love with the industry. What I think stood out to me the most is that we are the only ones there to help the buyers properly and professionally. We’re the only ones with that type of knowledge to do that. So yeah, it surprised me. And I sort of took it by storm really, because in my first week, I accidentally sold a home buyers report for the cost of a building survey. So my boss was very happy about that.

Marion Ellis 5:30

It wasn't the other way round.

Zoe Baker 5:33

Absolutely. A good example, I worked my way up in that business was headhunted for another company. And then I was enrolling in the cyber course, whilst I was working there. Did my first year classroom days working there, then did my assessments, unemployed, with the vision to set up my business that I have now. Oh, okay. So that has been a bit of a journey. Yeah, yeah. So

Marion Ellis 6:02

That's Sava, the surveying school for those who don't know, and they've got a diploma in statistics.

Zoe Baker 6:09

Yes, that's right. So residential diploma in residential surveying and valuation, it provides you with the ABBE qualification. And yes, it was a really, really great course to do. I mean, I was in the industry, so I was lucky to have a lot of support around me. But for anybody that is looking to get into residential surveying, in particular, because it is so focused on that element of surveying, It's great, you know?

Marion Ellis 6:36

Used to teach on the course at one point. So I'm also a fan of it. And it's a great way to, it’s vocational training, you know, you can work while you're studying. How did you find that though, because I took a few years out before I went back to it was Institute at the time, it's now a university, and getting your head around studying as a mature student was really, really hard. How did you find the process of doing that?

Zoe Baker 7:06

If I'm honest, I'm very, very much more of a hands-on person, practical person. And that comes from doing a hairdressing apprenticeship, because I learned the most when I was actually doing the haircuts and the colors and actually physically doing those things. So when it came to surveying, I was very much one of those that had to see it, get stuck in, get stuck in, get my hands dirty, experience it, there's only so much you can learn from a book. And it's until you're actually out there doing it, that's when it all you become like a sponge. It's all of that information that you've absorbed over those classroom days, when you get to that stage where you're going out a lot more you start to actually, you know, experience what you've been reading that when I started to drive the most, I think in my learning, and it's important to know yourself and know how you are as a learner and as a student, and what is best for you because you know, the classroom days are there for everybody, but you have to make them work for you. And only you can do that, because the teacher isn't going to know how everybody in the classroom, you know what their strengths and weaknesses are when it comes to learning. So you have to recognize that and sort of put yourself in positions to make sure that you are, you know, working to the best of your ability.

Marion Ellis 8:23

That's really interesting, because yeah, as a mature student, understanding yourself, knowing your learning style, you're in control of that. Whereas obviously, when you're in school, you don't know when you any of that. And who would be a primary school teacher these days.

Zoe Baker 8:37

What I do know is attention span was much better during this application than it was at school. So obviously in the right place.

Marion Ellis 8:47

So let's just talk about hairdressing. Did you always want to be a hairdresser? You know, is that just sort of what the options that were available to you at the time?

Zoe Baker 8:55

Yeah. I well. Yeah. I mean, I was a creative individual as a teenager, and throughout my whole childhood and teenage years, I was on stage singing, dancing, acting.

Marion Ellis 9:09

You just reminded me because I saw a video of you. I'll put a link to it in the show notes with you singing? I was just blown away, Zoe. Sorry.

Zoe Baker 9:20

Okay. Yeah. So I mean, I was mainly a dancer, I used to dance at Covent Garden. And I did the Royal Academy of Dance exams, and lots of shows. You know, my mum was forever sewing, costumes and shoes. I think she hated it really yeah, so that's where my creative and bubbly nature came from. And then when it came to choosing a career path, I wanted to use that creativity and art if you like, and I was just drawn to hairdressing, and, you know, that feeling of making someone feel good about themselves, being able to create a style that blows someone's mind, you know. And that's what I wanted to do. And I always, lots of my clients say to me, you've got magic hands, Zoe. So I used to love that that was one of my favorite comments that anyone could ever say to me. So that's why I wanted to go into that. And also, I think it was the fact that at the time, you know, I wasn't drawn to go into college just because my friends were going. And, you know, I didn't want to do subjects that other people were doing just because my friends were going there, I wanted to choose something that was going to help me progress as an individual and show my strengths at that time. And that was, you know, being creative and getting into the working, you know, working life as quickly as possible. And actually, I matured very quickly when I went into work.

Marion Ellis:

I can imagine totally, because you're dealing with real life and people. Whereas if you go straight to, you know, A levels Uni don't have work experience, you know, I remember my first day as a graduate employment position, and everyone else was worried about answering the phone, and I was thinking, Oh, my god, how am I going to survive 18 months, if they're worried about answering the phone, when I've been on the phones for British Gas, and BT and different things in my degree life? It's interesting you talk about creativity. How do you bring that into your surveying? Do you think?

Zoe Baker:

So? I think it's just about the creative mind that I have. And it helps me actually, when I'm at a property because I'm not closed minded. I'm looking at the whole picture. I feel like sometimes I've got eyes in the back of my head, which is Bray, and it helps me with those forward investigations. So you know, following the trail, sorry, that's the words I was, it helps me with that, because I'm inquisitive, I'm looking for the next sign, I'm always you know, and with my reports, as well, I write them in a very creative nature, I like to paint pictures for people. And, you know, it's like a story for them, you know, they're just about to spend all of this money on this property. And I want this document to be worth every single penny, they paid for it. And you can get your personality across in your report. It's 100%. And I love doing that. And I want it to be a report written by me, not by an RICS surveyor, I want them to know, yes, I'm an RICS surveyor, but actually, it's me that's written this report, and I want that to come across as well.

Marion Ellis:

Oh, my goodness Zoe, I love that. Because I think we have this very stereotypical view in our profession, to be a surveyor, you need to be very technical, and methodical, and efficient, and all of those things. And that does help to a degree but to, to use your creativity, And one of the life lessons I that really changed my career, actually, about eight or nine years ago, was I did some, I can't remember it's a coaching or event or something that I went to, and I came away, and someone told me, you do what you do, you just happen to do it in the world of surveying. And I realized that I'm a problem solver, you know, people lead creative problem solver, do not ask me to cut hair, I'm not very good at drawing pictures or anything. But the way that I will look at property or rather, the way that I would look at some of the claims and valuations that I was dealing with, you know, I would creatively resolve them, you know, and just just thinking in that, that 3d kind of way, but I've also realized I need to have fun and color. And I remember walking into the office once and I was in such a bad mood. Towards the end of my, when I left my corporate job. And I remember thinking I am not going to speak to anybody all day one of those stops that we sometimes have. And I know it's not just me. And I remember looking at my and I've mentioned this on the podcast before I'm sure but I remember looking at my Outlook diary and it was just ram packed with blue squares everywhere and I thought I hate pale blue, it’s an awful color. So I changed them all color coded them and then I went rogue and just did random colors and I could see the secretaries behind me going but I felt so liberated and I went and got myself some colored felt pens from Ikea which was just down the road from our office and you know, just being able to express yourself in actually what was quite a you know, restricted regulated you know, thing or the lawyers and things that I deal with. It was so fixed and it just gave me you know, some felt pens gave me this outlet, and I've taken that with me ever since. You know, a lot of my work is fun, and if I don't enjoy doing it, I won't do it. You know, and I think we've got to allow ourselves to do that. And just because we're doing reports, you know, quite technical and or whatever doesn't mean that you You can't make them look good. show everything. You know,

Zoe Baker:

Yeah, you can still be technically correct in every aspect, but still show your style and your flair at the same time.

Marion Ellis:

How do you do that? Give an example.

Zoe Baker:

It’s very difficult for me to give a specific example. But I think the way that I format my reports in the sense that I explain every element with sort of the same order, if that makes sense. So construction condition action, is how I usually report and in my mind, when I'm actually at survey, I can then look at an element and go construction condition. Yeah, and it keeps it like that. And then with the wording with what I say, you know, it's all about enticing the reader, and so that they don't just look at it and go, this is jargon.

Marion Ellis:

And we have, we have so much of that don't we? And I know a lot of surveyors, we see it on the hub, sometimes they'll say, Have you got paragraph for this? No, when I used to do with the claims, there's nothing worse than just the copy and paste, and you can just read the tone No, it just take the problem with it apart from looking not very good, is that instantly you lose trust and faith in what you've been what you're being told, and you just don't actually,

Zoe Baker:

if you need standard clauses for everything, you're an incompetent surveyor, because you need to be able to articulate the wording as a surveyor, that is your job standard clauses do have a place, and they are fantastic as prompts, that you have to be able to, then, you know, change them, dissect them, add to them, you know, do all of that to particularize for that individual situation. And that's a skill set. But you have to do it in the best way that's for you and your clients, so that your client is served every single time, because you can't just send the same report out to everybody. You know, it's,

Marion Ellis:

that's, that's true. And you know, if we think about copywriters, and authors, and you know, it's a skill learning to write and to tell a story about a property. And I wonder, you know, as we're learning to do our reports, and do our inspections might have report writing skills, but it's an art to create a document, which is not just enjoyable to read, you know, that it's, it's about accessibility too, but if someone's not reading your report, or taking your advice, in my view, that's your fault as a surveyor, if they're not doing that. And that's either because it's full of jargon, you know, the process, how you've engaged with your, your client, if there are even the fact that, you know, it was sold as an assurance guarantee, rather than a tool to use. And so it's not just about writing a good report that someone will read, it's actually protecting yourself at the same time, isn't it?

Zoe Baker:

And what you just said about engagement, client engagement is absolutely key in my business. We give people the opportunity to have a pre survey call with their surveyor completely free, no obligation, don't even need to say that they'll go with us for any free technical advice that they want at that stage. And then if they do go with us, they get a follow-up call, you know, straight after they've had their report, we'll give them a little time to read it, we like them to read the report first, because, you know, it's important that they've read it. And then if they've got any particular questions, you know, at least you're, they're aware of the situation, and it's a streamlined phone call. And they can speak to us as many times as they need to. And we've had people come to us, you know, they're keeping that relationship with us six months later, they just call and just check something with us. And it's absolutely fine. And some people sales have gone on a bit longer. And you know, they call up at first name, so okay. And it's like, yes, you know, this should be absolutely fine for any business. And I think actually, that's another massive attribute that I've brought over is customer service.

Marion Ellis:

I was about to ask you this, because if you worked in a firm of surveyors, you'll have understood how it works operationally, I guess. And a lot of people that I work with, or come on to the mastermind or Zoe, you came on my mastermind earlier on, I think it was, you know, they don't have that operational background, which is quite significant. You know, we think, Well, you just come to me for work and we do the terms, we have a chat. That's it. It's much more than that the customer experience and engagement is really key. And again, I view it as a protective thing to protect yourself from claims, but tell me how you've got because I know you've set some things up and you've automated quite a few things, haven't you in your business?

Zoe Baker:

If I'm honest, it is all about that first point of contact, you know, it's what is their first view of you as a company, because people's attention spans are seconds that you stay. So you know, if you're going to be present, if you're presenting yourself to them, whether that be in a quote, or they've landed on your website, or they've gone on to, you know, your social media, you want that to be, you know, engaging, or you want that to be the message you want to put across straightaway. And what is really important is that it follows on consistently, it's not, you look great, but then they get through and the service isn't that great. It needs to carry on throughout the whole process. And actually, it doesn't just come from when I was in the office, working in surveyors, this has come from hairdressing, the customer service skills that I obtained face to face with people on a daily basis, operating a five star service all the time consistently, you know, the business owners were very, very on customer service and customer care. We had an ethos, we had a mission statement, it was drilled into everybody. And that has actually helped me most I think, transferring those skills over to surveying and I brought that into the office. Operationally, you can learn systems, you can learn processes, it's actually not that it's how you use them, and how you, you know, automate those processes, you've just got to always make sure that your business's message, and the way that you want to present yourself is consistent throughout that whole journey for people.

Marion Ellis:

Oh again, that's gold, Zoe. So what two things came to mind there? My ADHD brain is it does one was what is the hairdresser's say, when you went to work for firmer surveys? Were they it was that like a bolt out of the blue? And what do they have? And but the real question, the other question, I was thinking was totally going on my head now. Alright, so answer that what did they What did they think when you said you're gonna be a surveyor?

Zoe Baker:

it's very common for hairdressers to start as teenagers, and then develop into your 20s, you start developing as an adult, and you start changing as an individual, and you change, it's very common, actually. So what it is hard to do is move to another industry. So deciding to do it is fine. But actually, how you do it is very difficult, because if you've just got hairdressing on your CV, most employers won't look at you, it's true. You know, I was very lucky to know people in the industry at the time, and I was able to be recommended, but without that, I would say, I wouldn't have got that position.

Marion Ellis:

I guess, yeah, so it's been taken seriously, isn't it and seeing past somebody is the same as any other, you know, diversity issue, in many ways. You know, you're a young girl who’s a hairdresser, what does she know about property and technical stuff, and, and all of that, and this is why it's important, I think, for people like you to be visible and to share what's possible. Interesting, you say, you know, a lot of people do their hairdressing and then change a bit later. And I guess that's, you know, a mix of just where we're at in our lives, we mature at different different rates, the opportunities that are open to us, and I certainly think the jobs that I had from digital YTS job on a reception in the Grove High School in Wrexham, years ago, would have knocked it down now. But that was one of my first proper jobs, then I was did temping, I worked in a car parts firm on the phone. I did absolutely everything. But those formative years and the skills I learned there that then helped me to deal with all of these complaints and claims are not being worried about dealing with people and juggling things. And, and I can see you wouldn't necessarily think, you know, hairdressing, how transferable is that to surveying, but it is because it's about people. Yeah, you know, people and brand and presentation, and that's really insightful. Let's just talk a bit about visibility, because I know you know, you mentioned social media and you've got your own business now. How did that journey to having your own business come about? And how do you feel about being in front of your business?

Zoe Baker:

I think, as I was in my assessments with Sava, I wasn't going to be able to achieve what I wanted in the employment that I was in. I just wouldn't have been able to do what I had what I wanted to do there, so it was definitely the best decision for me to set up my own and do all the things I wanted to do but do it for myself. But also, I had a lot of time For from, you probably know, I work with Garrett O'Hanlon and he was my mentor during my qualification, and also a business owner. And yeah, he was a real inspiration for me. Because most of what I've learned is from him, I'll be honest with you, but operationally, and social media and that sort of thing, that's all me, and I'm the Marketing, I’m the creative, I'm this, and technically, he is phenomenal surveyor, his knowledge is excellent. And the two of us work so well, because I've got the strengths, he's got those strengths, our weaknesses outweigh each other, we lift each other up where we need to, because we are fully aware that I'm stronger in some elements, he's stronger in others, and that's how, you know, that's how it works. And we've managed to now get to a stage where we're very, you know, confident in our responsibilities within the business, and we’re able to play to our strengths but also help each other out to keep learning and developing as individuals, because that is so important. You'd never know everything. And you know, when you're going into business and you become a business owner, it's really easy to be sucked into the thought process of, oh, well I know everything now, because I own my own business. And I have all the say, and nobody tells me what to do. And actually, that's the worst mindset you could get into?

Marion Ellis:

Did you have an idea of the way a surveying business should be run, the model if you like, or were you all for doing it all yourself? And the reason I ask this is, I come across a lot of people who, you know, might do the server course or whatever course. And I think it's fair to say, you know, they tend to be mature students, so they've got life experience, typically behind or have been entrepreneurs in different ways. But it's quite a risk for a lot of people to just go and set up on day one. And I sometimes see that they're out doing, you know, level two surveys on period properties that even I wouldn't have gone in. You know, there's, there's, there's all of that, but there's almost a and I know, some people have like a franchise option and do lots of things. But I look at that, and I think that is such a risk. And it is a risk on two fronts. Because one, you don't know yourself enough as a business owner, the way you want to, you know, be a surveyor, you've not had insight into the industry, which I think is really, really key. Also, then there's just your technical ability. And people have lots and lots of experience in, you know, lots of things, but you know, when you start out, yes, you can get the PII insurance, but it doesn't mean that that will continue, and then the complaint.

Zoe Baker:

It’s easiest time to get PII insurance, haha. Is Yeah,

Marion Ellis:

isAnd so I worry about people and I don't work with I used to, but I don't work with people straight out of the box. Yeah, if you like, and I don't work with people who are coached people who just want a business out of a box, either, they've got to have, you know, been in work for a little while, or running their own business, I've got a good understanding something about them, and particularly want to have a meaningful business, which is what I'm all about. And that was a really conscious decision for me, because those that just want to grow, just want to grow and do the numbers, really don't care about the people and then what it means to have a survey. And when you lose sight of that, that's when you get onto that treadmill, but they don't have their own the models out there. Because we don't share all of this, you know, information on and get to know each other as small business owners. All we see is, you know, the way to grow your business is to just start and then grow it and recruit. Whereas what you've done is you've, you've always sort of got your mentor in your business. And if I think about the number of surveyors who want to sell their business, and that's something that people come to me for coaching and things a lot, they want to exit their business. Well, it's a great thing to have someone to come in and to do that transition together. Because guess what, your business isn't really worth anything. And you're de-risking setting up for yourself and doing it the hard way. So it's interesting that you took that view, yeah, went on that journey.

Zoe Baker:

Yeah, it's really, really important. It's not easy to set up by yourself after you've just qualified and I'll be completely honest with you, I'm the same as you, Marian, I wouldn't take somebody on who's just come from training, they would need some work experience. And, you know, the reason for that is until you are out there doing it on a daily basis, you haven't put all of that, you know, learning to the test, really. And yeah, I mean, for me, the operational side of things, processes, the procedures, that was duck to water, I didn't have to think so. Whilst a lot of other service is wanting to settle by themselves would have to learn all of that, I didn't need to, because I knew what terms meant, I'd written terms I distributed, all of that sort of thing, operationally, I already knew what I wanted, so that there wasn't really a lot of time spent on that. Because, it was I want this, it's done. No, that's it. Because I've been in the office, and I've quoted people, I've sent the terms I've booked into jobs. I've managed to surveyors’ diaries, I've gone out with the surveyors and shadowed, I've invoiced people, I used to file reports back in the day when paper was a thing. By now, I don't have any paper in my business, because my nails were terrible with the binder.

Marion Ellis:

And that's in your mandate, but this is my business, I always have good nails, and good hair. You're right, though, because a lot of surveyors, you know, if they work from home for a corporate and then come over even, they've never really seen the engine room, if you like, or have to deal with some of the hiccups. And those are the fundamental things that you need to get right. That structure, how is someone going to pay you, what the terms are like, what are the processes, that's that all that practical customer experience side, when I come across surveyors, you know, they're working for themselves, and they're really wondering why they need an administrator, you know, PA, VA, and you just think, Oh, God, you're an expensive one. That's why you're a surveyor and your skills are elsewhere, but they don't necessarily see the value in it. So it's, so you've been able to come in, and then, you know, set that up, and then I guess it's then gives you the space to continue to learn with a job with that mentorship that you had.

Zoe Baker:

And it's important for me, because I've learned a lot about myself over, you know, the years that I've been in the business so far, and learn about myself, not just as a business owner, but as a surveyor. And understanding what my strengths and weaknesses are. And that, you know, this is I don't really like hierarchy, but I'm very much equal in my approach to everything, I despise hierarchy to be honest, and I think everyone's equal, and everybody has strengths and weaknesses, and we can all learn and develop and grow and flourish in our own ways. And I think, as my business does naturally grow, because I don't want it to be forced, I don't want it to be artificial, it's a natural growth with the right people around me at the right time. And I'll be treating everybody in exactly the same way, them coming in and showing me their strengths. And, you know, we can help them to work to the best of their ability and make sure that, you know, they wake up happy every day and want to go to work. Because, you know, that's really, really important.

Marion Ellis:

And you know, that's quite honestly unusual. It's actually quite intimidating. And for some people, you know, that there's comfort in coming in and knowing who the boss is, and what you need to do, but it's there. And this is where I think some surveying businesses as they grow, and people want to exit their business, as they need to get into a model of partnership. And we're all in this together, and how do we move forward? And we all, you know, contribute to orbit in in different ways? Because that's where you'll get most fulfillment, I think, absolutely. It's, you know, you belong. you own. If you look at, you know, you like John Lewis partnerships, and Arup and companies like that, you know, they're all invested in it, and so you've got that common purpose, and you talk about your vision and values and where you want your, when you're what everyone wants the business to be. And I guess that's something that I think gets quite lost with a lot of the larger corporates, because it does become about the income, the fees, the points. Yes, there's camaraderie, you know, absolutely. Yeah. That everyone's there for to do a job and to go home. And it's a very different culture, what have you what's sort of actually been quite challenging, setting up and, and running your own business?

Zoe Baker:

I'm dealing with stamp duty. During the pandemic, when I just set up, that was a challenge in itself. And so for me, personally, was managing my workload. And you would probably know, because we spoke about this on your course last year, or earlier this year, sorry. And, yes, managing your time is probably one of the hardest things that will never be perfect and will always need your constant attention, because it's so easy to let it slip and to become buried in your work and never stop. But I actually did a post about this on my LinkedIn the other day. It's so important to just step away for a minute and review your business from a bird's eye perspective, take a break, you know, don't say yes to everything. I'm terrible at saying yes to absolutely everything.

Marion Ellis:

How do you do that? How do you do that? What, what, what helps you step away?

Zoe Baker:

It’s more about diary management now. So I look at my diary, and instead of thinking, oh, I could fit something else in there I go, No, I'm going to block that time out, because it's available to me now. And it's sort of screaming at me saying, take this time. So I've been doing that a lot more recently and yeah, it's worked wonders, and I've got so much done that I've wanted to get done for so long, but I haven't had the time to do because I've been too busy saying yes to everything. So yeah, it's, I think, time management is a massive, massive part of being a business owner really.

Marion Ellis:

Yeah, I was. There are practical things that people can do, you know, like so for me, if people want to book in to cut off a call with me, I send them a link. And it's got my hours, that I'm prepared to speak to somebody about something. And so you've almost got like a digital gatekeeper, if you like, that gives you protected time. And allowing tech solutions and things like that to support you is all people. My lovely, PA, Alexia, she's great. You know, she puts my, my kids school holidays and things in, make sure I've got time clear, because I asked her to do that. So it's using your business to help support you and your life and with your time. But I read an article, see if I can, if I can find it, I'll put a link to it in the show notes. There was an article about a bit about millennials, and how they want the Earth, but it was, it was aimed at that. But it was saying that how people now go into work thinking you only work a few hours a day, you know, everything's got to be hunky dory, and we've got to do things differently. When actually, you know, we're owning a business setting it up, you do put in the graft, you do do the 55-60 hours a week. Yeah, and you can do that. And we know we can do that, you know, some of us have babies and not slept for a while, maybe three years, we both have both of mine. You know, when people are ill, when different things happen, we can do it, we can do hard things, we do the graft that we need to, but it's making sure that you replenish in some way. And that you get that perspective, because you can't do hard things all the time, but we don't give ourselves permission to do it. And whenever I speak to surveyors the first question is, are you busy? Is it going well? Are you busy? And I don't want to say no, not really? Not really, that's good. We need to find a different question and a different answer. But it's not. Part of it is saying I'm worth that time. And this is what I'm going to get to do. But it's again, it's sort of seen the picture as a whole isn't it? And putting things in place? Absolutely. Yeah.

Zoe Baker:

I think maybe instead of are you busy, it's what are you working on at the moment?

Marion Ellis:

Yeah, that's a good question. Yeah, at the moment, what what are you seeing that's really interesting.

Zoe Baker:

That could be, you know, what I'm working on not doing anything. And having a bit of time out, that's fine, as well. And I think that that has to be something that is accepted, and there is I think, in a lot of corporate working environments, that pressure to work, work, work, work, work, and I don't know whether that's because there's a lot of competition, you've got a lot of other people around you, and you're all striving and that you can burn out, you know.

Marion Ellis:

And I think that's the thing, fear drives people, the fear of the market crashing, the fear of there not being any work to come through, when you make decisions based on fear, they tend to be short lived, limiting. Now, you'll take that job for that low fee, you know, just in case nothing else comes through next week, and it's not just about manifesting work. I think that's a random courses and programs. Couple of years ago, I was at some money mindset event. And there was a lady sat next to me who was a horse whisperer, right? She talked to horses and animals. And she was struggling in our business. And we had this conversation, how do you get working? And she said, I just close my eyes and cross my fingers and hope, and then the phone rings and it works every single time. Maybe that's what I'll do, I'll manifest coaching clients on one of those surveys. It doesn't work. What she was doing, actually was marketing herself, talking to clients, getting repeat business, and that's where putting time and some money, but not necessarily, but investing that time in and on your business is absolutely crucial.

Zoe Baker:

Yes, and actually that sometimes you need it to be a bit quieter for your mind to be able to be more creative. And that's when your big ideas come into your mind, and your projects or whatever you want to work on, you know, actually, sometimes you need it to the phone to stop ringing for a minute, for you to be able to explore all of those other avenues that. Because actually, I've found that over the last couple of years, I have had so many ideas come into my head, and unless I write them down, they're not going to come back for a while, they probably will eventually, but who knows, you know, your mind gets filled with other things. And then you forget, and, you know, that's why actually, it's really, really important to go, actually, I've got a really good idea, I need to execute this, and I need to make time to make sure that I implement this, and not oh, another surveys come in, great, I'll go and do that. Because that idea could be what the building block you need for the challenges that they may be in the future.

Marion Ellis:

Absolutely. And I think that's your creative mind, isn't it that say, I need to explore this. And the thing is, if you don't, if you don't scratch that itch, then actually your job becomes really boring and frustrating. You're not having those other outlets. And it's important to plan, you know, the pandemic years,it's been difficult because it has just been flat out busy for most surveyors. But generally, knowing the residential sector, we have, you know, ebbs and flows of, you know, quiet over winter and Christmas, the New Year, boom, the wobble over Easter, and then quiet over the school holidays before September, October bangs if you like, so we can plan for when we're going to have time off, we can plan for when we're going to do a bit more marketing, attract and make connections and things. And so we can build that in, we have much more control over it, tha we think. Tell me about how you've been visible in your, in your business and your brand?

Zoe Baker:

So we have our social media pages, we've got Instagram’s our main page, to be honest, where we like to post helpful, quick, fiery videos for people that you know, for the public and also for other professionals if they like, and also we keep in contact with all of our clients on email, and we do competitions, and we keep engaging people, we've done charity donations, when was the Ukraine, we raised money. So every survey that instructed us they had the opportunity to donate the pounds to the British Red Cross. So we did that over a few months. So we do a lot of work with charities, and we engage with people on a personal level. Yes, we do have our Instagram to have a little shopfront and our website, of course, which, you know, is visible from Google, and a lot of people find us through Google. But also, it's important to look after the people that have paid you, not just the people that may pay us in the future.

Marion Ellis:

Absolutely. And the thing is, you know, as we're recording this, for some, it's starting to get a bit a bit quiet, to be worked out who our prime minister is, and all of that. And I can see surveyors going out there saying, I need to be on social media or, you know, where can I get leads from? It's got to be consistently planned, and it's not, you've got to have build up that, that presence because going on social media is no better than cold calling, if you've not, you know, built up a strong brand. Just to finish off, let's talk about Young Surveyor of the Year Award. You've entered the residential surveying.

Marion Ellis:

Tell me about what that means to you. This is your X Factor story.

Zoe Baker:

Oh, wow. I mean, it is the icing on the cake. You know, it's tough for anybody, you know, setting up their own business, but I have experienced numerous amounts of challenges in my career. And I've just kept, you know, my mission statement, my morals, and what I believe in consistent throughout the whole process, and I felt that, you know, now was the right time. For me, I've, you know, been in business a couple of years. All we've had is five star reviews, which I'm absolutely delighted about, every day I'm on tenterhooks, we can't get any less you know, this award just yeah, it gives me shivers talking about it, to be honest, to become a member of such a well respected institution, is I mean, my mum is just absolutely beside herself as you could imagine, and unfortunately lost my my dad when I was three years old. And they always remind me of how proud he would be of me right now. And they always say, I'm very like my dad as well, because he would be in an ice cream van one minute and roofing someone's house the next and then doing a sales job with a company called the next minute. They say that I'm very similar. So yeah, I think it really is just, you know, whether I win or not, just to be a finalist is and be recognised for what I've done. All the hard work that I've put in has finally been seen, people have seen it, they've, they've paid attention to it, and that, to me is winning,

Marion Ellis:

Honestly, it's gonna be such a good night. I know. You know, I've judged on the awards for the awards for a couple of years now. And this year, I did the mentor of the category, which is really interesting. And but when you look at all of the applications, it's why I did that podcast a little while ago about how to do the application, the thing that comes through is how heartfelt the applications are. And that's, that gives you that sense of truth, of meaning to our work, you can really see through the yes, I've done lots of money with, all the zeros and the contracts and bloody blah, you know, you just absolutely cut through so I can see, you know, just from what you shared to today, how your application would have got better got shortlisted. What would you do with it? If you won this award tomorrow night, what do you do with it?

Zoe Baker:

It's another stepping stone within my career, it's the confidence and you know, the, you need to build on that you don't just get the award and say, Oh, well, I want that. Great. You know, it's okay, I've won that, and what's my next step? You know, where do I go from here, and I think, I'd be looking at other awards, you know, maybe that we could apply for as a business, but also, as an individual, I would be looking to work up to the MRCs status at some point. And I think that having that award and using that would really help me on that journey as well.

Marion Ellis:

It's a massive confidence boost. I mean, I remember, when I got my fellowship, not, it's not the same, but the application to do the fellowship, there's no interview or award or anything, they don't even give you the little gold cards that we that you used to get now. But it's about telling the story of what you've done, but also future pacing it, and the opportunity of what surveying means to you and, and I think, you know, everybody who's nominated and takes part in the award, we’re role models. So that visibility piece, the more that we can share our stories, and that's what this podcast is all about, you know, the inspires people.

Zoe Baker:

Yeah, yeah. I want other women surveyors to, you know, look at my story and achievements and believe that they can do that as well, because everybody is capable. You just have to believe in yourself, and you can get there.

Marion Ellis:

And I think where we all need to work together is, it's one thing to be inspiring, but it's that gap between being motivated to actually do something about it, and what are the mechanisms? How do you get started as a surveyor and a trainee? How do you juggle the kids, while you're studying? How do you get from associate level to member RICS level and there's they're not going to us to that? ended on that note, but it's the gap, isn't it? And I'm always mindful of the gap. How do we bring that closer? So it's been lovely to talk to you today? I can't wait to see you tomorrow. And yeah, I'll speak to you again soon.

Zoe Baker:

Thanks, Marion.

About the Podcast

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The Surveyor Hub Podcast
For surveyors who love surveying

About your host

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Marion Ellis

As a chartered surveyor with a background in defect and valuation claims, Marion has first-hand experience of why we make mistakes and what we need to do to support ourselves to prevent them. A Fellow member of the RICS and qualified customer experience professional, Marion is passionate about empowering people. At Love Surveying, she provides the support, coaching and networking surveyors and property professionals need to handle career challenges confidently and navigate the right business journey for them. Founder of The Surveyor Hub podcast and community Marion also supports surveyors in business through her coaching and mentoring programmes. Marion is an Ambassador for Lionheart.