Paul Gillespie and James Gibbs had worked in the property industry for many years before striking out on their own by opening the doors of 172 High Street, Ruislip in Middlesex. Frustrated with working for large corporate agencies they decided to do something about it.
Paul said, “When you work for a large, national company you can feel like a number rather than a person. The pressure to hit sales targets meant a lot of clients were treated in much the same way, as figures on a monthly spreadsheet and not as people. “Both James and I felt this was totally the wrong way to run an agency so we set up Gibbs Gillespie.”
The venture, which has grown to 10 offices employing more than 160 staff and has won dozens of awards over the years, almost never got off the ground.
James explained, “We had originally planned to open in nearby Eastcote but we lost out on the premises at the very last minute when we were on our way to sign the contract. “We had to scramble around to find a place and then the Ruislip office was shown to us and we snapped it up. We put every penny we had into the business and even had to borrow the office’s furniture from a friend of ours.”
Paul continued, “When we started off it was just James and I with a part time secretary called Eleanor. For the first year we worked 12 hours, six days a week with one of us opening up on a Sunday.” James added, “The first 12 months were horrendously hard. The country was still in recession and the property market was really struggling. It was probably the worst time I can remember in my years in the industry.
“We survived because we both believed in treating people with honesty and warmth and giving them the best possible service and advice. Of course, in addition to that, we really did know how to sell and let property.”
On… and up
Having navigated their way out of a stormy first year the pair opened another office in Ruislip Manor in July 1994.
“The first three years in business we kept to our non-stop routine and only took one day off every fortnight. I certainly wouldn’t recommend it as you can burn yourself out,” says James.
“But we were driven to succeed and if you add hard work to knowledge and have a little luck along the way you’ll achieve whatever it is you put your mind to.”
Eight more office openings followed and the agency now has offices in Gerrards Cross, Harrow, Pinner, Northwood, Rickmansworth, Ruislip, Ruislip Manor, Uxbridge and representation at the Mayfair Office on Park Lane. This year there are further plans for expansion.
We survived because we both believed in treating people with honesty and warmth, giving them the best possible advice and service.
During those years Gibbs Gillespie has won more than a dozen high profile industry awards, however, both James and Paul believe their biggest achievement is keeping a high quality team and remaining hands on.
Paul says, “We always said when we started off that if we did eventually hire more staff we’d look after them and invest in their training and education.
“This is something we’ve been able to do and we’re incredibly proud of the calibre of people that work at Gibbs Gillespie.” James agreed, “We work in the property business but the way we treat our people and the way they treat our clients is the key to doing well.
“Our ethos is that good isn’t good enough, we want people to aim to be exceptional. I think our clients are always reassured that there’s an actual Mr Gibbs and Mr Gillespie still working daily within the business.”
And after a quarter of a century of working together in a highly pressurised and competitive industry, the pair has remained friends.
James said, “It’s a bit like a marriage. We have our disagreements but we’ve come a long way together since our early days in Ruislip having to borrow desks and chairs.
“It’s been a fun journey and there are still plenty of chapters to be written in the Gibbs Gillespie story.”