News on the Block talks to Simon Crewe, Managing Director of Millstream Management Services (MMS), the leading provider of retirement housing management services in the UK.
1. What inspired you to get involved in the retirement sector?
There is no denying it is a rapidly growing sector and it is one where the customer’s needs really do have to come first. Where will our rapidly growing older population live as they get older, how will we look after them and how can we help them enjoy an active and independent lifestyle? All these are questions we need to be asking, and that is what inspires me to want to build a business that puts retirees’ needs first.
2. How long have you been working in the sector and what roles have you held?
I started my career with Goldsborough, specialising in the management of retirement and assisted living care developments. This evolved into the creation of Goldsborough Estates, part of Bupa UK, where I spent 25 years, latterly as Managing Director. I was appointed Managing Director of Millstream Management Services in June 2015. Since then the business has grown from managing 4,382 retirement properties to over 5,859 across 149 developments nationwide. We provide our services to c6,600 people on a daily basis and employ 187 people.
3. What makes MMS different from other property managers?
At MMS we deal exclusively in retirement living apartments, which is a niche sector requiring a highly specialist approach. It takes years of experience to amass the knowledge and awareness of the trends that are driving UK retirement housing and we have been doing it for over a decade. To be successful in the retirement living sector it is important to create a lifestyle for owners to enjoy, with regular social events and a sense of community at the heart of each development. All our developments are manned by a Lodge Manager who helps with this, putting the wellbeing and happiness of our customers at the heart of everything we do.
4. What makes you confident you can achieve your growth plans over the coming years?
We have plans to double the size of the business over the next three years, and we will be moving into a new 19,500 sq ft head office in Ringwood in 2018. This underlines our confidence in the business and how ambitious we are for the future.
There are plenty of strong growth drivers for our sector. The UK has a rapidly ageing population, new specialist housing is being built to accommodate them in ever greater numbers and many of these developments will be in need of an experienced management company to provide exceptional levels of service.
Sadly there are a lot of existing retirement living developments not being managed as well as they could be. We therefore seeing plenty of demand for them to bring in a new manager, like us, who will listen to owners and deliver a more efficient service that puts their needs first.
5. How close is your relationship with Churchill Retirement Living?
We work closely with Churchill Retirement Living to manage their entire estate of 117 retirement properties, including every new one that is built each year, so it is a very good relationship. However, they are far from our only customer. We also work with developers new to the retirement living market looking for pre-planning consultancy, estate agency and management services, as well as with people looking to explore Rights to Manage opportunities. We presently manage properties for large and small developers, Housing Associations, Right to Manage (RTM) companies, Residents Management companies (RMC's) and investors.
6. What has been the highlight of your professional career so far?
As I have had a varied and successful career, I am pleased there have been many. Being appointed Chairman of the Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) and working with the Board during a phase of significant growth in membership is a stand out moment.
Attending Bupa’s Healthcare Executive Programme (HEP) meant I worked with a wide range of highly qualified professionals and learnt a significant amount about business and healthcare across the globe. I also had the opportunity to spend time in Madrid.
Millstream Management Services is a successful, well-respected business and the way we operate was recognised at the EAC Awards in 2017. We achieved:
- Gold for Brindley Lodge, Sale
- Silver for Grange Lodge, Portishead
- Highly Commended at six others
These are important awards, as they are voted for by our customers and their relatives.
We also achieved a “Best Companies” 2 star accreditation, representing “Outstanding” in our first year of entry. And of course I’m very proud that we’ve been recognised in the NOTB Property Management Awards too in recent years.
7. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
There is not just one thing I have learned there are many:
- Be passionate about what you do
- Little things matter
- You lean more from actively listening than you do from speaking
- Stay focused on priorities and the areas you can have the biggest impact
- Take time to recharge in order to be effective at work
8. How do you relax when you’re not working?
When not at work I like spending time with my family and friends. Walking in the Yorkshire Dales and Lake District and listening to rock music. I am teaching myself guitar and have recently started taking dancing lessons. During the summer months, I enjoy watching my three sons playing cricket.