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Mentioned in this Article:
Ross Ellis

Ross Ellis
East Side Office

Overseas Property Professional

Getting Away From It All

Guy King

In the first of a two-part focus, Guy King asks how the industry professional lets off steam

I met a woman the other day whose little girl didn’t recognize her when she went to pick her up from school, while another friend told me she sees a shrink regularly to discuss her guilt at not spending more time with her son. It made me wonder how many workaholics I knew in the overseas property industry. So I sent a few emails. I made a few calls. And I realized there lots, lots, lots.

“Tell me about your work-life balance.” That’s all I had to ask. While ‘work-life balance” is a highly irritating phrase, everyone knew what I wanted to know. I started in Manhattan, home of Sex and The City, the TV programmed educated to career woman who squeeze men into their lives now and again.

My contact was Ross Ellis of Halstead Property, a real estate broker and dashing career woman who, just like Sarah Jessica Parker, is still on the lookout for Mr. Right. “Friday nights I religiously keep free for an extremely luxurious pedicure and manicure and Cosmopolitan cocktail at my favorite nail salon says Ellis. I don’t cook unless I am expecting company. It’s easier to go out to dinner with friends. Saturdays I take off completely.”

Ellis is super busy, running the charity Love Our Children USA as well. “At work, when things are not going well I stop for a chocolate break and think of Friday evening. A good piece of chocolate always does the trick.”

Rupert Bates of Globespan Meda is another glamorous property professional who claims to have mastered the demands of the modern corporate world. “I’ve got the work-life balance right: I’m a workaholic and an alcoholic,” he jokes. You know you have the balance wrong when the first noise-action combination your baby makes is to put anything resembling a phone to his ear and guggle: “hell-o?”
A family affair?
But Bates, who met his wife Kelly at work, is onto something here – family firms work well. John Howell, senior partner at the International Law Partnership can testify to that:”What work-life balance? I am a workaholic and I have been ever since I started my law firm nearly 30 years ago. What is wrong with that? I work on the principal that a change is as good as a rest – if I work five days in the office, then go away to do an exhibition at the weekend, it is completely different.
“The reason I am not divorced is that I have found a way of getting my wife involved in all of my activities. She travels with me and takes a full part in the administration and delivery of the firm’s services.
We can do this because we don’t have children. Preserving the balance with children must be a completely different story.”

Trisha Mason has children and her answer is to get them involved too. She has managed two companies: whilst running her kidswear business her children were models and swept the factory floors after school, her mother did the accounts and her father held fort when she was abroad; as MC of the VEF Group, her son heads it Validus divisions, her daughter manages the website and her parents (now in their 80’s) pitch in with strong tea and moral support.

During a hectic period, one property professional took some time off to think through how to best resolve a situation. His de-stressing techniques included
smoking, neuro-linguistic programming and wearing flip-flops.

“A good family support system is helpful but it is suicidal to rely on this,“ says Bhavi Bhudia of Elite International Real Estate. “I learnt that everyone who cares about you will want to help but they may have best intentions with an empty toolbox” which always leads to frustration especially when you have the same conversation over and over again. Now my family is there in body but keep opinions to themselves unless I specifically ask for their business advice.”

Rather than travel with his parents on a recent flight, Allistair Powell of 7CI booked them on a different carrier, “in case one flight went down” – which was only in part true. What he really needed was the headspace that solo long-haul flights provide him with. He’s the type of person who reacts to pressure by going quiet and thoughtful, rather than loud and bossy.

During a hectic period at the start of the summer, he took two days off to stay at home and to think things through how to best resolve how to best resolve a situation. His other de-stressing techniques include smoking cigarettes, neuro-linguistic programming and wearing flip-flops in the office, which certainly set the 25-year-old apart from other CEOs in the formal skyscraper environment of London’s Canary Wharf.

Finally (and I love this one), Powell told me that although often working late, when it comes to the morning he never sets an alarm clock, preferring to wake naturally of his own accord.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

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