Northern Insight Interviews Damiano Rea
The lovely team at Northern Insight have included a two page interview with on Damiano Rea, director of Heaton Property:
Online magazine: https://goo.gl/RBgUPG
What were your career ambitions growing up ?
I wanted to be a musician. We had a piano at home which I used to batter away at while my father manfully resisted the temptation to slam the lid down on my fingers. My parents owned a restaurant and Johnny Taws, a famous band leader in his day, would play for our customers. I would play the piano and double bass.
Can you briefly outline your career path for the readers ?
My early career could fairly be described as ‘chequered’. I got a place at Loughborough University to study chemistry. That lasted eight whole weeks. I returned to Newcastle to play a gig at the Archer pub and a stranger approached me after the gig to offer me a contract. I assumed this was a joke until a few days later the contract appeared from a company in Switzerland. Until 2001 I toured Europe in the summer and played in South Africa in the winter. For a young man with no responsibilities this was as good as it gets. I still dig out the old photographs to quietly mourn my long curly hair and life on the road. I eventually became musical director, excellent grounding for human resource issues since musicians invented the term ‘Prima Donna’. When I returned to Newcastle to settle down I bought a property. My parents and an uncle owned property as did family friends. None of us were happy with the managing agents at the time so I thought “I can do that. How hard can it be?” Famous last words which still occasionally haunt me.
Can you describe a typical day in the life of Damiano Rea ?
If there were typical days, I would get bored. I could be office based, talking to tenants and landlords in the morning then in a hard hat talking to surveyors, structural engineers and builders about a refurbishment in the afternoon. Some days I travel to London to discuss new legislation with our legal experts. A lot of my time is spent keeping abreast of new legislation; legal and financial then determining how it will impact upon our landlords and tenants. Other days I go out with our maintenance teams to find out first-hand what challenges they face. Our block management division throws up an entirely different set of challenges since I do not have one owner of the property, I could have sixty. There really is no typical day.
What are you currently working on?
There are currently a lot of big changes in our industry as ever tighter regulation takes hold. Most of the new regulation is well meaning and is being put in place to protect tenants but it is our job to ensure our landlords are fully compliant and successful into the future. Our block management division is expanding and we are taking on some big instructions. The division took a year to setup because I needed to be completely familiar with the complex legislation governing block management, some of which probably derives from Magna Carta. In addition, I am always focussed on the small details of our business that collectively add up to excellent customer service. It is nice to win awards as recognition for our customer service but laurels are not for resting on.
What is your greatest business achievement to date?
Winning at the Sunday Times Letting Agency of the Year Awards three years in a row, most recently a gold award in the National Property Management category .
What is the best piece of business advice you have been given?
“In this world nothing is certain, except death and taxes so get your priorities straight and pay your taxes on time”
Who are your heroes in and out of business ?
My heroes are not the big names that are usually trotted out when that question is asked. My heroes are the catalysts. The people who quietly inspire and keep the show on the road. A good example would be the late Joe Sample who founded and held together The Crusaders then went on to a successful career as a producer, quietly inspiring others. In my business I could say all our staffs are heroes but I can already hear the “oh PLEASE” from readers so I will single out our interior designer and decorator Holly. Holly has carved out a career in a tough, male dominated sector and she arrives for work on a monster motorcycle. What’s not to admire in a professional decorator who turns up in leathers and a crash helmet?
Away from the desk how do you like to relax ?
Boisterous six and two year old children mean ‘relax’ is a relative term. I love to spend time with my wife and extended family here in Newcastle. One of the highlights of our year is an annual visit to my father’s home village of Arpino in Italy where over three hundred families share my surname. I love cooking and since my family originally came from Italy it goes without saying that I am an excellent chef who could teach Marco Pierre White a thing or two. Music still plays a big part in my life but these days I am more the gifted amateur.
Where do you see your business in ten years?
The temptation with any successful small business is to expand. In our case this would mean opening offices in other cities to replicate what we do here in Newcastle. Obviously I have explored this avenue but decided I do not want to spend my life on motorways or managing managers. My work-life balance is very important to me to the extent I would sacrifice potential riches if that meant spending time away from my family. So in ten years’ time I expect we will have expanded organically but retained the focus on individual customer care that has got us to where we are today. There will be new challenges and opportunities that we cannot foresee today. For example, ten years ago I did not foresee our block management division. Most important, I hope in ten years I will still enjoy the job I love as much as I do today.
How would you like to be remembered?
After the citizens of Newcastle have forgiven me for my massive funeral cortege gridlocking the town I would like to be remembered for the best wake in living memory. Then I would like people to remember that memories may be dear but life is for the living.