Shaper: Andrew Dunn

Show aired on 17th November 2017

Transcript

Elliot Moss
That was Nat King Cole with Let There Be Love. Good morning, this is Jazz Shapers here on Jazz FM with me, Elliot Moss. Hello, and thank you very for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you can hear the very best of the people shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul, and alongside them we bring someone who is shaping the world of business, doing extraordinary things in their neck of the woods. My Business Shaper today, I am very pleased to say, is Andrew Dunn, he is the co-founder and director of Finchatton, and Finchatton are a property developing and design business doing really uber, super lovely things in the world of property. You are going to be hearing all about how Andrew is doing what he does. In addition to hearing from Andrew you will be hearing from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya, some words of advice for your business and on top of that, I promise you we have got a great mix of music from the shapers of jazz, blues and soul including today Van Morrison, Sam Cooke and this from Zara McFarlane.

That was Zara McFarlane with the relaxed Peace Begins Within. Andrew Dunn is my Business Shaper today here on Jazz Shapers as I billed earlier; co-founder and director of Finchatton. They are property developers and designers and they do some, as I said, some very lovely things, high end things and not just in this country either and Andrew is the co-founder. Thank you very much for joining.

Andrew Dunn
Elliot, great to see you, thanks for having us on the show today.

Elliot Moss
Let’s go a little bit, start at the beginning, Finchatton, tell me what you do, a better way of describing it than I have?

Andrew Dunn
Yes, so Finchatton was co-founded by Alex and myself in 2002. Alex was an old buddy of mine from school and we, I worked as a developer straight out of university and was doing it for a few years and then after a few years I got together with Alex and said hey this is a great idea, why don’t we do this on our own, and we… I convinced him one weekend to set up this business and we did and that was eighteen odd years ago now. We are, we are two businesses, we are a developer and we are a design business. So, our development business is, we acquire real estate, initially in London but we have gone further afield over recent years. We acquire, design, develop and then ultimately sell. We run most of the projects with our in-house team and we have done, yeah a hundred and fifty odd properties over the last eighteen years, and then we have a private client business which is a fantastic business which we love where we do the same but we do it for people. So Elliot, for example, you buy a house you might come to me and say I have bought this property what can we do with it and we would then plan it for you and say, well we can do this, we can maybe re-alter, remodel, the interior, we can go out the back, we can, you know, just reshape it and then we can do the whole level of interior design for you as well but what’s great about us is we are the, we are the kind of the one stop shop. Dare I say, you know, you will only deal with one person in our firm and we entrust it so you don’t have to deal with all the aggravation which you might have in London or party wall surveyors and the contractors and all the kind of grief that people, you know who are very time poor and, and have lots to do in their daily business kind of stuff they suffer with.

Elliot Moss
Now, that all makes perfect sense and when I, when I decide to build my twenty five metre swimming pool underneath my house you are the people to go to.

Andrew Dunn
I am your guy.

Elliot Moss
Yeah. I won’t be very popular with Camden but that’s a different story. And actually I haven’t got enough room but maybe next time. Going back to, to before you just set up the business, those couple of years I believe you did a Politics and Sociology Degree. I mean, nice degree to do, not much to do with the world of property. Just tell me how that happened, how you switch from that world, and I did a Politics Degree and have done all sorts of different things as well so I am not casting aspersions over here, but where did the property come in and why then did you decide to do your own thing.

Andrew Dunn
Yes, so I studied Politics and Sociology at University of Exeter which I loved. I studied actually Politics for A-Level at school as well so I was always quite interested in politics but I think then when I left university I, firstly I had no money, and I slowly… I had always been fortunate in that I travelled a lot with my family, we grew up in Scotland originally, as you and I discussed earlier, then we spent some time in the US and then a little bit of time in Asia and I always loved buildings as well so I had always grown up thinking well I love kind of politics and finance but at the same time I really like building and creative, so I am very much on the creative side of the business. And by pure chance when I came to London I moved in with my sister because I had nowhere to stay and she had just bought an apartment with her boyfriend at the time, from a developer and there were very, there were quite a few issues with it, some things didn’t work and long story short, she said to me if you fix all these things in my apartment I am not going to charge you too much rent so I annoyed probably this guy massively because I called him five times a day to get it fixed, I had nothing else to do and it was part of the deal with my sister, and then, probably three or four months later he said I am actually looking for some good guys, why don’t you come and join me. My friends were all going into the City and wearing their suits and studying law or going into finance or politics or whatever I then was the guy driving the white transit van which I absolutely loved and it was just fantastic. And I started off, you know, I would be driving to Milton Keynes one day to pick up some marble, then I’d be working site with the sparks and the plumbers just learning about construction so I thought, and I did this with him for, yeah, five odd years, five odd years I did that.

Elliot Moss
Find out more about how Andrew Dunn took his white transit van and converted into something a little bit more salubrious, although nothing wrong with a white transit van either. Time for some more music in the meantime though before we go back to Andrew. It’s Astrud Gilberto with Take Me to Aruanda.

That was Astrud Gilberto with Take Me to Aruanda. Andrew Dunn is my Business Shaper today, co-founder and director of Finchatton and they are the property developer and design business and we were hearing earlier, Andrew, how the world of going up and down the motorway to Milton Keynes was more attractive to you than, than the friends that were going into the world of finance and the law and whatever else. In those early years before Finchatton actually happened, did you mind working for someone else? I mean, was there a sense that you had to be your own boss, or was it just a natural evolution? I am interested in when you really said, you know what, we are going to do something, because a lot of people have talent but they are happy working for somebody else, happy being a wingman. Why were you not happy being a wingman?

Andrew Dunn
Yeah, that’s a really interesting question and I think it really stems from the fact that I come from a family of entrepreneurs, that’s really where it stems… My father was self-made and he built up his own business in a completely different sector to me, and he was always the one saying, you know you have to work with people obviously in the early years, you can understand which direction you want to go, but he was always the one guiding me saying you know, if you can and you have the opportunity, you should try and do your own thing and control your destiny. Obviously, me moving into the creative world it gives you that great opportunity to do it and often you almost need to do it on your own because you might have a vision to go down one track whereas if you work for someone you might just be kind of controlled and put into that kind of pigeon hole to do what they want to do.

Elliot Moss
You mentioned earlier that you just loved buildings and that sense of place. Did you, I mean why did that become the foremost thing that became the focus of the business because it could have been something else creative, why do you think you were so attracted to, to that in particular?

Andrew Dunn
I think probably what… I am actually a traditionalist and the gentleman that I worked for, it was a small development company, what they did is they have specialised in restoring old buildings, and if you look at the Finchatton career and what we have achieved, the majority of the buildings we have worked on have been those traditional buildings, and the greatest project that we are doing at the moment is our big flagship in Grosvenor Square, and what we are doing there is effectively we are restoring it back, we’ve kept all the facades, and we are restoring it back to how it was built in the, in its originality. And I think, for so many buildings and developments across the UK, everyone feels that we have to go through this big modern revolution and build new glass towers, whereas I actually, personally, love the traditional form and why England is what it is and why it’s great and why it’s so beautiful. A bit like when you go to Paris you can walk along in Paris and go, you stand back and look at these spectacular buildings. In Italy, you know, all over the world, so I am, that was kind of the reason which kept me into it, so I got the flavour of doing it with him and I thought well we should just continue on this journey, this is great.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for much more from my Business Shaper today, that’s Andrew Dunn, co-founder and director of Finchatton. Latest travel though in a couple of minutes and before that some words of wisdom from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss. Every Saturday I am very lucky, I get to meet someone who is shaping the world of business, doing their own thing, being independent and expressing themselves in a way that makes sense to them and if you would like to listen to any of the previous guests, go into iTunes, put in the words ‘jazz’ and ‘shapers’ and you will find a whole bunch there. CityAM.com as a destination, as is British Airways the next time you are flying, in the High Life section. Today, Andrew Dunn is my Business Shaper and if you were listening earlier you will know that he is the co-founder and director of Finchatton, they are property developers and designers and they are, well, traditionalists at heart is one part of it, we were just talking about, Andrew, but people that love making things look beautiful and, I imagine, functionally working as well, I mean that is another big part of design isn’t it. You were talking about one of your flagship projects at the moment which is Twenty Grosvenor Square, is that right?

Andrew Dunn
Twenty Grosvenor Square, yes. Correct.

Elliot Moss
Twenty Grosvenor Square. You are in other places around the world and you can tell me if this is right: Antigua, Los Angeles, Lugano, Moscow, St Tropez. I imagine that spans both sides of the business? There’s private stuff going on there as well as the bigger things. Do you personally get involved in all of them?

Andrew Dunn
Yeah I do, so I am very much on the creative side and the operation side so I do spend probably a bit too much time on an airplane but, you know, it’s great, we were very fortunate to have the opportunity to then work in these far-flung places. And it’s great for my team, it keeps them really invigorated if suddenly I have to dispatch a couple of the team out to the Caribbean or to the US or into Asia, you know, it’s very, and that’s what’s really important in design is keep the creativity and keep seeing things, keep innovating. The best people that I have always found who, certainly who work for us on the creative side, are the ones who just travel all the time. Because you will see something and think how can I apply that maybe to something that we are doing in London or something we are doing in Los Angeles or wherever.

Elliot Moss
And do you take notes when you travel? I mean, do you do that stuff because I remember interviewing Robert Tateossian, the guy who makes the lovely cufflinks and other jewellery…

Andrew Dunn
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
…and he was saying literally he has a scribble, he goes to a market somewhere in Morocco, he makes a note. Is that what you are doing, what your team are doing?

Andrew Dunn
Yeah, I mean I am very into photography so I am, that’s been one of the great things about iPhones is you can take anything, you can just snap happily wherever you travel and you can zoom in and upload it to a Dropbox link and send it home so, yeah, I do take, not so much notes, more kind of photographic kind of evidence of when I travel and what we see.

Elliot Moss
I mean, here we are talking eighteen years later or so about this business and you have a team, as you said. Is it, do you sometimes go how did this happen? I was…

Andrew Dunn
I do. All the time.

Elliot Moss
Do you? And if so, what is, is it just this sense of, is a thrill that you get from that or is it a sense of nervousness or is it a bit of both?

Andrew Dunn
I think it’s a bit of both. You know, we are a team of about sixty now and I think when the first few years when Alex and I founded the business we were only, there was the two of us and then we had a PA and then we started hiring our creative team but I think for the first ten years the max we went up to was about twenty/twenty five. But you just, you know, with all these companies and you control them and you put all the right controls in place, they just grow organically, because suddenly you get a bigger project it requires more architects or more project management or more interior design, you know, whatever and it’s quite strange, but I do sometimes walk in the office and I think, wow how did we get this big?

Elliot Moss
And you like managing people it feels like to me, you look like you are kind of a people person as they say. Is that fair?

Andrew Dunn
Yeah, I think I am a people person. I like to walk the office all the time and just chat to people, see what are they doing, what projects are they working on, and also offer my kind of thoughts on, you know, I was in Los Angeles last week and I saw some interesting things in this particular hotel so I came back and I have downloaded it to a client, downloaded it to one of my team who is working on this house for a client in Holland Park and said you know we should think about this because I know they really like their garden and I saw this particular thing. I think that’s just, you know I walk it all the time, we are really engaging, a very flat structure at Finchatton, there’s no real massive hierarchy.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me for more from Andrew Dunn, my Business Shaper today. Time for some more music right now, this is Van Morrison with Going Down to Monte Carlo.

That was Van Morrison with Going Down to Monte Carlo. Andrew Dunn is talking to me today about travelling all round the world, lucky you, as he purveys his burgeoning empire across the world of different projects and, Andrew, we were talking about the team at Finchatton. In terms of culture, how do you ensure that a) you hire the right people and b) you keep the right people, is there, is it just instinctive, it strikes me that you know what you are looking for and that if it’s not right you would probably say it’s not right, but is there a methodology to what you do?

Andrew Dunn
So one of my earlier investors back in the day said to me, and he made it very clear, he said that the key to any success of any business is the people within it and I think what we’ve been so lucky, I like to think that I am probably quite a good judge of character, but we employ now just a completely massive range of different people from different cultures, different talents, different skill sets. I think when you have all that and you fuse them all together you can really create this big surge of creative energy and some people will have a view on something but then you can throw it over and apply it to something else and that’s the key but I think it is really instinctive. We’ve had a great success with keeping people, we look after them well, we are a family and it’s a bit of a cliché but we are, we are a team, we work together, we play together, there’s no, there’s no them and us, it’s just all in the mix together, and that’s been the success of keeping it all together.

Elliot Moss
On the other side of it, over the years, have there been times when you have gone to your partner, Alex, you know what this just isn’t working, we need to do something different, we need to stop, we need to rethink, I mean genuinely big issues that you faced?

Andrew Dunn
I think luckily not, I think the joy of when you work with someone like Alex, when we’ve known each other since we were twelve years old, we’ve just done everything together and we’d stand next to each other for the last eighteen years so there’s nothing we don’t know about each other, we’ve seen each other grow up, we’ve seen each other through girlfriends, we’re both married now, we both have kids, we’ve just seen it all and I think there’s been times, you know, in downturns we’ve thought wow you know maybe we should pivot the business into something else or look at it but I think it’s always come back to me as why would you spend all this time working really, really hard, very long hours, travelling, perfecting as much as you can of what you do to then kind of go and do something else. I always find it interesting, I was speaking to a friend of mine the other day who was telling me about some of his, he’s a private wealth manager, and some of his clients who sell their businesses to they build up these businesses over thirty years, they do phenomenally well and then they sell them and then suddenly they give all the proceeds to someone who they don’t know to go and invest in an asset class they don’t understand, and you see it time and time again and I think that’s quite extraordinary. The great thing about real estate, you can just keep doing it forever, there’s always going to be something to do and that’s the joy of it all.

Elliot Moss
Make sure you stay with me for my final chat with Andrew Dunn, my Business Shaper today and find out how he is just going to go on forever because as you said property is like that. Plus we will be playing a track from Bobby Womack. That’s coming up after the latest traffic and travel here on Jazz FM.

Bobby Womack with Across 110th Street. Andrew Dunn is my Business Shaper for a little longer here on Jazz FM and we have been talking about all sorts of things, longevity of property, how important people are in a business. My sense is, and you kind of alluded to it on the money front, the money must be important, it’s a biproduct of success, but it isn’t the thing that drives you, is that a fair comment?

Andrew Dunn
Yeah, I would say it is absolutely fair. I mean obviously you do it because we all have liabilities now, I have three children and you know all the things that you need to do…

Elliot Moss
I’ll tell them you said that. They’re just… you, you three, you are liabilities.

Andrew Dunn
No listen, that’s obviously important to do things you want to do but I think the joy is I like to reinvest a lot of the proceeds, well the majority of the proceeds, back in the business because we want to grow the business and do interesting fun projects. And I think to do that you have to keep growing and there are times, we’ve all had times, especially in ‘08/’09 you know where we’ve had to really rein it all in and tighten our belts. I am very proud of the fact I have never had to – touch wood – scale the business back too much, we always keep the reserve so we are ready to go but, yeah, I don’t think, we do it all for the love of it. I can definitely say that over the last eighteen years there has only been a handful of days where I’ve thought I just don’t want to go to the office today because there is always a new challenge and there’s al… it’s such a people business so we, it also makes you very emotionally mature because you end up dealing with lots of different people from the multitude of nationalities and you have to kind of understand them and respond to them and you kind of understand where they are coming from and kind of alleviate any concerns they might have and that’s, that’s very interesting so you just meet these massively diverse group of people and that’s really fascinating.

Elliot Moss
The other thing I imagine within this connected to the money then, is therefore that you are not looking and you kind of said it before, that you are not looking for that day where you get X and you stop because to you, you are still enjoying it and that doesn’t feel like a good destination. Will there ever be a time though, I mean, if we had this conversation in fifteen/twenty years it’s possible you might say you know what I have been doing this enough and it is time to take stock.

Andrew Dunn
I actually think, I am not sure about that because I see a lot of people kind of they get to a certain point and they build their businesses up and they sell them and then they… but then they think what are they going to do now? I think, obviously, we may slow down, I have lots of hobbies and I love spending time with my children but I think the great thing about real estate you can, you can, as I said briefly earlier, you can pivot into a different thing, we might, I’d love to move a bit forward now, I am really fascinated by the hotel space, I think this huge opportunity is within the hotel sector. A lot of hotels are wearing out, they are quite old, I think the hole model potentially is broken because it’s just so expensive and there are too many people within so I think the design element, you know people love to travel, new countries are opening up, there’s new opportunities globally to look at. Whether we do that, whether we continue our residential business across or whether we look at commercial, there’s always something new and there’s always a new challenge and that’s what’s interesting and that’s I think will keep us going.

Elliot Moss
Capital Rise, this business that you’ve invested in, this is basically making property investment accessible to a much smaller level of investor. That was an opportunity that was brought to you and then you just said you know what, this feels right or how did that work?

Andrew Dunn
You know, it wasn’t, it was an opportunity that actually Alex rang me up one weekend and said I’ve got this great idea. I said okay what is it, let’s have a discussion and Capital Rise is a crowd funding platform where it connects the borrower with the individual. The joy of it is, and the reason why we came up with it was, there are so many people who wanted to, they saw our business and they’d asked us for many, many years, we’d love to invest with you, this is an interesting business, we like what you do because it’s prime, it’s not maybe a shed in some area, it’s a beautiful flat in Eaton Square but it was always difficult and, you know, people couldn’t really get access to these investments so we thought we would open this right up and then obviously the crowdfunding space has allowed it to do it, has allowed us to do that where you can invest anything from £1,000 to £100,000 in a specific, direct project. So rather than giving your investments to a fund manager who then might invest it in a fund which might then buy an asset which you don’t know what’s going on, you can go onto the platform, either through your mobile device or through your pc and you can see your direct investment of what you are investing in, so you might say I am going to invest £1,000 directly into that development in Eaton Square or Grosvenor Square or wherever it may be within prime London and you can see and understand it.

Elliot Moss
It’s been really great talking to you, Andrew, thank you for your time today. Good luck. It feels like you are going to be doing this for quite a while, probably forever, actually, in a nice way. Just before I let you go though, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Andrew Dunn
Thank you, Elliot. My song choice today is Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong with Summertime.

Elliot Moss
Here it is, just for you.

That was Ella Fitzgerald singing Summertime with Louis Armstrong, the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Andrew Dunn. Somebody who believed in the importance of hiring the right people, a simple thing to say but not easy to deliver. Embracing diversity, something else that Andrew talked about, loving the fact that people are from different places with different ideas. A protection of what is fabulous about a building and ensuring that buildings look their traditional best, something else that Andrew talked about. And, finally, someone that’s in it for the long haul, someone who really loves what he does in terms of looking after and developing property. Really, really good stuff. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday here on Jazz FM at 9.00am. In the meantime though stay with us, coming up next it’s Nigel Williams.

Andrew Dunn

Andrew Dunn studied Politics and Sociology at Exeter University, graduating in 1999. Following this, he worked for a central London residential company before co-founding luxury property design and development firm Finchatton with Alex Michelin in 2001.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

We acquire, design, develop and then ultimately sell.

My friends were all going into the City and wearing their suits and studying law or going into finance or politics or whatever… I was the guy driving the white transit van, which I absolutely loved.

“I would be driving to Milton Keynes one day to pick up some marble, then I’d be working site with the sparks and the plumbers just learning about construction.”

My father was self-made and he built up his own business in a completely different sector to me… he was always the one guiding me, saying if you can and you have the opportunity, you should try and do your own thing and control your destiny.

The greatest project that we are doing at the moment is our big flagship in Grosvenor Square. What we are doing there is effectively restoring it back, we’ve kept all the facades, and we are restoring it back to how it was built.

For so many buildings and developments across the UK, everyone feels that we have to go through this big modern revolution and build new glass towers, whereas I actually, personally, love the traditional form.

The best people that I have always found, certainly who work for us on the creative side, are the ones who just travel all the time. Because you will see something and think how can I apply that maybe to something that we are doing in London.

We employ now just a completely massive range of different people from different cultures, different talents, different skill sets. I think when you have all that and you fuse them all together you can really create this big surge of creative energy.

I can definitely say that over the last eighteen years there have only been a handful of days where I’ve thought I just don’t want to go to the office today.