How Charles is driving his business forward
Director of Jones Robinson estate agents talks of his five-year plan for growth
It was a desire to not have the hassle of a car that kept breaking down that drove Charles Robinson towards a career in estate agency.
Now he heads up one of the most successful sales and lettings agencies in the area – Jones Robinson.
Brought up on a farm next to Watership Down, Charles admits he was “very privileged” to have enjoyed such an idyllic childhood.
He went to Hannington Primary School, which he sadly notes is no longer there, instead replaced by houses, before going to The Clere School, Burghclere.
After leaving there he went to Queen Mary’s College in Basingstoke to study for his A-levels. He took business studies, mathematics and statistics.
“Business studies is very broad and I loved that,” he says. “I liked figures, but I also liked science and history and geography too, but had to decide so chose those subjects.”
His first job after finishing college was in the accounts department at British Telecom (BT) in Newbury.
From there he joined Racal Vodac, which would become Vodafone a year later.
“At this point I had a very temperamental car, which kept breaking down and was proving very expensive,” he explains.
“The lady who sat next to me at work said her husband was an estate agent and he had a company car and I decided I wanted that too.
“So I went for a job with Day, Shergold & Herbert and I got it. I worked in the Newbury and Thatcham offices initially and then they were bought out by Hogg Robinson.
“I then went on to work in offices in Reading, Wallingford and Watlington.”
Charles was then promoted to regional director and moved to the Oxford office, before moving to Surrey as a director.
After several years with the company, he joined Countrywide, as managing director of its south of London business, Bairstow Eves.
Despite relocating to London, Charles had remained friends with the man who had initially given him his first job in estate agency, David Jones.
David kept trying to lure Charles back to West Berkshire, and as the millennium drew to a close, he succeeded.
“In 1991 David had set up on his own and he wanted me to go back to work with him,” Charles says. “I wanted to broaden my
horizons, but by 1998 I felt I had enough experience behind me to come home again.
“So we set up Jones Robinson in the very same building we are still in today.
“When we started we had six members of staff, now we have nearly 70, in five offices, across three counties – Berkshire, Oxfordshire and Wiltshire.
“We didn’t initially do property management and lettings either, but we are now more diverse and a market leader in four out of the five offices.
“Things have changed bconsiderably since the beginning.”
And although things are certainly looking bright at the moment, Charles admits there was a time when he became a bit disillusioned with the industry.
“Early on in my career there was a time when I was a bit disillusioned, but then a mentor of mine pointed out that moving house is the third most stressful thing people have to deal with – behind death and divorce,” he says.
“Considering that house sales happen because of death and divorce too I realised the service and help we offer can be really quite fulfilling.
“You get a real kick out of helping enable people to get on with their lives.”
But his role has changed over the years and he no longer gets to deal with customers, instead focussing on developing the people within his organisation.
“I absolutely love seeing the people grow in their competencies, skills and confidence,” he says. “It is incredibly fulfilling to see people reach their potential.
“This business does really, really well because of the people who are so dedicated to their jobs.
“It is a testament to the people who work here that we are continuing to grow our market share.
“This is all down to great customer service delivery.”
Another focus for Charles, who lives locally with his wife and, who together have five children, is his five-year plan for Jones Robinson.
“I would hope to have made three more acquisitions in the next five years,” he says. “I am also looking at growing the team by 25+ people in the current business in that time.”
But it isn’t just business growth that’s important to Jones Robinson.
“We really like getting involved in the community,” Charles explains. “Giving back is very important to us all.
“We are currently in training for the Three Peaks Challenge.
“This year our adopted charities are Newbury Cancer Care and Julia’s House.
“In the past we have supported West Berkshire Dementia Association and The Rosemary Appeal.
“We hold race nights, rounders matches, quiz nights and a Come Dine with Me event in our boardroom.
“We also take part in external events, such as a bike ride along the Kennet and Avon Canal from Devizes. It is all great fun.”
Having already won a Best in Business award, Jones Robinson now also continues to support the Newbury Weekly News’ annual business awards as a category sponsor.
Outside of work Charles still finds time for some play too.
He says he enjoys keeping fit, particularly by off-road cycling, and gardening, which means he can indulge his loves of being outside and nature.
“In the end I got my company car too, but I had to earn it,” he adds. “It was worth it though. This is a brilliant business and I love it.”