The Fairer Chief Execs

Two female entrepreneurs reveal how they have made it in the property business, and Kevin McCabe, a judge in the Bank of Scotland £30m Search for Property Entrepreneurs, tells us how he will pick a winner.

Home maker

‘I come up with some whacky ideas.

‘I mean, who would have a pink cow rug in their reception and a 1940s refurbished locomotive in the middle of their lounge?’ says Marie Macklin, chairwoman of Klin Group, a property investment and development company, based in Kilmarnock.

Macklin refers to the residents’ lounge at Barclay House, a £18m, 80-unit residential scheme, and the first of her concept.

Klin Cribs are serviced ‘upmarket’ flats with a 24-hour concierge and communal lounges, like this one, complete with a coffee machine, a microwave, a fridge, a TV, a DVD player and an Xbox.

Macklin is working on taking the brand to another two sites in Scotland, and is looking at sites in northern England.

‘Our clients range from to 25 to 83 years old,’ says Macklin. ‘So it’s not just for young folk. Pensioners love it. Our developments are about taking the community with us, and this is a naturally mixed community.’

The occupants of Klin Cribs range from the families of offshore workers and employees of big companies working in Kilmarnock, to young couples who cannot get on the housing ladder and retired couples who have sold their homes to release equity. One such couple, Mr and Mrs Speirs, are relaxing in the lounge on the day Property Week visits. They sit on high stools in the window, basking in the spring sunshine.

‘The residents come in and have coffees at lunchtime. We have a lunch club, a cocktail hour and “Silver Screen”, where we show old films on a Wednesday afternoon,’ says Macklin. ‘To make this pilot work, we relocated our head office here to see if it was viable and it is.’

But the impression that Macklin is as pink and fluffy as the cow rug in the lounge is wrong. Last year, for example, she kept 50% of the units at Barclay House to rent out, because she anticipated a turn in the residential market. Her banking and stockbroking background helped her learn most about how be a successful entrepreneur in debt factoring and invoice discounting with high-risk, high-value clients in London and Glasgow.

Klin Group was set up by Macklin’s father in 1988 as a construction company. By the early 1990s it had become a private housebuilder.

She took the business over four years ago when her father was taken ill, by which point she had been the company’s financial director for five years. She owns 100% of the business.

Working with quantity surveyor husband Drew, she has diversified in the last two years into two brands: for Klin Groups’ residential schemes, and Encore Emporiums – ‘as in “final encore”’ for mixed-use schemes.

‘We are a brownfield developer,’ explains Macklin. ‘We concentrate on horrible derelict sites and Victorian buildings and try to put life back in to them. We work on difficult sites that no one else wants to go into. Our developments are about reinventing town centres in the same way cities have been reinvented.’

Macklin brought supermarket Morrisons to Scotland, on the same 20 acre site as Barclay House. ‘In 2003, Morrisons wanted a foothold in Scotland,’ she says. ‘We found them a site.’

The money paid for the site, which was full of factories in decline, and enabled locomotive engineering company Hunslet Barclay to relocate and keep operating.

Barclay House is the redeveloped office and warehouses formerly used by 19th-century engineering entrepreneur Andrew Barclay himself: hence the locomotive in the reception, which is open to the public as a heritage centre.

‘We’re trying to regenerate the town as a tourist destination based on its industrial heritage,’ explains Macklin.

The first Boutique Encore Emporium, a 120,000 sq ft, mixed-use development behind the facade of Kilmarnock’s former opera house, has outline planning consent, and Macklin expects to start the first phase by the end of the year: a £45m scheme with 70 shops, a boutique hotel, a spa, leisure space, a culinary school and whisky hub in which to showcase the locally made Johnnie Walker whisky. The £25m second phase will have 17 shops.

Macklin is working on Klin Group’s entry for the £30m Search for Property Entrepreneurs. She supports entrepreneurship through her own ‘Encore Academy’ for young entrepreneurs, which will involve ‘reinvesting to train aspiring individuals who will secure training within the Encore Emporium while they are still at school and become the future butcher, fashion designer, florist, beautician, or whatever they choose, eventually getting the keys to their own opera box retail unit within Encore Emporiums.’

Macklin may have some ‘whacky ideas’, but she also seems to have the market knowledge and skills to make them work.


City Flyer

Denny Maguire’s heels click as she paces the floor of the sales suite for Horizon, her £24m residential scheme in Sheldon, Birmingham.

Phone to her ear, a sumptuous woollen wrap swishes behind her as she gives instructions to one of White Fire Developments’ contractors.

Maguire, its co-founder, admits she can catch people off guard. ‘My name is quite comical because a lot of people assume “Denny Maguire” is a man,’ she says. ‘The assumption is that if you are at a certain level in property you are a male. In the past, I’ve been invited to boards or conferences and I’ve walked in with high heels and eyelashes and it has taken some people by surprise.’

Maguire and her partner in business and life, Richard Whiteley, are working on Horizon – a complex of 140 flats due for completion at the end of this year – and Ansty Court, a £14m mixed-use scheme in Birmingham city centre’s Jewellery Quarter, with 14 commercial units and 67 flats, due for completion this summer.

They are Maguire’s first foray into development, although she has been in property all her life. Her father had a construction business and Maguire laid her first brick at the age of eight.

‘I found buildings interesting,’ she says. ‘I’ve always liked the nuts and bolts of property.’

For the last 25 years, however, Maguire has been in the resale market – starting in Nottingham, then specialising in city living in Birmingham.

‘When I started to specialise eight years ago, it was a very new market that had just started to evolve,’ she says.

Maguire’s career began as a trainee negotiator at an estate agency. She worked her way up to sales director before starting her own resale company with a business partner.

Last year, when White Fire Developments started to take off, she sold her stake in the estate agency.

‘It took the opportunity to go to the beginning of the industry, actually putting the buildings together, with all the knowledge on style, presentation, kitchens, bathrooms, that I’ve accrued through looking at other developments,’ she says. ‘I spent a long time listening to people, and they would often say what they didn’t like about something.

I’ve tried to turn that into a positive in what we are creating ourselves.’

With Ansty Court, she is sticking to what she knows: city centre living. The idea at Horizon is to take the feeling of stylish urban living further out into the suburbs of Birmingham.

The sales suite has all the trademarks of the city-living lifestyle that has exploded in Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds. The sofas are deep and velvety, the sales desks are sectioned off with swathes of purple voile, and deep house music plays in the background.

With Whiteley’s engineering and property background, he focuses on the technical side, and Maguire deals with marketing and design.

There is no typical week for Maguire, but usually it will involve technical meetings with architects, structural engineers, progress meetings, dealing with the public relations company and the selling agent, Savills.

‘I’ve had people comment that they think a woman working at director level of property does change the way that men will interact in a meeting. It takes the testosterone out of it and creates balance,’ she says. ‘Communication is key in every aspect. We’re a small company that deals with everything hands on and personally.’

Maguire and Whiteley are constantly looking for development opportunities, even though the residential market is stalling.

‘I’ve worked through probably the biggest recession the market has ever had and the booms,’ she says. ‘You’re always going to have peaks and troughs. A slower market is not necessarily a bad market and there are always circumstances where people have to buy or sell.’

Years working in the competitive, target-driven world of agency, toughened Maguire.

‘I’m naturally competitive, so I’ve always wanted to be the best on viewings, the best on sales. I’m not going to go into a race unless I’ve got a good chance of winning,’ she explains.

‘I’ve always worked in tough sales environments, where you have to generate your own income, so it is almost like working for yourself. However, as much as you can be driven and very active within a company, the risk element isn’t as great as if you’re the person that owns it. The buck stops with you.’

Bank of Scotland Corporate has its own Women’s Entrepreneurship Forum for female business owners, along with a biannual magazine called HBOS Women.

See for details.


‘Turn £10m into £20m’

Kevin McCabe, chairman of Scarborough Property Group, reveals what he will be looking for when he judges the Midlands and East Anglia final of the Bank of Scotland £30m Search for Property Entrepreneurs.

Why did you agree to be a judge?
I agreed partly because of my long association with Bank of Scotland, which stretches back to the 1970s, and also because it’s nice to start looking around for new talent.

Times change. There are people out there with new ways of doing business and new angles in real estate.

Which qualities are you looking for in the Midlands and East Anglia finalist?
I’m looking for characters and individuals. Property, unlike many other industries, is about people. It’s the people who bring success to real estate businesses. I’ll be
looking for people with oomph.

Property is a bit like football. You need a team manager with motivation skills – someone with energy and drive. Companies are led by the characteristics of an individual. You don’t need to be the most handsome.

You don’t need a collar and suit. Some of the most successful people in property don’t follow conventions.

One of the main qualities I will be looking for is adaptability. If you are successful in real estate, you will need to deal with big transactions, meaning you have to deal well with partners like HBOS. Partnership means they will need to adapt to others’ requirements.

What kind of questions will you ask applicants?
I will be asking, why have they applied? Why do they think they’re different? Why do they think will make a success of their proposal? How do they see the market?
I want to know their particular skills and how they could put an interest-free facility for three years to use.

What difference will £10m interest free for three years will make to the regional winner?
The prize of a £10m interest-free facility for three years is even more beneficial now, in the economic downturn. It means there is even more opportunity for the individual
who wins. My challenge will be for applicants to say how they will turn £10m into £20m.

What would you do with £10m today?
I would use the money in partnership with the expertise of a big corporate. Having a big partner helps bring tenants into the schemes, by offering a better covenant. There is never enough money to satisfy a good developer,
but usually bright, young developers have to sacrifice a lot in order to go into partnership, giving away more of profit share than they would desire.

This money would allow the winner to put more capital into the scheme, giving them a bigger slice of the cake. They could do two or three schemes in partnerships rather than one.

Going back through my early career, I wish I could have won this. Today’s real estate market makes it an interesting time for this search. Fortunes are often made in downturns. Talent comes to the fore.