“Innovating by adopting a ‘challenge the status quo’ attitude”

Name: 

Reza Merchant

Role and company: 

Founder and CEO of The Collective

Company turnover (and most recent ebitda/most relevant profitability metric): 

£1.5m

Employee numbers: 

25

Growth forecast for the next three years: 

We currently manage over 250 rental properties, having tripled our portfolio in the last year alone, and have another 1500 in development. Over the next three years, we expect to increase The Collective portfolio by approximately tenfold, across the UK and across new international locations.

In under 50 words, what makes your business distinctive in its marketplace:

We are pioneering a new form of luxury shared living for London’s 21-30 demographic, and adding intangible value to conventional bricks and mortar assets with a lifestyle-led brand. We are innovating one of the biggest industries, by adopting a ‘challenge the status quo’ attitude, and trail-blazing novel, alternative technologies.

What’s the big vision for your business?

Ultimately, we want to become a household name in the industry; synonymous with quality living and contemporary urban style. Over the next few years we are focusing on diversifying our portfolio to a wide range of real estate classes and developing the Collective brand to alternative sectors, such as leisure and tech.

Current level of international business, and future aspirations:

We plan to expand The Collective portfolio globally within the next few years and are currently identifying our key international cities. At present we are researching opportunities in New York.

Biggest career setback and what you learned from it:

Having the wrong people in my team. I’ve learnt that a small business can’t afford to carry deadweight.

What makes you mad in business today?

People who’s first response is no. The company is built on an experimental can-do attitude; by nature we are bold, brave and embrace new ways of doing this, so I can find it frustrating when people don’t share the same positive adventurous outlook.

What will be the biggest change in your market in the next three years?

It’s inevitable that prices will continue to rise in Central London particularly, but also nationwide. While the market is cyclical, I would think we’ll see out three years at least. The result of this is that the supply side will force developers to offer more affordable accommodation. They won’t want this to come at the expense of quality, nor location so we can expect see an influx of more innovative approaches to delivering high quality, affordable accommodation – not dissimilar to what we’ve established with The Collective.

Can businesses in your sector/industry access the finance they need to grow? If not, what can be done to improve things?

The market is picking up and people are increasingly keen to invest. Obviously, it is always more difficult to receive funding without a track record, so I’d like to see more infrastructure and Government-backed initiatives to support entrepreneurs.

How would others describe your leadership style?

I think people would describe me as headstrong, but fair. I lead by example, and aim to inspire my team. I make sure that I am fully accountable for my actions, which allows me to be proactive in making sure my team do the same. It becomes self perpetuating, as it allows me full confidence in my team, allowing me to let them strive under autonomy.

Your biggest personal extravagance?

I’m known to choose some flamboyant fabrics when I get new suits…

You’ve got two minutes with the prime minister. Tell him how best to set the UK’s independent, entrepreneurial businesses free to prosper:

It is essential to provide entrepreneurs with the environment that allows them to do what they’re good at. We are seeing a lot of ‘entrepreneurial hubs’ being set up, which is great, but the Government needs to help with grants, loans and strip away a lot of the admin which drains young companies’ limited resources.

There also needs to be a central information bureau, providing all the advice and guidance most commonly required during the early years; from general business development through to accounting and hiring. It needs to be done in a modern and inspiring date manner that will relate to and actually engage with a young and excited entrepreneur. I’m incredibly passionate about providing support for the next generation of entrepreneurs, which is why I’m already a business mentor with the Princes Trust, but there is much more that can be done.

I also believe that we need to be longsighted. Education is vital in order to give our successful entrepreneurs a workforce, but also pave the way for the next generation of entrepreneurs. An entrepreneur is rarely successful in isolation, but is the motivation for a whirring engine beneath them.

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