In the latest BossCast, Blackstock Consulting's Andrew Teacher talks to Richard Croft, executive chairman of M7, a pan-european real estate investment firm. The pair discuss changing patterns of work, lessons learned in the global financial crisis and uncharted waters in tech.
With Covid rules being relaxed and life returning to city centres, M7 boss Richard Croft predicts that the emergence of regional office hubs will dominate business models in the near future, particularly as investors look to meet climate challenges by upgrading poor performing, older assets.
While the pandemic temporarily eliminated the need for long commutes to the workplace, Croft thinks “it won’t stick – we have a primal need for interaction, and the office will always prevail”. He envisions a greater appetite for locality, and a push to work close to – but not from – home.
In an energetic, entertaining interview, Croft talks about recent successes investing in retail warehousing, considering how logistics and shopping are likely to continue impacting real estate. And when it comes to workspace, he practices what he preaches, splitting his time between an office in his home-town of Suffolk and London.
He predicts a dynamic hub-and-spoke model – a centralised office ‘hub’ with the choice to work in smaller ‘spokes’ – will emerge as the next template for office working.
Croft’s first company Halverton, founded in 2005, was sold to GPT in 2007 and he became chief executive of the new GPT-Halverton. As the landscape of entrepreneurship changed to one ruled by institutional capital, Croft admits he sailed through his early career.
However, sees his later mistakes as some of his greatest lessons. The industry leader testifies: “You learn far more from your failure than success. When you fail, you can do two things: run, or learn, and do better.”
In September 2021, M7 entered into a strategic partnership with Oxford Properties Group, a leading global real estate investor, asset manager and business builder.
M7 provides Oxford with a specialised platform, through which it can increase capital deployment into Europe, particularly in multi-let industrial and urban logistics. Croft considers the decision a turning point, pivoting away from operating like a “shark business”, fearing he was “buying, selling, and feeding a machine that flooded the world with liquidity”.
Looking to the future, Croft ponders “how [best] to integrate technology, as it is only going to play a bigger role in our world”. He argues automation is a risk to society, suggesting that “if wage inflation stops being profitable, automation will take hold much quicker, creating a chunk of unemployment. We need a plan for how automation fits into society”.