June Cover – John Robertson

Robertson & Robertson Consulting Valuers – Adapting to changing markets & rules

THERE ARE ONLY a handful of businesses on the Central Coast that have enjoyed the longevity in business that Robertson & Robertson Consulting Valuers have.

Celebrating 44 years in March, the business has grown from a husband/wife private practice to become one of the largest and most respected NSW valuation practices outside the Sydney Metropolitan Area. At the helm of the business until his recent retirement was John Robertson, supported by his wife Gretchen, who managed the business. Robertson led the team through three recessions and the GFC, the first one commencing the year after he hung his shingle over the door of his first premises at Wyong. So how did Robertson and his team weather the storms to not only survive but thrive and continue to grow? Robertson began his valuation career in 1964 with the Commonwealth Bank. In 1973 he left the Bank and relocated to the Central Coast to start a private valuation practice, John D Robertson & Associates. The timing could not have been better. The Whitlam Government had just come into power, the economy was booming, particularly real estate, and opportunities on the Central Coast were expanding.

Robertson made a strategic decision from the start to specialise in business and commercial valuations and initially spent most days travelling to Sydney where he had established many good contacts while working for the bank. These relationships proved to be crucial to his survival in those early years, as the year after starting the business the economy nosedived into recession. The business faced two more recessions, one in 1983/84 and another in 1990. While it wasn’t easy, Robertson said they made it through each economic downturn by managing their business to suit the conditions. Indeed adaptability has featured strongly throughout Robertson’s business journey and has been instrumental in the growth of Robertson & Robertson.

In the early years Robertson would travel throughout New South Wales and as far as southern Queensland, building on a solid client base, mostly from Sydney. At all times, coping with legislative changes, particularly in town planning, and seeking business opportunities, has been a strength of the firm. The decision to concentrate expertise in niche specialty properties has allowed the firm to prosper despite ever increasing competition from other valuation practices and ongoing regulatory changes. “It’s a tribute to our staff that the business has coped so well with change. We have to adapt all the time,” said Robertson philosophically.

“In order to grow successfully as a small firm you have to play to your strengths and focus on your specialties. Then you have to look out for opportunities that come along so you can grow your practice,” said Robertson. “In the 70s, 80s and into the 90s the banks provided a backbone to the practice. Then in the 2000s, the firm made the strategic decision to increase its focus on private clients to reduce this reliance on the banks. When the GFC hit in 2008, banks restricted their lending and firms like ours would have been in serious trouble if we hadn’t developed our private client base. Just like the oil shock of 1974, nobody saw the GFC coming. It is a real tribute to my son Scott that he took the lead in developing our niche strands before it hit”.

An opportunity arose in 2000 when the State government decided to contract out its valuation services for the provision of rating and taxing advice. Robertson said the firm was ideally placed to win the first contract for both Gosford and Wyong LGAs. In the following years they successfully tendered for additional contract areas.

In addition to adaptability, successfully managing change and focusing on their niche markets, Robertson said his people have been central to the continuing success of the business. He has worked hard to ensure Robertson & Robertson maintains its focus on delivering expert advice expeditiously.

The company has provided in-house training and professional development since the early 90s, and the professional team meets regularly to share knowledge and ensure everyone is across the current market conditions, as well as legislative and policy changes. Robertson is particularly pleased with the success of the firm’s scholarship program for school leavers on the Central Coast who are interested in pursuing a career in valuation. When John and Gretchen retired in 2013 they engaged a CEO to manage the company. This year their son, Scott Robertson, who has been with the firm since 1992, was appointed Chairman of the Board.

Today the firm operates throughout NSW from a centralised office at Tuggerah Business Park on land developed in conjunction with local land development consultants, Trehy Ingold Neate. The decision to build new office premises in 2000 in the business park has proved to be an excelCOV E R S TOR Y lent strategic move. Last year the company acquired a small statewide practice based in Coffs Harbour in a strategic bid to further expand their skills and customer base. Robertson & Robertson currently employs 21 valuers, all experts in their field within three core divisions – Rating and Taxing, Commercial Valuations and Business Valuations – and a support team of 13. Robertson said, “In the early years our firm was reliant on strong links to Sydney. This is no longer the case. I am positive about the future of the firm and the growth of business opportunities on the Central Coast”.

By Phaedra Pym

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