Founder series – Q&A

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Bill Roddie, Spectrum Properties managing director

Spectrum Properties

Bill Roddie, managing director

What does your company do?

Our business covers the full spectrum of property spaces, from small and medium-sized industrial, workshop, office, and manufacturing units, to commercial land and storage. 

We have over 700 business space units, and if a potential tenant comes to us with a specific need somewhere in greater Glasgow, we will find them a suitable space from our portfolio. If we don’t have it, we’ll buy it, build it or convert an existing property to suit their needs.

In recent years we have also become more involved in residential development where we specialise in restoring historic residential properties, including the former home at Great Western Terrace, Glasgow, of Sir William Burrell which in 2013 we converted into six high-end apartments. We have specialist team members who relish the challenge, including all the constraints, of refurbishing listed buildings to their former glory.

We also operate other businesses including, Shedman, which is Scotland’s leading manufacturer and distributor of garden sheds. All our sheds are hand-built in Scotland using high quality, fully treated, tongue and groove Swedish timber. We deliver and install sheds and garden buildings at our customer’s home. 

At the peak of the Covid-19 outbreak we offered on a first-come, first-served basis, 100 free small Shopping Sheds to vulnerable individuals and families throughout west central Scotland. 

They offer a safe, dry, and secure way to deliver shopping to friends and family, protecting essential items from the elements and easy to collect. When lockdown measures are lifted, they can be adapted for further uses, for example, a planter, a parcel dropbox or a children’s outdoor toy box.

What do you do there / what is your role?

Managing director

If you started the company, what was the aha moment that led to the company founding?

It was when I realised, as a very young man, that I should follow my entrepreneurial instinct and focus my attention and energy on the property sector.

Why did you launch the company?

I have always wanted to be the master of my own destiny. To be able to make my own decisions, right or wrong. I believe I have always had the entrepreneurial spirit; I am driven to seek out business opportunities and to create successful, profitable outcomes. I judged that the property sector was the right one for me and decided to get involved. As they say, the world stopped manufacturing land a long, long time ago.

Where did you get assistance when you started?

I had savings of a few thousand pounds and got help also from my family. My Dad stood as a guarantor from some bridging finance I needed to buy a property comprising six bedsits in the West End of Glasgow which, once refurbished, I rented out quite successfully. I was still working as a mechanic throughout that time. I established a track record for reliability with the lender and was able to switch the bridging finance into a business loan. A year or two later I came across another project, an industrial unit in Dalmarnock, south-east Glasgow, which I acquired and rented out to a tenant.

Give us a brief history of the growth of the company

From modest beginnings we have steadily sought out opportunities where we recognised the value of properties as suitable accommodation for growing businesses. There is a wealth and variety of properties in the East End and we have been selective in matching our portfolio with the needs of tenants. Where the opportunity has arisen, we have acquired properties and sold them on. We have also developed our storage business which has seen consistent growth over the years. More recently we have moved into residential property development, first by undertaking major refurbishments – we specialise in restoring listed buildings by recreating their former glory as well as in new build housing for families.

Have you taken any external funding? If so from who and when?

We have secured funding over the years from a variety of banks for numerous property development projects though it has become much more difficult to do so since the recession of 2008.

So, what does it look like now with regard to staff and turnover?

75 staff and over £3m turnover.

What’s the difference between when you started and now in your marketplace?

Investment over the decades from both the private and public sectors has made a huge difference to the face of the East End of Glasgow, and of the city generally. As the base of our operations, property and rental values are much higher than when I started investing in the sector. I am unsure that I could have gown the business as I have if I had started now.

What is your target market – Who is buying your product / service?

Any business or organisation looking for space to operate. We recently offered businesses in greater Glasgow hit by the COVID-19 pandemic a free storage solution for their equipment. Alongside another of our sister companies, Aabsolute Storage, we have some 200,000 square feet of storage space in an old mill building in Dalmarnock and a further 60,000 in the Queenslie Estate, also in the East End.

What is your background?

After I left school, I served an apprenticeship as a motor mechanic, working, latterly, on heavy goods vehicles for a major food distributor. I was ambitious to fulfil my entrepreneurial potential and began to become interested in investing in the property market while continuing with the day job.

What are your goals for your business?

To continue to be the best we can be while remaining mindful of our corporate social responsibility. Also, to continue to avoid complacency; it creeps into every business, even the most successful. Finally, to question everything and be cautious. The main thing is to protect your staff, your tenants, and your customers.

What are your biggest current challenges?

Aside from the Covid-19 epidemic, from which, since I am an optimist, I believe we will recover rapidly, it would be the reluctance of funders, especially the established banks, to support entrepreneurs who are prepared to take personal risks to make a better economy and a better world.

What has been the biggest challenge so far?

When we were being asked to pay interest rates on borrowings of 16 per cent or more. This was towards the end of the 1980s. Yes, there was a jump in property values, but we needed a 15 per cent return on our investment just to cover our costs, so interest rates as high as these were devastating.

What do you do outside work?

I have loved sailing for many years and greatly enjoy visiting the islands off the west coast of Scotland. I also like tennis and walking our dogs with my wife.

What do you know now that you wished you had known earlier?

That a business is its people and only as good as the people you employ to work in it. It makes sense to hire for attitude and enthusiasm; then train them. If you look after them, chances are the business will flourish.

What is the secret to good leadership?

Lead from the front and look after your team.

Where do you see the company in five years?         

Bigger, better and with an unassailable record of achievement in creating first class homes for people and first-class premises for businesses to prosper.

How can the Scottish start-up/entrepreneur landscape be improved to help more businesses start up and grow?

By governments and society generally putting effective pressure on banks to do what they were originally set-up to do, and that is to make funding available for viable projects from accomplished business people.