Next year sees Galway-based Winters Property Management celebrating its 20th anniversary and the fact that it won no less than four awards at the Irish Facilities Management Awards 2016, including the top prize, underlines how the company has been able to continue flourishing.
“We were set up in 1997, originally operating in the space of estate and facilities management,” outlines Enda McGuane, Managing Director. “Since our formation we have constantly expanded to the extent that we are now one of the largest property service providers in the Republic of Ireland.
“We’ve a number of core divisions but first and foremost we remain a specialist in property and facility management with approximately 7,500 commercial and residential units under our management. In terms of residential and commercial lettings and management, we’re the largest in the west of Ireland with over 600 properties let and managed. In addition to that we are also the largest private operator of student accommodation in Ireland with over 3,000 bed spaces under our management and we have done consultancy/planning work on another 3,500. We also do property sales, valuations and mediation. All our our activities are supported by our 45 staff working in five offices.”
The fact that Winters PM has such a wide and varied management portfolio makes its quadruple success at the Irish Facilities Management Awards all the more impressive.
“As a business we have always prided ourselves on the quality of our service and staff expertise, which set us in excellent stead with the introduction of the property service regulator in Ireland approximately three and a half years ago,” adds Mr McGuane. “We found the licensing process relatively easy because of our existing systems and set up. The property awards are another external validation of our business approach and have been hugely beneficial, as our clients can see that we are at the top of our industry.”
What was particularly striking about Winters PM’s multiple award success was that the accolades demonstrated the company’s strength in depth. In addition to carrying away the main Overall Excellence in Facilities Management Award and being named Property Management Company of the Year, it also received the Excellence in Customer Service Award and the FM Project of the Year Award for its work at Glen Abhainn Village in Athlone.
“We were also successful in all of our core business areas, namely property management, facilities management, letting and student accommodation services,” says Mr McGuane. “This level of recognition gives a huge lift to our teams, all of whom have put a great deal of effort into developing our service standards over the last couple of years.”
Having a dedicated and committed workforce is an essential element to any successful organisation but in terms of the tremendous consistency that Winters PM has been able to demonstrate, what does Mr McGuane believe has been the key factor behind it? “We’ve developed a strong culture of continuous professional development for our staff internally and this has been integral to our success. We have approximately 16 licensed property service providers in the business and we also have a large number of chartered surveyors so there is a real culture of learning internally.
“The other area where we see opportunities is retirement villages as this continues to be a major growth area. Ireland, like many of the western European countries, has an aging population and the area of retirement contracts that provide a high proportion of en-suite services whilst also providing a modern nice living space is something that is beginning to take off here now. This a complex area that we understand, especially how they operate thanks to our experience of the student accommodation market.”
Enda McGuane, Managing Director
“In addition to the importance we place on staff development, we also have a huge emphasis on adding to the service we provide and going that little bit further for our clients. The property industry has been through a difficult time in the past ten years or so but quality of service is something we refuse to compromise on so we’re constantly developing our services. For example, our customer service team which received the Customer Service Award was a staff initiative which was put in place to address a gap in our services. Having identified the issue our team set about addressing it, which is testament to the internal leadership we have within the company.”
As it looks to build on the award success, Winters PM is exploring other available opportunities in what continues to be quite testing circumstances. “The Irish property market is very challenging at the moment in the sense that we have a huge issue with supply, very similar to the situation in the UK. Our skills set is very well suited to support the changes proposed by the Minister for Housing, particularly with the greater emphasis on building large residential blocks over the next couple of years to attract investors. This is a space we excel at in terms of managing and operating residential blocks and properties for pension funds and investors, as we deliver a very solid and good return on rents as well as strong capital appreciation. We will be adding to our team to ensure that we continue to have the right people in place to support our growth plans.
“The other area where we see opportunities is retirement villages as this continues to be a major growth area. Ireland, like many of the western European countries, has an aging population and the area of retirement contracts that provide a high proportion of en-suite services whilst also providing a modern nice living space is something that is beginning to take off here now. This a complex area that we understand, especially how they operate thanks to our experience of the student accommodation market.
“The last other major opportunity we’ve targeted is the student accommodation space, as there is approximately £250m earmarked to be spent on the market in Ireland in the next four years. We also feel that a potential Brexit is going to have an impact on foreign students coming through the UK so Ireland’s colleges will be targeting that. We want to be involved in the planning and the development of the operations for student accommodation across the country.”
Having identified some areas of serious potential, Winters PM looks well set to use its recent awards as the springboard for further success. “In the next 12 months we’re looking for further growth, particularly in terms of expansion in student accommodation with the addition of new complexes,” concludes Mr McGuane. “We’re also targeting more involvement in terms of planning in the retirement villages space and the private letting market. In addition to that we are involved in the management of commercial facilities for some major Blue Chip clients and we’re looking at the likes of innovation hubs and more high tech sites to manage and operate.”