Sunday, 23 December 2012

The surveying fraternity

In the last 13 years I have worked for a wide variety of Surveying firms and departments, however it is only in the past 18 months that I have realised how many Surveying firms exist and the level of interaction between them.

Many years ago I noted that a lot of surveys were being lost to small independent firms with low overheads and a fast turn around.  At that time I floated an idea to my then boss about setting up a firm to handle this growing demand which worked as a separate entity to the main firm, but still within the same operating standards.  The idea being to keep the work virtually in house, but not stuck under the same umbrella for overheads/insurance/management.  We'd keep clients happy by doing the work, and keep the work away from the smaller firms - a good principle but it wasn't seen as a viable option at the time because of the insurance & QA hurdles, and working a balance between the two areas of the business.

Well here we are now as a small firm with low overheads, fast turn around times, and a good quality product but without the net of the larger firm should times get slack.  However there are many firms out there willing to pass on any excess work load, and this act can also be reciprocated.  I'd love to go through and list them, but lets face it that would be like cutting off my nose to spite my face!

The challenge now will be to maintain that close fraternity of firms whilst balancing our own needs as a company to grow.  The companies we work with closely are spread across the UK so in essence there is little competition between them, but perhaps in time as each of these companies develops we might find ourselves in the position to create a much more formal agreement to enable the larger group of firms to tender for larger jobs as one, and then split the rewards.  But for now we shall all soldier on through the wind & rain alone to reach our goals.

For more information on the services R L Surveys can offer please visit our website at, or for a more relaxed view we can be found on Facebook, or Twitter.  We are also on LinkedIn, and this is an area we are looking to develop going into 2013.

A new development on the blog is a reaction bar at the bottom of each blog just to keep us on our toes to see what areas people are interested in for future wonderings.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Supporting the Local Community

An area I'm sure we all agree with, but putting ideals into practise is a far more difficult affair!  For a smaller company defining local community is a simple affair, but as you grow the communities you could be involved with also grows.

What are the true options available?  There are the very business orientated routes such as employing local suppliers & employing staff from the local community, but in both these instances there is always the underlying consideration of economics.  Why buy local when a supplier from out of area can provide at a lower cost, and what if the staff with the skills you need are not based locally?

From a much more out going stand point you have to look at considerations such as doing work for local charities either at no cost or at a considerable discount.  This is an option we have gone down in the past when working for certain charities.  Then next option might be supporting local schools in their career programmes, offering work experience to teenagers in  half terms breaks or offering talks on the industry in schools (this should possibly be a demise of the RICS or CICES).  Finally you could sponsor local events such as fireworks displays,summers fairs, sponsor local leagues, or even a roundabout!  The problem with the sponsorship options is the lack of return on an investment - it would generally be done out of sheer good will, with the slim possibility it might lead to more.

For many years I have played table tennis in Medway, Maidstone & Ashford.  Currently I am only playing in the Maidstone league for Hillreed Homes.  The firm sponsor the local league, cover all the costs of entering their teams, and provide a venue for the home matches.  The firm have a very long and successful affiliation with the league, but recent developments mean a nationwide house builder have brought the firm and it will lead to their withdrawal from the league in any capacity.  What this means for the league only time will tell, and I'm sure alternative sponsors will be sought to assist the league financially (and in many other ways).  What is certainly true is that the league/local community has benefited from the company support, and may suffer as a result.  But the support was purely to support the league, there was no true financial benefit to the company beyond a small amount of publicity, and the odd blog!

Perhaps it is any area every business should be required to help in, part of the big community - I seem to be turning conservative!!!!

Food for thought, and make sure you watch out for our first sponsored event!!  But for now you can find out more about R L Surveys through our website, or follow us through Facebook, Twitter or Linkedin.  Failing that we can always be reached on 01233 800109.

Friday, 2 November 2012

2012 - Still on Target?

2012 is our first full calender year of trading and, like most companies, we had SMART targets.  Oh yes I have been on those courses as well where you get deluged with acronyms.  Clearly some is getting through as our targets had been established, although there will be some overlap with calender and financial years lets see how we are doing....

  1. Facebook Likes Target: 100, by July 2013. Currently 68
  2. Linkedin Connections Target 300, by July 2013.  Currently 328
  3. Twitter (@RLSurveys) Followers Target 200, by July 2013.  Currently 208
  4. Blogger Views Target 1000, by end of 2012. Currently 1342
  5. Topo Survey Enquiries Target 100, for 2012.  Currently 96
  6. All survey enquiries Target 200, for 2012.  Currently 150
  7. Set Up ISO9001, by end of 2nd years trading - Done
  8. Achieve STEMS Silver, by end of 2nd years trading - Done
  9. Maintain job tender to success ratio above 50% - TBC
So looking back at those figures we are looking pretty good for Year 2, although it does mean our goals and targets for 2013 need to be higher because achieving most of your goals with ease might be a good confidence boost but it is a little bit of hollow victory (see England v San Marino!!).

Out of the nine targets, five are already completed, one verging on completion, one will not be known until the end of the year, and two looking like coming up short - so if you're reading this and haven't liked us on Facebook pop over to and help us on the way, or better still if you have a survey that needs doing find our contact details on, fifty tenders in two months it's a long shot but anything is possible!

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Google Earth - useful tool?

The advent of Google earth & it's street viewer (other brands are available) revolutionised the way Surveyors could tender for jobs, we could actually see the site without leaving the comfort of our offices.  This meant less down time was spent on the tendering process, and there were far lower overheads required in preparing the tender (no travel, less time).  If they could bring out an online viewer for tendering internal measured building surveys it would be useful, but I think that really would be an invasion of privacy!

However since 29th June 2005 a lot of time has passed and the images used are becoming increasingly out of date.  Where Google shows a nice grassy site in 2005, by 2012 it's a little more of a challenge with brambles & nettles over your head.  All Surveyors at sometime or other have been caught out by this and under priced a tender.  You can try and get round this using a combination of websites to view the site at different points in time, but without regular updates on the photographs we may see an increasing shift of tendering through site visits coming back, which will of course mean pushing up costs to cover these additional overheads.  Where street viewer hasn't been there is the option of using the birds eye view through Bing which gives you a slightly better idea of the site than the flat aerial images, but again the situation on site is always liable to change - any chance we could get free access to MI5 satellites??

Some weeks ago I did see the 'google' car out and about taking new streams of photographs - I keep checking the site to see if I've made the cut but as yet the images have not be uploaded.  The last picture was taken in March 2009 (according to the site), so that would mean at least three years between images.  Has anyone else found any images from pre 2009?

For more information on the services we offer, please visit our website at, alternatively you can follow us on Twitter (@RLSurveys), Facebook, and LinkedIn.

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Professional Affliations - friend or foe?

Michael Holiday B.Sc. (HONS), ACSM, MCInstCES, MRICS - hardly rolls off the tongue, and for the most part the letters don't see the light of day, but should they?

Within the surveying industry there are two well respected flag ship bodies - the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), and the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors (CICES).  I am proud to say I am a fully paid up member of both organisations but there are times I question the need for membership - does it really have long term benefits for me personally or my business?  Each month the magazine drops through the foor, sits on the side for a few days, I have a flock through and then it gets recycled.  OK - occasionally there is an article that peaks my interest, but previously the only benefit of the magazine was a quick scan through the jobs section (now a very rare addition to the magazine).

It has taken me many years to finally complete various application forms, and jump over various hurdles to be accepted as a member whilst constantly questioning the need.  The forms and paper work all lend themselves to Surveyors looking to achieve notoriety in prestige jobs throughout the world.  I know this is the way with the world and there are many other Surveyors not looking for the publicity, but the idea of writing 500 words trying to prove I can do my job!!! (it was a painful time)

Don't get me wrong these bodies have their place, and are essential to the regulation of the industry but they do have the feel of an old boys club - once you're in make sure it's even harder for others to follow!!  The key roles of the RICS are to -

  • Regulate & Promote the Profession
  • Maintain the highest educational & professional standards
  • Protect clients & consumers through a strict code of ethics
  • Provide impartial advice, analysis & guidance.
From my knowledge they do achieve most of these aims, but I am eternally questioning the 'promote the profession' as many people still expect me to be able to value their property,  I'm happy to do this but it is akin to pin the tail on the donkey!

The CICES on the other hand states its objectives as advancing the science and art of Civil Engineering Surveying in all aspects of the specialisms of geospatial engineering and commercial management within civil engineering for the benefit of the public, by upholding and advancing standards of education, competence, practice and conduct of it's members.  Bit of a mouth full, but no mention of promoting the profession which surely is essential to the public understanding of what we do?

But I latest tribulation is an assessor asking me to confirm my involvement in various projects from a Surveying perspective - a seemingly pointless exercise given my current position from tea-maker through to Surveyor via marketing guru!!  But I have to grit my teeth a complete the required text, this must be how the 'for Dummies' book writers must feel at times.  Then I find out that for the past three years I have actually be eligible for Direct Entry - no hoops, no essays, no competencies.  Might be a letter of complaint in the post about that one, but best wait for the ink to dry on the certificate first.

Begrudgingly posing for a photo with RICS Certificate!

Now this direct entry has been achieved I wait with baited breath to see the impact of my new Chartered status on my career, fingers crossed it will be the launch pad for something big as we are now able to undertake Boundary Disputes to the fullest extent.

More details on the company, and services we offer can be found at, and you can stay in touch with our activities & achievements through our facebook page, or through twitter (@RLSurveys).

Sunday, 23 September 2012

Advertising & Trade Shows

Our first visit into this area, this ad was placed in the Planning Convention 2012 Catalogue for all delegates along with our standard flyer.  We now have our fingers crossed as to whether this will prove to be a worthwhile exercise.

Regardless of the outcome this will not be our last visit into this area, and we are currently in the process of placing an advert in a national Architectural publication, feel free to play spot the difference on the advert - no prizes I'm afraid.

Construction Expo 2012:  Perfect an event just up the road, and targeted at the right audience.  A quick e-mail later and we find out we are not allowed to sponsor the event or hold a stand because a competitor has got in first and made it a condition of their support that we (or a number of other Land Surveying firms) not sponsor or have a stand.  Odd for an Expo that is 'open to all'.  So the wheels get moving just to find out the details, and eventually the Expo organisers call our competitor for their permission to give us the option to attend with a stand.  Brilliant move by our competitors (hearty pat on the back), but a sad state of affairs that the organisers are willing to agree to such demands to get people on board.  Whatever the outcome we will be at the Expo at the very least as a visitor, so we look forward to seeing some of you there making it an enjoyable event for all, and I'll make sure I book early for next year.

As well as the Expo we'll be on the road a fair bit in the next wo months, so wherever you might find us either exhibiting, learning or just visiting - feel free to say hi.

Eco Driving Lesson - 26th September in Canterbury
Portakabin Open Day - 27th/28th September in Ashford
KCFG Breakfast - 2nd October - in Canterbury
STEM Silver workshop - 9th October in Maidstone
Construction Expo - 11th October 2012 at the Historic Dockyard, Chatham
myWorld Roadshow - 18th October 2012 at the Emirates Stadium

Not sure when I actually get time to work, but it's all about getting the brand out there in the public eye, and gradually people will remember us and, fingers crossed send us some tenders to bid for.  In this day and age, public image & branding is extremely important and social media enables a product/company to get into peoples lives & business more than ever.

For more details of the services we offer, and examples of our work, please visit, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Sunday, 9 September 2012

A Week in the Life

In this industry no two weeks are the same, but that is part of the enjoyment of the job.  This week has taken me from London to the middle of the River Medway via Hurstpierpoint in West Sussex!

Monday:  A small land survey for a client looking to extend an existing survey they had in Canterbury (one I priced and won for a previous employer by complete coincidence!).  The quote came in on the Friday, and we squeezed the work in on the Monday - so much for putting my feet up!

Tuesday: Up to Pfizers (Sandwich, Kent) for the day with Method Statement & Risk Assessment in hand, upon arrival the permits office gave me the news that no permit had been requested for the work.  However on discussion with the office I didn't need one, and the RAMS were not required as the work was on the public highway outside the site. Spent the rest of the day covering 10km of walking - you'd think taking in the scenery etc., but no it was over the same 200m of road walking up and down doing the survey!!

Wednesday:  Change of pace again down to Hurstpierpoint (West Sussex) to survey a 2.5acre garden for a potential extension to the existing property and garden landscaping.  This was combined with returning some hire kit to Opti-cal down near Gatwick airport.  The day started at 6, and finished at 6 for all those of you thinking I keep short hours!

Thursday: A more leisurely start setting out the ends of five gas pipes covered over by chalk fill at a local landfill which is in the process of being reclaimed.   Then from here I was off to an afternoon meeting with the CICES visiting the Hydrographic Office at Sheerness Docks, with a trip out on the Medway Surveyor to map a wreck just off the terminals for Grain LNG.  More pictures can be seen on our Facebook page, and eventually on the CICES website.  Fascinating to see Surveyors from other sectors at work for a change.

Friday: Hoping on a train up to London to carry out a measured internal survey for a property rental & future lease plan.  I was looking forward to nicely maintained property given the client, but found myself in the dark in a flat clearly not used for 20-30 years with ceilings falling part, a concrete floor covered in dust etc..  Of course on the plus side all the corners were easily accessible to carry out a quick survey, and give me time for a quick nephew cuddle (2 months old) on the way home.

So I've managed to clock up a ridiculous amount of miles in the car, on the train, and on foot.  It also means I now have a lot of data to process next week to issue the information out to the clients, although I did managed to process and issue work from Monday & Tuesday on the following day in an attempt to stay on top of my inbox.

Next week I'll be hitting Dover, Ashford & Upchurch at the moment, but that could easily be added to at any time.

For more information about the area we cover, and the work we do, please visit our website  To keep in touch we can be followed on FacebookLinkedIN, and through twitter (@RLSurveys), alternatively you can subscribe to our bi-annual newsletter through the link at the top right of this blog.

The next blog will (I hope) be entitled - Advertising & Trade Shows.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

The funnier side of Surveying

Life is too short to take everything seriously, and there is endless fun to be had on site without affecting the result.  I've managed to have an apple fight with a Survey Manager from one reputable company, and ended up sitting in a parked car in the Birmingham red light district at around midnight (for work purposes!).  Best not name names as they are still trying to be respectable!  Where to begin, I've tried to put them into groups and keep them brief - some of you might even recognise them -

Messing About on The River

1) Carrying out a number of cross sections on the river Stour through Canterbury.  The final section of the day I put on the chest high waders for the final time, slowly entered the water to avoid any accidents and find the bottom with my feet.  OK all set to work so I step forward and find out I wasn't quite at the bottom - now the waders seem a little pointless as they are full of ice cold water!!!  Luckily it's a nice day and I have a change of clothes but getting out of the waders, and then getting the waders out of the water was no mean feet!

2)  A colleague puts on his dry suit, and gamely leaps into the water just as I kindly offer the comment you should really have done the zip up first!!  Luckily the water was not deep, just cold!

3)  A blazing hot summers day up on the River Darenth as it meanders its way through the grounds of Hall Place.  Kids are in the river, jumping around and splashing about - a lovely spot for a days surveying except under the 'Health & Safety' requirements I'm going to be wearing a full dry suit.  Sometimes I think it can be a little ridiculous!!

4) Again on the Darenth but this time a disused mooring point, happily clambering around in my dry suit surveying the pertinent points, until I slip, drop the pole and  cling to the mooring for all I'm worth.  I pull myself back up and the first question I get asked - 'where's the pogo'.  Nothing like enquiring as to my well being.

5)  Final river story - "are you sure about the tide times because we're paddling this dinghy & going no where!"  We made it in the end, but more by dragging ourselves along the reeds than paddling.

Computing Errors

1) A common AutoCAD mistake highlighted - "So when you searched and replaced all the text 'IL' and replaced it with nothing, did you not wonder what a Stock Pe was, or perhaps a Toet??  Computers have a good side & a bad side, one they do exactly what there are told, however they DO do exactly what they are told!

2)  Scanning through some river sections there was a funny dot which kept appearing, upon closer examination and many times zoom someone had kindly drawn a fish in all the sections!

Equipment Malfunctions

1) Surveyor "ok, all done everything's loaded, lets go".  We pull away the boot opens and the instrument falls out onto the road- whoops! (For all those wondering we did check the calibration the next morning and no damage done)

2) Assistant - "I can't get this GPS rucksack working more than about 10m from the start".  Surveyor - "Perhaps you should screw the aerial in!"

3) A team of 4-5 Surveyors are out doing a GPS survey of various points in a 10mile radius.  To this end a based station is established with a generator to ensure power for the required period, and one member of staff is left to guard said kit.  The remainder of us go of and start co-ordinating points.  The next morning the Survey Manager asks one simple question - "At what point did you fall asleep and miss the generator being taken!".

4)  First day in her new job, her only job is to sit with the GPS base station for the day on top of a hill on a baking hot day.  So we set her up with drinks, a book & the paper and head off.  The days work goes well, and we pick her up at the end of the day looking a little tired & sun burnt.  She didn't come back to work again!

Odds & Sods

1) Wandering along a stretch of open land near a dyke I warn the guy following about a ditch which I immedately misjudge and fall into!!

2) Staying away in a nice pub near Leatherhead, we come down in the morning to the sight of the landlord in his Y-fronts, on the phone having a smoke.  He looks up and says "hang on and I'll cook your breakfast in a minute"!

3) Surveyor (I'll confess me!) on a site in Hampstead - "Where exactly is the instrument, because it's not in the boot!"

4) Surveyor on the same site moments later- "you did pick the logger up?".  Assistant - "no it's still on a wall in south east London".  Amazingly it was still there at the end of the day though!!

5) Health & Safely gone mad - "you have to were full hi-vis, hard hats, gloves & goggles when working on site" - comment "you do understand we are just driving from one end of the road to the other at 2am!!"

6)  Back to university days I try to observe a prisim 50m away down a dark tunnel with various lights trying to highlight the target.  I sight the prisim and hit distance......nothing, so I check the sighting press distance again.......nothing.  So I try a different battery, ask someone else to check the sighting, check instrument stability & wipe down the prisim.  No problems, it must be a disto problem, so off I trott to find the lecturer.  Upon our return he takes one look and laughs.  Did I mention this was a damp wet tunnel with looks of still puddles.  I've managed to sight the reflection of the prisim in a puddle!!

7)  A project many years ago was GPS control for photogrammetry.  We needed to co-ordinate a point on each of the aerial photographs, and provide a station description with location photograph.  Not an exciting job, but to take our mind off things we decided that all our photos should have an animal in - felling rather proud we'd managed horse, sheep, dog, cat, bird, cow, human & tiger.  Yes tiger!!!

8)  Finally carrying out a measured building survey, 90% of the work complete but I needed to get into the residential area.  It was about 11am so I knocked, and the guy let me in and told me to carry on.  So I happily measured up a few rooms, then moved onto the bedroom.  I'd finished positioning the walls, and was about to start adding symbols when the sheets on the bed moved & his girlfriends  head appeared.  Scared the life out of me, so seems unbothered by the whole thing and just went back to sleep!

If it doesn't affect your career or current position feel free to share some more, we all have these stories embarassing, stupid or just plan silly.

For more details of the services we offer, and examples of our work, please visit, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Discovering East Kent

The sun wasn't out and the sky wasn't blue, but at least it wasn't raining!!  Off on a day trip with the photographer to try and gather some images of our website - the general remit to highlight the Kent countryside with a business tilt towards Surveying - and here are some of the results.

The day started badly, in attempts to reach the Wye crown we wandered off the wrong way (not a good advertisement for a Surveyor!!), and with the weather looking ominous we decided to accept the views for a few photos and move on inland towards Canterbury to try and get a few images showing the cathedral and surrounding streets - much more successful this time we found the cathedral!!  Although we did manage to get a statue operating the instrument!!?

From Canterbury we meandered across to Deal for the pier & boats along the shingle beach, and with patches of blue sky things were looking up.  A few arty shots later along the beach we moved on down to coast towards Dover and the delights of the seafront/castle via a quiet beach for the 'pensive' shots.

Dover led us on to Samphire Hoe, and then down to Rye (OK East Sussex not Kent but close enough), before coming back to Ashford.  Does anyone know of somewhere other than International House where you can get a good shot of Ashford, we tried the beacon view point on Singleton Hill, and round the back of the Village Hall in Great Chart but the trees have grown up so much you can't really get a good view.

We achieved the Downs, the Beaches, the Cathedrals, the Castles, the Windmills, the coastline, the cities, and the business centre Ashford (not THE business centre, but our business centre).

Perhaps next time we'll take a different tour covering the joys of West & North Kent, so any landmarks or suggestions would be greatly received.

More images from our day out will gradually appear through our website, and Facebook.  Your feedback on them will be gratefully received and passed on.

As always more details of the services we offer can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on Twitter (@RLSurveys), Facebook & LinkedIN.

Saturday, 28 July 2012

What are the costs of a Land Survey?

It's the forgotten element of construction, but the bedrock of all developments (sorry not trying to offend anyone - we just start the ball rolling from a design and development process, everyone else keeps pushing long after we're gone).  You generally can't start without it but the cost of it is a risk since the development may never get off the ground, and any funds invested will never be recouped.  Hence no one wants to pay over the odds for a survey, yet they expect a good product at a low price.  But what does the price include - and no it's not just a full English at the local greasy spoon!
  • Equipment Hire & Maintenance
  • Cost of Processing Software (on going & one off)
  • Salaries
  • Insurances
  • Travel to and from site
  • A completed digital survey plan in either 2D or 3D
  • If you've paid for it paper plots.
  • Office Maintenance
  • Professional Affiliations
  • Ordnance Survey mapping and/or Land Registry plans
  • This is not an exhaustive list ( I didn't even utter the word 'profit', but a good overview)
The largest determining factors in the cost of a Land or Measured Building Survey come from distance between site & office, and the length of site time required.  The first can be computed down to the mile (assuming we don't get lost), but the second is a personal perception based on years of experience.  But we do endeavour to provide an honest & competitive quote, and not add in cover for the 'just-in-case' scenario also know in professional circles as the buggeration factor.

Some of these costs are specific to certain jobs, other costs are those which must be spread out across a year and therefore are segmented down to each job - sadly this is more an educated guess than anything else but as with everything in life there will be some jobs which bare more of the cost than others.

A lot of clients have complained about the cost of a Land Survey in the past (with a former employer though).  We are now trying to work with our clients to offer a more tailored approach for pricing to avoid paying for unnecessary detail.  As a company we can set up our surveys to target any level of detail to find a price that is more in keeping with the speculative nature of Land Surveying.

For more details of the services we offer, and examples of our work, please visit, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Monday, 16 July 2012

One year on

Well that's it R L Surveys has now completed one complete year of trading with relative success - we're still in business!!  Over the past year we have come from small back gardens through to larger by-pass projects & property refurbishments.  Whilst the first months we're tentative steps into a new world we have grown in confidence and are gradually positioning ourselves in the local market, of Kent, Sussex, Essex & London, as providers of high quality yet affordable Land & Measured Building Surveys.

All areas of our business have developed, & will continue to develop.  Most of these changes have been behind the scenes but our final product is something we are proud of and will continue to evolve to keep up with an ever changing market.

The biggest surprise to me has been the number of 'independent' Land Surveyors who are practising out there - you won't find these people on the internet they live off their own group of contacts & have no need to advertise to the wider market.  From time to time I come across these people & there is a real sense of a support network in trying economic times, there is no hesitation to pass work on if the capacity isn't there with their own business. We ourselves have been able to pass a number of jobs on to third parties, and it is no secret that the more grateful parties have been the smaller companies - no prizes for guessing where the work will go in future!  The flow of this work is literally nationwide, so maybe there is potential of a mini Survey Association.  A group of companies who work alone but when necessary can be stronger for thought.

To avoid more inane waffle I thought perhaps a snap sot of some of our projects to bring a bit of life - no one likes endless blocks of text (this doesn't define my reading level!!)

From humble beginnings with hired kit........

to larger jobs with our own kit, on a sunny day......

to the impending drenching!!!!

Some higher profile clients.....

...and giving something back with the KCFG Team preparing for the 75mile Pilgrims Hospice Bike Ride
Ella Brocklebank (Morgan Sindall), Ben Trott (Mr Brocklebank!), Albert Walton (Epps Construction), Davina Walton (Alberts boss!).

What next for R L Surveys - branching out our marketing in the realms of Youtube with some imaginative videos, pushing the business further afield through a central office but perhaps establishing a satellite office?  Pushing the local business more through Networking & my personal favourite cold calling.  Introducing new, and growing our fringe, activities through Boundary Work, Setting Out & Laser Scanning.

As this is to be a long term business then I need to consider moving away from site, and learning to trust others with this responsibility to allow me to develop the business - it's a massive step letting go of the reigns, and I much prefer the site life than being in the office all day long - I could employ someone to be my boss....scratch that one boss is enough.

The facts from our first year:  Quotes: 95  Won: 40 Lost: 16 Unknown/Cancelled: 39
The financial facts: Like I'm going to put that on here, but needless to say it's above expectation.

Year one over, lets hit year two running.  If you'd like to subscribe to our quarterly newsletter please click this link & enter your details.  Don't worry it's not going to take hours to read it and we won't duplicate the blog.  And as always for more details of the services we offer, and examples of our work, can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

R L Surveys Ltd - Setting the Benchmark in Geomatics, for another year.

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Remote Phone Numbers

A useful way of expanding your business into a new area without the cost of setting up a new office initially? Or a waste of money because everyone can do it these days?  Obviously 0845 is no way to go as it's far to generic but is a local number in another area much better?  I see a lot of businesses now coming up with the new 0203 number for London but clearly they don't have London based offices - so is it the way forward for a business on a limited budget?

If you have a local rate number surely the fees you charge have to represent the travel from that location, and not your head office location - this must be a big hit on the cost of getting to your 'official' starting point?  Do you have to back up your local rate number with a local address to add a little bit of weight to the concept & to get to into the wonderful world of Google places?

Perhaps I'm thinking it through too much and should just take the plunge for a few months, test the water and see where it leads sort of concept.  The alternative is Plan B - don't get larger get smarter and use a network of Surveying firms to create the illusion of a larger organisation but again this can be fraught with pit falls along the way, although I have seen a similar concept be fairly success in the Architectural environment - I think a little fishing exercise might be this space.

For an overview of the services we can offer, along with some examples of our work please visit our website at  Alternatively you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).  It would appear we are the Social Media Surveyors....possibly a new tag line?

Friday, 15 June 2012

What is a Surveyor?

It's almost a weekly occurrence that someone asks me to provide a structural building survey or something similar, as yet no one has asked me to value fine art but one day who knows.... So here we go a one stop guide to most of the common forms of Surveying:-

Land Surveying - Often regarded as a second oldest profession, this is a profession concerned with the measurement of land and property.  These are the guys you call in to prepare very detailed maps before design works begin, they are also heavily involved in establishing property boundaries, and very precise structural monitoring.

Quantity Surveyingis a profession working within the construction industry concerned with building costs.  Of in more vague terms counting bricks!!

Building Surveyingis a profession concerned with Building Pathology, how a building is construction and where if any faults may lie.  These are the guys you call in for a structural survey before you buy a house.

Arts & Antiques Surveyor - a profession dealing with the valuation, purchase, sale & management of antiques & fine arts

Minerals Surveyor - a profession concerned with the use, value, management & exploration of mineral deposits.

Valuation Surveyor - The profession to call to get a true valuation on your home or property.
Planning & Development Surveyor

Project Management Surveyor - Responsible for the planning, co-ordination, management and financial control of any building scheme.

Environmental Surveyor - Surveyors who use surveying techniques to understand the potential impact of environmental factors on property & construction.  And assess a similar impact of property & construction on the environment. 

Commercial Property Surveyor - A professional advising on the buying, selling & leasing of commercial properties.

There are other forms of Surveyors so feel free to chip in with other examples, or get your own faculty of Surveying on the list.  

With most forms of surveying there is the potential to have the designation 'Chartered' in front of these jobs.  The effect of this one word is to show that as a professional you have been recognised by your peers already in the Chartered Institute as a competent person in your field.

Hope that has cleared a few things up, so R L Surveys are Land and Measured Building Surveyors , More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Our Product

All these blogs and we have been concentrating on the business element of the work, but the important factor is the final product, as reputation is everything, and repeat business is your best source of income.  So what do we produce:-

Topographical Surveys or Land Surveys: 1:200 Survey Plans

Measured Building Surveys: Floor Plans & Elevations

It is impossible to get the true feeling for a survey from a tiny image on screen but is does give a good idea of what we produce, and we like to think that this is a product that will constantly be evolving.  Albeit some of the improvements will be in the stages leading up to this point, but any suggestions you might have on the presentation please let us know so we might incorporate them into the third presentation revision.  Till now the ideas have been solely ours, and great pains have been taken to avoid deliberately copying the format of any styles used by any of our former employers but the natural development of the product may take us that way anyway.

Please keep checking back as new products and services will gradually be added, but with less than a year on the books our pool of examples is limited (yet fairly diverse within themselves).

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedInFacebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Saturday, 5 May 2012

Free Advertising

There are ways and means, and plenty of free courses out there to gain this knowledge.  With the advent of Facebook, Twitter & LinkedIn (there are other social media out there!) it is easier than ever to get your news or comments out there, but it's harder to target that news to the right people.

Recently we got a small article in the local paper to announce our intent to enter a charity bike ride, it covered the bases and included our company details and what we do - the cost to us £0 except for the time taken to write the article and send it in, and as one company once said 'Every Little Helps'.

Papers love stories and articles to fill their pages.  I heard a story recently about a fruit farmer trying to hire staff for his farm to help pick the fruit - he spent a fortune on advertising and received no replies, however one call to the editor of the local paper and he was deluged with responses!  How?  The paper came over and wrote an article about the farm and how it was having problems recruiting staff - so whilst the information was out there originally, it was not being targeted in the right place. 

"There is no such thing as bad publicity" (Barnum?), or "The only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about" (Oscar Wilde).  I'm sure there are some notable exceptions to these ideas, but in general unless it really is something terrible (sorry to BP or Toyota) you're on to a winner.  "Everyone loves a good story - and you don't need to be an author" (Mike Holiday - 2012)

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Friday, 20 April 2012

To Employ or not to employ

Possibly the biggest leap of faith after establishing a business - at what point do you take the plunge and accept responsibility for paying someone elses wages, take the risk of letting outside people into your business. So what are the options available?

School leaver - can be moulded more, will need significant time training so will not be 'fee earning' initially, but the cost of employing would be lower.

Junior level - costs are starting to rise, but also the ability to carry out the job is already there so there would be an element of autonomy.

Senior level - costs have peaked, but except for a little training on coding they should be good to go straight away, however they may be fixed in a way of how things should be done - but conversely may have some very useful ideas into improvements which could be made in the business.

Then there is the nature of the employment - full time, part time, limited contract, summer work experience or even apprentice (not that I'm suggesting I'll follow Lord Sugars lead - unless the BBC are interested).

Finally there is the nature of that person - should they be an out and out Surveyor with little or no administrative input, or should they be completely office based dealing with the marketing of the business and progressing the various policies that are in place?

These are big decisions for any business, but especially for one in its early stages! Any helpful suggestions out there? I think there will be a lot of sleepless nights over this one.

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Saturday, 17 March 2012


Where must the line be drawn, our list of jobs to be completed is almost endless (even more so than the DIY jobs around the house!!), but what must come first?

Revising Company Policies, Maintaining the Company Website, On-Going Marketing Campagin, Networking, Existing Jobs to be issue, reviewing software and making technical amendments, CPD, professional applications..... the list goes on and that is just from a business perspective.

We all naturally revert to type and complete the jobs we enjoy doing before tackling those less 'interesting tasks'. In some cases the answer is fairly clear cut, if you have a deadline to meet for issuing drawings then you must concentrate your efforts there. In an ideal world we'd have an army of staff all enjoying a certain aspect of the work whom we could delegate to - and yes completing a blog is probably not the highest priority, but it's straight forward with children running around.

Luckily I have a week away working coming up so I think I"ll be knocking off a few of the jobs on the list, but another possibly alternative is information sharing with similar companies - each concentrate on a different element of the 'business' side of operations and share the results??

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Policies & Paperwork

Everyone wants something be it an Environmental Policy, Health & Safety Policy, QA Policy, Insurance Policy!

Does the one cap fits all really work, or do we need a rising scale depending on the nature of your work and the level at which you work at. From my stand point our environmental impact whilst present is fairly insignificant - fuel to travel between office & site, energy to run the office, and paper to produce plots, then any environmental impact caused by our suppliers. It may be me being blind to the obvious but there is very little to be done to improve this or mention in an Environmental Policy!

Health & Safety - paper work gone mad. Yes it is critical to all businesses, but please let common sense prevail. I'll happily follow site rules laid down by others but I'm not wearing a hard hat on every site I attended especially when the owner of the house is in shorts & t-shirts gardening not ten metres from me!! In this instance even hi-vis seems a little OTT but there has to be a line somewhere. I once covered a job where is was a requirement to wear hard hat, gloves, goggles, hi vis top & trousers at all times when on site - that included at 2am driving down the road laser scanning whilst the road remained open to everyone - they did relent on the end and allowed us to put the hat, goggles & gloves on only as we left the vehicle, but only after a heated argument.

QA - Enough said, we all live a die by this and it's one of the few policies which I believe can be constant no matter what the level of the company.

You may have noted I'm not a fan of paperwork unless it is necessary in the line of the job. However I must embrace the trend now and set to on revise and developing all of our company policies in line with continued growth into more mainline industry.

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Benefits of Social Media & Networking

As a new start business it's not as simple as it used to be - before the age of the internet (a time I am aware of but never experienced in business ;0p) it was a case of picking up the yellow pages and start dialing - or better still travelling door to door. Now it's all change, whilst the old methods still remain and are by far the easiest and most direct methods they are not necessarily the most effective, consider these new methods:-

1) Networking - BNI, Tweet Up, Chamber of Commerce, Business Events,
2) Social Media - LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Blogger
3) Internet - Website, E-mail & Social Media

But which method is the best, and does the same ring true for all businesses - or even the people behind the business. From a personal stand point I hate networking or active marketing of any sort, it is not something I am comfortable doing but I know it is a means to an end, and if there was one element of my business I could farm out this would be it. However this is the one element of the business that I need to commit to to achieve the long term business goals.

So which is best - all of them - sorry but each has its place and you need at least a presence in all of these places. The internet is not the future it's the now so get on board, you don't need to pay out large sums of money to get yourself high in the Google listing you just need to do your home work and spend a lot of time - but it will pay dividends eventually. Facebook/Twitter etc.. again you need a presence but don't go mad people don't want pointless comments it's better to say nothing than say something stupid people will start ignoring you and stop following you which is the last thing you want! I'm guessing if you're reading this you've thought about Blogging, o idea if it works but it is a forum to get ideas out there, and release your frustrations - clears the head to concentrate on business.

Finally active networking, my only suggestion is try before you buy! Everyone will find their niche, but until you try you'll never know. I think the nature of the networking will depend on the level your business is at, and confidence you have in that situation, and cost. If you are interested in more I'll be happy to take you along to a few of the networking events I attend as a taster.

Hope that little bit of info helps, certainly concentrate my mind - not everyone is a nature in the marketing environment, those that are are lucky, the rest of us can get their in the end.

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Late Payments?

Is there an easy solution to this problem - should you stick to your guns and chase payment religiously the minute payment is overdue? Is temperance a better approach to take with a few reminder e-mails before cranking up the heat a little? Should additional fees be raised immediately?

From a business perspective we try to pay all of our bills on the payment date (granted never early). We do this to keep control over our cash flow, and maintain a professional stance. From experience there is no pattern to who are the late payments companies people - it could be anyone.

Touch wood so far we have very few instances to chase payment, and of the four occasions we have had to chase only one has proved to be an on going problem. At what point should we defer to a debt collection agency - and is this the only recourse?

Update: Threat of debt collection seems to work, but we have found a number of solicitors offering a fee chase service. For a small fee they will send out a professional chasing letter on their headed paper. Worth remembering!

Any thoughts on that one - suggestions and opinions would be greatly appreciated.

For further information about my company please visit, or visit our facebook page. Alternative you could follow us on twitter (RLSurveys).

Saturday, 28 January 2012

Our First Press Release!!

R L Surveys Ltd, a new Land and Measured Building Surveying company launched recently. The company, based in Ashford, Kent has been founded by husband and wife team, Mike and Beccy Holiday and will initially operate across the whole of the South East of England, including London. Their aim is to offer a high quality survey product at a more competitive price point than some others currently on the market, whilst maintaining a personal relationship with both new and existing clients.

Having worked for the same Surveying firm for seven years, Mike decided, with his technical knowledge in Land Surveying, it was time to take a leap of faith and start his own company. Beccy, an Accountant, has the ideal experience to make sure the office side of things runs smoothly – a match made in heaven on a personal and business level you might say!

“We felt that between us, we had a range of business skills from the technical know-how to the administrative and financial side, that we could use to set up on our own without needing any additional assistance – and marketing, well, we’re learning as we go!” commented Mike Holiday, Director.

Mike is an Associate Member of the RICS as well as being a Member of the Chartered Institution of Civil Engineering Surveyors and, with over 10-years post qualification experience there are not many situations he hasn’t encountered, from working at major International Airports, to working on the London Underground network - from large-scale housing developments to small back gardens. At least all jobs are varied!

“We don’t have the constraints of normal ‘office hours’ for work so if a last minute job was to come in late on Friday, we can usually call on a team to try and fit the job in over the weekend. We are also available to speak to our clients during the evenings and weekends, if that is more suitable to them.” commented Beccy Holiday, Director.

As well as establishing a presence in London, Kent and the neighbouring counties, R L Surveys is building up a network of other like-minded Surveying professionals throughout the UK, to combine forces on larger jobs but remain unique in their approaches and not be in direct competition with each other.

R L Surveys would be delighted to tender for any Land Surveying work and look forward to meeting many of you at networking events throughout the year.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Seven months on......

Now well into 2012 business is gradually picking up to a gentle trot, and we're making massive movements in our Google ranking thanks to a exhaustive effort in the admin department. It's amazing how the last decade has seen the Internet become the central part of any marketing strategy. Has it made life easier - probably as you can reinforce points made to people during a cold call. Is it easy - no, but if it was that easy I wouldn't get phone calls everyday promising to get me on Page 1 of Google for a small fee!! Next challenge is to elevate our position on a number of our other 'benchmark' searches - namely Land Surveyors London!

As the business is evolving I'm finding the work taking me more and more into the realms of paper work - do we have a Health & Safety Policy, Environmental Policy, Quality Assurance Policy?? Sometimes paper work can take over, but with the long term goal being growth setting up correctly now will save no end of problems in the future.

Our results initial from 2011 so far are very promising with 23 tenders issued of which only 3 are confirmed as lost, 12 completed and paid for, and 8 outstanding! Not bad for two months full time work.

The next big company mile stone is the purchase of our own equipment which might mean a slight drop in prices (good news for all our clients) as we no longer have the significant headache of equipment hire for most jobs. But as with anything there will always be an exception.

Over the next few months I'll be looking at certain aspects of starting a business with topics ranging from Networking to ' Behind the Lens'. If you are looking to start your own business please feel free to make some suggestions and I'll gladly try and work them in when I have some free time.

Remember to keep following us through Facebook (, Twitter (@RLSurveys), and on our main page at

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Taking the Plunge

Big Mistake or Master Stroke?

At the moment it's hanging in the balance but do I regret handing in my notice from a nice safe job with a guaranteed monthly income? Not for a minute. Why stay in a job with no future, and where the work ethic has evolved to such a state that people have lost sight of why they got into the business? Taking nothing away from them I enjoyed working there, but there comes a point when you want to pursue your own goals in your own way, not as directed by others.

So here we are - R L Surveys Ltd - started with the best intentions, ran through a few rough months (call it a settling in period) where big personal mistakes were made before eventually reaching a point of self sufficiency, and fingers crossed will develop into a viable business opportunity to all involved. But I digress (be warned it happens).

R L Surveys Ltd started trading in July 2011, initially on a part time basis but has now developed into a full time job and has been operating as such since November 2011. Whilst interest at first was slow, the business is gradually snow balling into a viable self sustaining business.

We are targeting the local markets in Kent, Sussex, Surrey, London & Essex initially. We'll provide Land Surveying & Measured Building Surveying services at a competitive price whilst maintaining a high cartographic standard & solid checking procedures. Being a family run business developing lasting relationships with our clients in critical to our business development.

More details of the services we offer, and examples of our work can be found at, or you can keep in touch with us on LinkedIn, Facebook ( & Twitter (@RLSurveys).

I hope you enjoy this blog, and feel free to make comment or join in any threads you like. This won't be purely business. All work and no play................