Leanne Pilkington: Risk and reward

Many people in their careers have a tendency to play it safe, but the problem with that mindset is it can limit your opportunities and sense of fulfilment. Laing+Simmons Chief Executive Officer Leanne Pilkington explains why the hardest decision she's ever had to make has also turned out to be the best.

In 2020, an opportunity I never thought would come along presented itself – to purchase Laing+Simmons… actually own the business I’d dedicated about half my working life to.

My instant reaction was to dismiss it. Not because it was too hard. I had plans in mind and initiatives I believed would work.

But it’s natural to wonder if those plans will stack up in real life, and if they would be embraced.

It all played a part in me wondering not necessarily how, but if, I should pursue a takeover.

I like to think I’m at young at heart but I’m also aware I fall into the ‘veteran’ category in real estate.

To tackle something so bold and new, at this later stage of my career, and at this stage of my life, seemed insurmountable. At least at first.

The voice in my head telling me, “You can’t do this” didn’t help. I’d trained myself to ignore, even actively rebel, against that voice, but this? With so much at stake?

It’s the single hardest decision in life I’ve ever had to make. The decision had different elements to weigh up.

Financially, is this something I want to commit to? Longevity-wise, is this something I’ll have the energy to see through?

It was impossible to separate the business and life considerations, because taking on something like this would be all-encompassing.

In the end, knowing there were good people who would have my back, I decided to push my chips into the middle of the table. All in.

From there, the decision made, the path became clearer.

Sometimes in our careers it can happen that way; we can agonise over a choice but once we make it, the fog can subside.

For me, once I decided to commit to the purchase, it meant I had a place to begin. And as ever in real estate, the place to begin was with the people I trust.

The initial support I received was encouraging. The response from people ready to commit to joining me was overwhelming.

One of the pre-decision factors I weighed up was the level of support I could expect to receive in forming a shareholder group.

Once I made the decision and put the feelers out among the Laing+Simmons network, the offer was fully subscribed in rapid time.

From there, more and more positive outcomes of the decision I made, which was certainly a calculated risk at the time, began to come to fruition.

The conversations we have as a shareholder group and with our network partners are authentic and driven by our shared objective in wanting everyone to truly succeed, and to do so in a way that fulfils them. 

New ideas and initiatives that were not investigated previously are now being progressed to the concept phase. We are free to pursue tangible actions that were previously just fleeting thoughts.

For me personally, it has been a case of feeling re-energised.

I’ve always been passionate about the Laing+Simmons brand but now, with even more skin in the game, that passion has been reinvigorated. And this is all within the first year.

Making the leap to ownership was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. It has also been the best.

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Leanne Pilkington

Leanne Pilkington is Chief Executive Officer and Director of Laing+Simmons.