‘Over time enthusiasm becomes your brand’ says Darren as he looks back on his success to date

Darren Frias-Robles, Managing Director of Whitefox Chartered Surveyors (furthest right) with Ashley Harris, Lewis Rogers and Roy Cake from Spetisbury Construction

By Sam Pither [email protected]

Published: September 26, 2023 | Updated: 27th October 2023

For Darren Frias-Robles, Managing Director of Whitefox Chartered Surveyors, his success so far can be attributed to two main themes: enthusiasm and building relationships

Having qualified as a chartered surveyor in 2000, in 2006 Darren started the company with his father, who was an architect until he retired.

“We really grew the business by doing a lot of work for local companies, including housing associations and the university,” said Darren.

“I think the key theme in that time is that we love working on interesting projects.

“I was quite lucky in that when I was studying surveying at university, it switched on the engagement light in my brain, so I’ve always approached everything with a real enthusiasm.

Darren Frias-Robles, Managing Director of Whitefox Chartered Surveyors

“This means that when a client approaches us with a project we’re really up for it – and I think that shows.

“We roll our sleeves up and get stuck in, building a relationship and becoming part of their team.

“Over time that enthusiasm and willingness to get stuck in becomes your brand. You create a reputation for taking on really challenging difficult projects and delivering solutions – the kinds of projects not everyone can do.”

While a ‘can-do’ attitude gets you a good a reputation, it still needs to be informed by an understanding of what it is that needs to be done, and a network of people – especially important in chartered surveying, which often sees Whitefox acting as a project manager.

“We can only achieve those things by listening to our clients and learning what it is we can do to add value. Sometimes that might mean pointing them in the right direction when we can’t do something.

“One key aspect of our work is consultancy. A client will tell us what we want, then it’s our job to create a plan for how this can be done.

“A big part of being successful in the field is building relationships with consultants. There’s a lot of excellent companies in the local area who often go under the radar – but knowing who they are means we can point people in the right direction.”

The reputation Whitefox has built has led to them getting involved with some high-profile and challenging projects.

One of these is the renovation of Bobby & Co in Bournemouth town centre, which we reported on back in July.

Bobby & Co in Bournemouth Town Centre

“We’re delivering that project in a back to front way,” Darren explained.

“We’ve had to go in and activate key areas to generate interest and tell the story.

“This meant creating a framework so when tenants come on board they have confidence we’ll deliver those units for them, while working in a way which allows trading to continue in other parts of the building.

“This takes a particular skillset, and it’s amazing to be involved in a project which is so crucial to keeping Bournemouth town centre alive.”

Another key project Darren is particularly proud of is the Mercure Oxford Eastgate Hotel.

Mercure Oxford Eastgate

“It’s an old building, surrounded by Oxford colleges. The challenge there was that the hotel fronts the road, and there’s an archway at the front which you can just about get a transit van through.

“At the back is a car park. We built a three-story, 22 bed hotel extension in that car park, and everything had to come through that archway. It took us a while to figure out how to do it, but we cracked it, and a big part of that success was effective communication.”

Closer to home Whitefox are currently contract administrators and cost consultants for Brewer’s Quay in Weymouth, the conversion of an old Victorian brewery into a mix of commercial, retail and residential space.

Brewers Quay in Weymouth

“We’re in the early phases at the moment, and we’re finding wonderful things. You pull down a stud wall and find hidden treasure.”

Despite this success, Darren has one eye on the future and continuing to build the business.

“It would be very easy to just enjoy our success, but we’re ambitious, and we have to be building for the future.

“A big part of that is growing the depth of resources we can offer to clients. You’ve got to build capacity in your business, with the right people and mix of skills, so that when you get an opportunity you don’t let the client down. The only way to build a successful company is through repeat business.

“One key area we’re building is the Quantity Surveying side. The next phase is to recruit a Director of Building Surveying to drive and build that team so we can push for more of that work.

“This would then give me more freedom to develop our strategy going forward from there.”

Darren hopes this growth would see them breaking past the New Forest barrier and building a stronger presence in Southampton, before eventually moving into Winchester.

“In the longer term it would be great to create a presence in Winchester, which would make it easier to service London.

“To get there, we have to get the nuts and bolts right, to get the team working well.

“Business is all about the people, that’s the key element. When someone comes to us, it’s the team members that they work with.”

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