8:40am Thursday 20th May 2010
Darren Hazell, owner of the letting centre, Headington, Oxford, describes how taking the plunge to become his own boss was one of his best decisions
What was your first job and what did your responsibilities include?
I worked as a waiter in Queen’s College, Oxford, when I was 14. I worked every night after school and weekends, too. I once served the former Labour leader Michael Foot.
How much was in your first pay packet and what did you spend it on?
I received £7.50 a week and saved up until I was 16 and bought a moped. It was a Yamaha FS1E — fizzie to those in the know.
Describe how your career developed to the present day.
I left school at 16 and went to work for Phipps and Wynn, the painters and decorators. We painted the inside of the bus garage on Cowley Road and when we were finished we were let go. I felt like I had been made redundant at 16. I got a part-time job at Minoli Tiles and ended up working full-time for three years.
I went on to work in the Rover car factory on the line. It was good money but when I had learned all the jobs I got bored, so I moved to market researchers AC Nielsen in Headington on the maintenance team. I went to college and took a City and Guilds in plumbing.
When I was 27, I left for Canada. I had already bought a house so I sold everything and took off on my travels. When I came back all I had was 50p in my pocket and an endowment which I cashed in for £750 and bought a market stall, and sold pot pourri, candles and dried flowers which paid the rent .
I then took a job in Stokenchurch at Munchy, a plastics recycling machine manufactures, where I was the buyer. Shortly afterwards a friend set up a new firm and I went to work with him, selling satellite dish systems to blocks of flats in East London. Next, I went to Comtel as a salesman and then in 1995 I went to work at Spaldings in Lincolnshire and sold farming equipment. I won the salesman of the month twice in the first year. I became self-employed in 1996, running my own maintenance firm and was already buying investment properties and looking after a portfolio for my father-in-law. People started to ask me if I could look after their properties and the company became tlc.
What are the key responsibilities in your position?
Everything. I like to run every aspect of the company from vetting the properties to finding the right clients. I am there to support my team.
Describe a typical day Manic. I usually start at 8am and I can be doing viewings as late as 8pm. We are one of few firms to offer late-night viewings. I like to be flexible, even if that means working late sometimes.
Who/what have been the biggest influences on your career?
My father-in-law, Antonio Bianchini, has been the biggest influence as he started me on the road to property investment and he was and still is a great mentor.
What has been your best decision?
Taking the plunge to become self-employed. I always knew I wanted to be my own boss.
And your worst?
There is nothing I am unhappy with.
What is the best advice you can give to someone starting out in your business?
Listen to what people want.
What is the secret of good management?
Listen to your staff.
Do you have a good work/life balance?
Yes. I work hard and I like to spend time with my family. My wife Sarah works in the office with me too. We are a great partnership and clients feel more comfortable working with a family firm.
What hobbies/interests do you enjoy in your spare time?
Cars and things that go fast. Weekends away with the boys. I also play tennis and like to listen to soul music.
Is there anything in business that really irritates you?
Yes, the secretive element to business. I think you could gain a lot more if people were open and honest.
How do you see your company developing over the next five years?
I would like to grow it steadily so it is still solid. I want to maintain the quality of my team.
What has been your most satisfying moment?
Beating the big boys at their own game. When I gain a property from the large established firms and the client is delighted with the service, I feel very happy.
Do you believe there is enough help and support from government and agencies for growing businesses?
Not at all. I wish there had been more.
What is your attitude to the environment and do you have any green policies in place?
I like to be as efficient in my business as possible, from switching off lights to cutting down on paperwork.
What is the secret of a happy workforce?
A happy boss.
Is there any other job you would like to have done and why?
A motor racing driver. I feel I would have been good at it. I have driven a few circuits and just love the rush.
Name: Darren Hazell Age: 45 Job: Owner of the letting centre (tlc) Time in job: 13 years
Contact: 01865 759930 Web: www.thelettingcentre.com What would you like to do when you retire?
Spend time between here and my house in Italy. I hope to enjoy life, relax and be healthy.
© Copyright 2001-2013 Newsquest Media Group