Patrick Rampton is a business leader who has seen it all. Currently a company director at Rampton Baseley, a leading independent sales and lettings agency operating in the Battersea, Clapham and Wandsworth property markets within London, Rampton has seen the company through the challenges brought about by the financial crash of the late 2000s and more recently has been steering his firm through the Covid-19 pandemic. In conversation with the Leaders Council of Great Britain & Northern Ireland’s communications director, Scott Challinor, Rampton discusses his experience of managing the two crises and elaborates on what he has learned from such testing times and his hopes for the future.
It suffices to say that as Rampton Baseley was born as a business, it was forced to endure a baptism of fire from the very beginning. The lease on its business premises was signed in early 2008, around the time that Northern Rock bank was nationalised.
Reflecting on venturing into business in such an inhospitable economic environment, Rampton said: “It was a very tough time indeed. We opened our doors as a business within the cataclysm of the credit crunch and stock market crash, but we not only got out of that crisis but we got out well and were thriving, so we ultimately did well in terms of getting a lot of business.
“For us to have begun in such a harsh climate and not only survived but thrived, people must simply have thought we were quite good at what we do!”
As the Covid-19 pandemic brought with it the UK lockdown and the subsequent economic impact, Rampton has now been forced to navigate stormy waters in the business world once again. In his view, the Covid crisis has brought back some familiar changes from his previous experience of crisis management, as well as a variety of quite different issues.
He said: “This pandemic has been a similar challenge compared with the financial crisis, but also a very different one. The feeling of uncertainty is a huge similarity, and that can breed fear. The financial crash left a lot of uncertainty over the future of the banking system, stock market and property prices. It took a cool head then to lead the business through it all and that’s still the case this time.
“However, twelve or so years ago there was a lot of noise when we saw the crash in 2008 and 2009 and now there is silence. The global financial system is not falling apart like it was back then. What we have found in business and economic terms is that we are in a suspended animation for now and eventually things will be restored, it is simply a question of when.”
Although the two crises pose challenges with a noticeable difference in tone, Rampton has not neglected his responsibilities to the business and its staff, which have grown in stature compared with the times of the financial crash.
“Responsibilities now are much greater because we’re a bigger company with more employees compared to back then. We want to keep everyone on board and if we can keep the team together and foster an all-important sense of loyalty, then we’ll have a cohesive company ready to go when things return.”
However, the experience of managing two crises inevitably brings lessons with it, and fascinatingly both crises have provided distinct messages for the future.
Rampton explained: “The big lesson I learnt from 2008 was to be rational in my leadership role as opposed to emotional. The lesson I have learnt this time around with Covid-19 is that everyone responds differently in the face of a crisis.
“To elaborate, everyone needs a different form of management, help and encouragement from leaders. Some people are more fragile in the face of adversity whereas some are more robust. It has been an enlightening experience this time around with regards to my view on the human condition, but it has also been gratifying to watch everyone pulling together to keep the business operating.”
One of the singular biggest challenges throughout the current crisis for Rampton has centred around people management and how to keep individuals motivated and focused amid a large degree of uncertainty.
“I have already mentioned that uncertainty ran rife throughout both crises. Keeping people motivated in the midst of a knowledge vacuum is a major challenge. When nobody really knows what is going on, it is quite difficult to keep people focused and working.
“As well as uncertainty, we’ve seen a lot of opinion aired out there as opposed to fact. Picking and choosing one’s information sources becomes all the more important in light of this. I have urged my employees to engage with the advice and guidance coming from scientists and medical experts for example, as opposed to politicians and journalists.”
For all Rampton’s experience in managing a crisis, it seemed somewhat appropriate to delve deeper into his leadership style, and he was more than willing to go into detail.
Rampton explained: “I am very much a ‘sit-down and think’ sort of business leader. Getting people to follow your thought process requires sincerity and integrity, and you must back up what you say with action.
“Showing kindness, respect and sympathy to staff and clients as a business leader is all-important. Doing so engenders loyalty and respect and it makes it far easier for people to then follow you. Admittedly, another challenge of the recent Covid-19 situation has been the lack of human contact in this respect. Although there are technological means of communicating, it is more challenging going via these avenues.”
Yet, despite the challenge that remote working has posed for Rampton’s leadership style, he remains confident that remote working may well be a regular feature in future under the new normal.
“Our business is a particularly social one and is dependent on human interaction. We will, therefore, have to change our business as firms become less high-street-based and begin to move toward more frequent remote working.
“However, the nature of our work is that we buy people’s homes, and those assets are vital both emotionally and financially, so we will have to balance remote work with that crucial human interaction.”
With businesses now beginning to gradually reopen and lockdown restrictions continuing to be eased across the UK, Rampton is ready to embrace the challenges that the new normal will bring.
“Despite the pandemic we have some exciting plans for the future. In the short term, we want to keep everyone employed and maintain the integrity of the business, and members of our senior management team have agreed to a 25 per cent temporary pay cut to help see us through.
“For the longer term, I envision expansion and adaptability. Despite the sociability of our jobs, there is a great degree of options for us to go more remote and electronic. Once we emerge from this crisis, we anticipate that the market will explode, but with less competitors due to the inevitable loss of some businesses. Those who survive will be better and stronger and more able to thrive.
“Of course, there will be a recession once again, but the recovery will be far more rapid that what we saw in the late 2000s. There will be changes in those playing the game, and how the game is played. I have a lot of excitement about and interest in what lies ahead.”
Before concluding, Rampton offered a parting piece of advice for the up and coming generations of new business leaders venturing into senior roles for the first time.
He said: “Believe in yourself, be honest and authentic and have integrity. Treat staff and clients as you would wish to be treated, for this pays dividends in respect, loyalty, and income. Sticking by your word holds you in good stead too. Business is not as complicated as brain surgery and it does not need to be. Believe in yourself and believe in the truth.”
The full interview with Patrick Rampton may be heard here.