20 questions with Kevin Shaw

Kevin Shaw

Audley Group Managing Director, Development, Kevin Shaw, answered a few questions about himself, his role at Audley and why he feels proud to work in the retirement living industry.

Kevin, tell us a bit about yourself!

I'm married with 3 daughters, I enjoy playing golf, watching football and I appreciate a fine wine. My background includes 16 years in the holiday park industry, in roles ranging from Sales Director to Operations Director and CEO.

So Kevin, why retirement villages?

Surprisingly, I actually moved into the sector without any prior knowledge of property, construction or retirement housing. I am glad I did.

What did you find most surprising when joining Audley?

The quality of the buildings, with particular attention to the central facilities. From architectural design right through to construction and the exceptional quality finish of the decor, it's unrivalled in anywhere I have visited since.

Have you seen any changing trends since Brexit?

Since the general election, Audley property sales have increased by around 25%, which we are advised is likely due to more certainty on what Brexit will look like. Audley sales values have also increased by 5% since the general election.

What is the greatest challenge in the current housing market?

COVID-19 and related government guidelines on removals, construction sites and property completions. We have owners still very keen to move into their new homes and we're doing everything we can to overcome these challenges to ensure that they can do so safely. This extended period of isolation has left many older people feeling vulnerable and alone, and I am a firm believer that a retirement village like Audley is the very best place they could be right now. Due to people in later life feeling more vulnerable, we do envisage a significant increase in demand for retirement properties once we are out of isolation.

Read Kevin's analysis of a what a frozen property market means for retirement living here.

What is your greatest achievement?

Personally, I captained Great Britain U19s rugby league students on a tour to France. And my 3 beautiful children of course!

Professionally, emotionally it was qualifying as a Chartered Director with the IOD. The sense of achievement was extraordinary! Financially, it was receiving my first equity cheque from the sale of a leisure business.

What have you learned since joining Audley?

The enjoyment that can be had in retirement. I had very little insight into luxury retirement living before I joined Audley and it's extremely satisfying to see and hear from our owners how moving has genuinely enhanced their lives. 

Have there been any other surprises?

The lack of support from government with regards to freeing up large family housing. Aid is always offered to those at the bottom of the chain but the government do not understand that to a lot of retirees, paying stamp duty for what could be a couple of years does not make commercial sense. The government should be introducing incentives to release multiple bedroom homes and thus freeing up the ladder. We are working with ARCO to create more awareness and build a better understanding of retirement living.

How does Audley stand apart from its competitors?

The quality of our asset and the quality of the service we offer. The service starts from the moment a customer first enquires about ownership. Audley is also significantly more transparent on costs than any competitor.

Planning can be complex for retirement living...

All of our retirement villages are C2 (rather than standard residential development, which is C3) because we offer 24 hour care, unobtrusive monitoring and food and beverage facilities. Although we benefit from not having to provide affordable housing, we do spend c£10m on the central facilities which is far greater than an affordable housing allowance. Although it is complex, planning is getting easier as more local authorities understand the differences between general housing, care homes, and housing with care (retirement villages like Audley).

So communication is key, particularly at the planning stage?

We start our customer engagement before the planning stage in order to understand if the local market suits our product. This engagement and communication continues through the planning process with our potential customers, local residents near our potential site, councillors and planning department. Communication is key. I have just appointed a new Planning Director to enhance this process as we grow our portfolio of sites.

Have there been any unforeseen complications that the planners have had to overcome?

Just an understanding of what we do. We achieve this by doing several presentations and a tour of one of our open villages. We also use CGIs, virtual reality tours, and videos showing the villages.

And what about construction? What has been your biggest success in construction?

Delivering our first London site, Audley Nightingale Place, on time and on budget this month. Given the issues around Brexit and now COVID-19, this is an amazing achievement and one the whole team should be very proud of.

What has been your biggest challenge?

A contractor going into administration on my first day of taking over construction at Audley. We managed to replace the contractor and continue construction at our retirement village near Newbury within 7 days. It was delivered within 4 weeks of the original date, on budget, and to a very high quality.

So you manage planning, construction, sales and marketing… that’s quite a diverse spectrum of skills and people. How do you manage the team?

Managing is managing! A leader does not need to be a specialist in the areas that they are responsible for, a leader is a generalist and then hires the best specialists available. A key to managing multiple functions is to understand how to get the most out of your direct reports, each person will be motivated (or demotivated) in different ways. A good leader should be willing to adapt their own style rather than expecting their team to all adapt.

How would your team describe you?

Firm but fair? Expects them to manage their own business and to make decisions, likes to challenge, likes to have a good balance of fun in the workplace.

(The marketing, sales, land and planning teams all confirmed that this is very true!)

How would you describe yourself?

Miserable! Self-driven and self-motivated to improve and grow.

(The team said "Miserable, but in a dry humorous kind of way!")

And a bit more about you…

How do you relax?

Walking with the dogs, a glass of good quality red wine and playing golf! Oh and watching the mighty Liverpool, which has been relaxing this season for once.

Do you have any hobbies or interests we might find unexpected?

I keep chickens and ducks and I love animals.

I'm also partial to building tree houses and am particularly proud of the two I built in our garden. The big one has a trap door underneath, a zip wire and a swing from the top.

If you could do any other job in the world, what would it be?

That's easy. A dolphin trainer – and for one reason only! During my much younger days, as a single man I would use this as part of my ‘chat up’ line. It never worked but it would be soothing to fulfil this white lie.

Thanks Kevin. A driven leader at work, and a treehouse-builder, sheep-herder, chicken and duck-keeper at home.

Luxury retirement properties for sale from £265,950. Our villages are currently closed to external visitors, but our experts are at the end of a phone.

More about Audley's 'Together at home' initiatives to keep us all feeling connected.