An Interview with Nick Findlay
I caught up with Nick Findlay from City Room Rentals in Stirling for a coffee and a walk around town. We chatted about business and his career to date.
Nick has an honours degree in Tourism Management from Glasgow Caledonian University. He attended the first Travelodge UK Graduate programme before securing a position as a Hospitality Manager for The Mansion Group. Moving through the Property Management Investment firm’s ranks to become a Regional Manager responsible for sales and operations in Scotland and Northern England. Nick then setup on his own, with City Room Rentals.
What is City Room Rentals?
City Room Rentals provides an online accommodation platform matching students and universities from around the world with purpose built student accommodation. Our commercial hotel division also provides partners with the expertise to utilise underused assets during vacant summer periods — through peak commercial leisure occupancies — to operate as hotels. We partner with institutional investors, private providers and leading universities.
When did you set up the business?
The business was established in 2014 as Edinburgh Room Rentals, in 2016 the business was rebranded to City Room Rentals to scale across the UK.
What made you decide to set up your own?
Having worked previously as a Regional Manager for a student investment management company I spotted a gap in the market and thought now is the right time. My employers were incredibly supportive and backed the new venture.
Had you run your own business before City Room Rentals?
No, however I had run similar operations for my last employers and managed large teams and business deals so had the skill set to transfer over.
What’s the drive behind running your business?
When you run your own company, every day is different which keeps it interesting. I have never worked a 9–5 in an office environment and have always been working in roles that require extensive travel and operations. I love to meet new people and clients and the key to business is striking up good relationships so that people want to do business with you.
How do you market your business, how do people find out about you?
We have a variety of routes to market, both B2B and B2C. A large portion of our business is referrals and reputation with existing clients and universities. If you deliver a good service, your best advertisement is your customers.
Where do you see your business in five years time?
Our strategy is to expand into the UKs top 25 student towns and cities by 2017 with further ambitions to scale our brand into key European cities in the next 2–3 years.
Is there something you’d do differently looking back?
Listen twice as much as you talk as you never learn anything new by talking.
What are you glad you did?
Fear is a common reason why people don’t pursue their passions, dreams and or set up a new business. I’m glad I put mine to one side and set up City Room Rentals.
If someone was in your situation, just starting a new business, what would be your main piece of advice for them?
Going it alone in business is a tough ask. If you’re thinking about setting up a company I would advise to find a CoFounder to help share the burden. I was fortunate myself and my partner Anna had worked in the same industry so complimented each other’s skill set, it also helps we’re married!
Advice number two is always validate your business idea before you pursue it and waste both time and money. Will customers buy your product or service? How do you know this? Believe me, you’ll fail along the way and have to pivot your business in new directions to stay ahead of the curve, my advice would always be if you are going to fail, fail quickly and fail cheaply.
Finally, surround yourself with good people and advisors that have been there and done it. You’d be surprised how much support and advice is available if you just ask.