Pamela and Colin survive a tough 2010BACK
Colin Belton & Pamela Schure
“Colin and I bought Belvoir Cumbria in 2006 after selling our farm and saw mill in South Africa to find a new business and raise our kids in a safe, peaceful environment. In the light of recent months, there is an irony to that.
“We both had longstanding interests in property and were drawn towards Belvoir and Cumbria. The
Cockermouth business seemed ideal and from day one we’ve worked hard to improve and develop it
“Our offices are 15 minutes apart and the catchment area is 51 miles, ranging from Carlisle to Ravenglass. We have enjoyed great success, particularly with corporate lets. Sellafield and other energy companies are big employers for us They often relocate engineers from France and I
speak fluent French so we can empathize with overseas clients and ease the transition.
“We started with three people and now have eight staff. We were doing well and were happy, although we worked long hours. Then, without warning, at 3pm on 19th November, 2009, the floods came. Within an hour the water rose to six feet high and cars were floating down the street.
Luckily our Cockermouth shop was empty, but the effects were devastating.
“Within an hour Colin and I started telephoning our clients and by Sunday we received the first call from the assessors. Despite the floods we never stopped working. The next day we moved everybody to Whitehaven and conducted business wherever we could. Two clients signed tenancy agreements at my dinner table!
“On reflection I think we were incredibly lucky, as we didn’t lose anything irreplaceable. The staff were fantastic but inevitably we lost productivity and it was a huge challenge to carry on, but we did. By April 2010 we were back in the Cockermouth office."
“The move back to Cockermouth is the fifth office refit I have overseen. Our biggest investment was £12000 on interlinking phone systems, so we can take calls from either office. We also revamped our computers – one of the only benefits of the flood!
It felt like we were getting back on our feet. As a part of our expansion strategy we hired a young
man called James Clark. At just 23 he was a brilliant guy and very, very good at his job. Everyone liked him – particularly the landlords. One day he signed up six landlords, which was just awesome. “
And then on 2nd June, 2010, Derrick Bird started shooting people. We received a call in Whitehaven warning us that a man had gone crazy and that we should lock our doors. We were horrified to discover the latest shooting was in Egremont where Leanne, who was James’s fiancée, was working for us. We were desperately trying to contact her when we heard the news that an overturned Belvoir car had been found near Seascale. Apparently James had just finished a viewing and parked up to call the office when Bird shot him dead.
“All I could think about was helping Leanne and James. His family needed to come to Cockermouth and by midnight our house was full of police and people. We fed everyone, provided beds and the house was theirs as long as they needed it.
“Unlike the floods, this was a very personal and visible tragedy, particularly when we saw the overturned Belvoir car. And even now little things can bring everything back, like when I found James’s coffee mug. I knew I couldn’t keep it. I gave it to his mother.
“Being part of a Franchise really helped us. Dorian Gonsalves (Belvoir MD) drove up that night to offer support. There was intense media pressure, but Belvoir’s PR team dealt with this and also helped Leanne and James’s family. Belvoir offered to send a team to run our business but we decided against this. When we needed help Belvoir were there for us and when we didn’t they allowed us to get on with things and we appreciated that.
“The entire experience has been traumatic and there were times when I wondered how we could ever move on. Initially you are very practical and then emotions kick in. Colin and I will not replace James – how could we? Instead we have reorganised our workload. We worked long hours before, but now Colin is up at 5am and we get home between 7-8pm and we’re still not done.”
Success to date:
Dorian Gonsalves, MD of Belvoir said of Pamela and Colin "Despite everything they still managed to
achieve finalist status in the British Franchise
Association national franchise of the year awards in
October 2010, and have maintained and grown a
successful business along the way. I have the
deepest admiration for both of them.”
A visibly moved Pamela said: “We are delighted to win this award, and we wouldn’t have got through this year without our team in Cumbria and the help and support of Central Office.We thank them all. We will display the award in the office and will celebrate with a team lunch.”
Vision for the future
“We couldn’t have got through this year without our team”
If you would like to know more about acquiring a Belvoir Franchise, please
contact the Recruitment Team on 01476 570000