How do they do it: Stuart Robinson, executive director & chairman UK Planning, CBRE

Written by: Flemmich Webb
Published on: 19 May 2014

Stuart Robinson

Stuart Robinson heads up property firm CBRE’s planning service. Robinson started his career focusing on retail development and has been involved in the planning of more than 20 shopping centres over his career. During the past 10-15 years he has focused on major projects in London Kings Cross Central and Regent Street. He has spent three decades at CBRE and was shortlisted for “London’s Planner of the Year” for 2013.

CBRE Planning has offices across the UK, with chartered town planners in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Southampton, Glasgow and Edinburgh. Recently the firm has seen staffing numbers grow as the business expands to cope with new work as the economy recovers.

What are your objectives in your current role and how are you measured against them?

CBRE’s objective, naturally, is to be number one in all the significant markets around the globe. Planning is a crucial part of real estate in that it effectively recycles property into the market.

My main role is to ensure that the team provides excellent planning advice across a range of sectors in key locations throughout the country. Specifically, I liaise with our clients to ensure that CBRE’s instructions are clear and that the team are delivering what our clients want, when and how they want it. With a firm the size of CBRE, this can be quite a challenge.

In terms of projects, my role is giving both high level strategic and tactical advice, which complements the work my colleagues are doing at a technical level. This means I need to have a sound working relationship with the heads of all major stakeholders at officer and member levels.

CBRE has a feedback process, monitored independently, which is a helpful way of ensuring that myself, and the company, are on the right track. Personally, though, I think the best feedback comes from talking to clients, getting to know them properly, gaining a good understanding of the issues affecting them and securing the best possible result every time.

Q: What key lessons that help you fulfil these objectives have you learned during your career?

Good communication is everything. It's easy to underestimate how difficult effective communication can be, but the time invested in making sure it’s built into the processes always pays off. It's important to recognise that content is only part of communication.

Maintain eye contact. At CBRE, we are constantly in “presentation” mode, so I always think about body language and posture to help my delivery carry conviction – eye contact is especially important. Electronic aids often reduce rather than enhance communication in my view.

Keep it simple. I have found that when giving advice, whether written or verbal, there's a lot that can be learnt from broadsheet journalists: keep it simple and self-explanatory. Never say something in 20 words when a handful will do – this only weakens the authority of your delivery.