When 28-year-old Holly Armstrong joined the George F White group as a junior graduate on the residential team, even she couldn’t have anticipated where the role would lead her. Within six months, she found herself sitting on the board of the strategy and management group, being mentored by managing director Hugh Fell. Five years after she started, she’s now the director of the company’s recently launched lettings service.
Holly’s day begins bright and early, and there’s no such thing as a typical schedule. ‘I’m normally up and about by six, and am always in the office before eight. I don’t think there is a normal working day in the George F White group. I usually start by sieving through emails and understanding what I have to deal with that day. My main task is raising the profile of the business, so I’m normally out of the office meeting professional contacts.’
Her role as director of GFW Letting is one that Holly loves, but working in property hasn’t always been her number one aim. ‘It wasn’t exactly a goal I had growing up, but I graduated from university in an era that saw the property market booming. A lot of graduates around that time were really enthused by the whole idea, so as I went through my law degree, property was a key area I focused on, and I tried to further my knowledge of the industry through my core modules.’
Her time as a law student has been invaluable in preparing Holly for such a fast-paced career. ‘My degree was very structured and disciplined. It was ingrained in us very early on that even though we were students, we had to treat it like a nine-to-five job. It instilled a strong work ethic in me. Even in year one, we were forced to consider what we wanted to gain by the end of our degree and what area we wanted to specialise in. It also taught me to constantly seek solutions to problems – that’s the whole point of law, to find the answer. And that’s something I’ve absolutely taken on in my career.’
To get up at 6am and start your day, you need some kind of innate motivation – something Holly has in abundance. ‘Success motivates me, on both a personal and a business level. For me, that’s having the good business idea, which was GFW Letting, putting a plan together and driving it forward into a competitive market, working towards its ongoing success. In the future, I hope I can continue in a role that continues to engage and challenge me. Having joined the George F White group, I always expected just to do the two-year graduate scheme then move on, but the business has constantly kept me engaged and presented me with new opportunities. My career has always been important to me; it’s a huge part of who I am. I love the independence that it brings you.’
Holly’s advice to similarly ambitious businesswomen is simple: take a break every once in a while. ‘When you’re still relatively young, there can be times when it feels like there’s such a hard slog ahead. So my advice is to give yourself a break sometimes. As women, we often feel that we need to be everything to everyone, but there’s nothing wrong with saying, “You know what, this year is going to be my year to nail my career, or focus on my family.” Trust your instincts – sometimes you have to make decisions like that, and only you know what’s best for you.
‘Above all, keep questioning everything. Don’t accept everything people tell you, find a better solution. That’s when you find the real golden nuggets.’
GFW Letting, www.gfwlettings.co.uk