Every Monday we ask small businesses key questions. Here we speak to Laura Mearns, owner and director of Northwood Residential Lettings and Estate Agency.
How and why did you start in business?
My husband Steven and I always had a desire to own our own business. Having both qualified as chartered accountants in 2004, and with a passion for property and a couple of rental properties in Aberdeen, we took the leap in 2008 and opened Northwood.
We offered something new to the local rental market, Guaranteed Rent, and a fixed rental income for a minimum period of 12 months.
Northwood becomes your tenant, even if there are voids and rent arrears, offering risk free renting.
How did you get to where you are today?
So much has gone into making Northwood the success it is today – a lot of hard work and determination, all helped by our fantastic team in both Aberdeen and Inverurie who have gone over and above to build and maintain excellent relationships with our clients.
Since 2008, the property market has faced many challenges, but we haven’t been afraid to take risks and make difficult decisions, even when times were tough.
In 2020, we expanded the business into an estate agency with the launch of Bespoke by Northwood, which helped us to grow the business at a time when rental values halved in Aberdeen and our income dropped significantly.
Who helped you?
I’m incredibly lucky to have a fantastic, supportive team of people around me – from Steven who supports me in everything I do, to my mum who helps with childcare and just being there, and of course my amazing Northwood team.
Running any business takes a huge amount of time, commitment and energy and I couldn’t do it without them.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever had?
How you do anything is how you do everything.
This made me stop and think about all that I do. Going forward, I’m going to abide by this principle.
What is your biggest mistake?
I see the positives in everything and tend not to consider anything a mistake, preferring to look at it as an opportunity to learn and develop.
What is your greatest achievement?
Graduating with First Class Honours in Accountancy and Management from the University of Aberdeen is my biggest personal achievement, considering that I left school with minimal grades.
I was over the moon to be awarded “top student” in my fourth year at Uni.
Winning Estate Agency of the Year in 2023 in a national industry award was a huge professional achievement.
It followed five years of hard work by the team, establishing ourselves in the sales market and launching our new sales brand, Bespoke by Northwood.
How are you managing rapidly rising costs, and how could the government help?
Steven owns TaxAssist so we decided to share office space and costs in Inverurie and Aberdeen, as we will with Banchory.
To retain individuality, we have our own entrance and company branding but the shared internal space is a huge financial benefit.
High business rates are the biggest outgoing so the Government must look at reducing those urgently to do more to support small businesses.
What do you still hope to achieve?
Professionally, I’m looking forward to the opening of our new office in Banchory in the Spring. It’s been something we’ve been working towards for quite some time.
On a personal level, I would love to take a cruise around the world and, when I eventually step back from the business, I see myself working with a local charity.
What do you do to relax?
Being a mum to three active boys, as well as running a business, doesn’t leave much time for relaxation, but we spend as much time together as a family as possible.
The Isle of Harris is my happy place – we have holidayed there for more than 20 years, and we all love it.
I also enjoy hill walking in beautiful Deeside, and I do Pilates regularly.
What are you currently reading, listening to or glued to on TV?
I’m enjoying reading all the Roald Dahl books again with my youngest son James.
What do you waste your money on?
Jackets! I love to be cosy and have far too many.
What’s the first thing you do when you get up in the morning?
I’m always up earlier than everyone else and the first thing I do is make myself a cup of decaf tea.
I like to have some time to myself before the crazy morning breakfast and school run begins.
What do you drive and dream of driving?
I have been driving a Tesla for some time now. I wasn’t a fan when I first got it – it felt like I had stepped into a spaceship! But now I love it and have no dreams of driving anything else.