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Henri Ghijben

Henri Ghijben on branching out

By Henri Ghijben

Founder, HRG Tree Surgeons

At 24 Henri Ghijben launched his tree services business and, alongside wife Sarah, grew HRG Tree Surgeons to become a renowned business credited with a portfolio of projects for clients including Salisbury Cathedral, Southampton International Airport and Winchester City Council.

But it is the challenges that he encountered throughout this journey that planted the seeds of his moral ethos, and led him to diversify and create nascent business Edify Properties aimed at assisting people looking to sell their properties quickly and easily.

Here, the father of two young children who share his passion for tree climbing and new adventures, explains how ethical undertones are at the root of everything he does.

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Was there a turning point that inspired you to diversify away from your traditional trade in tree surgery?

In 2019 we had to liquidate and rebuild the tree surgery business. Over that period, I learned more than I did in the previous nine years of running the business. I took a few steps back. Failing can create a lot of learning and we realised that we needed to not have all our eggs in one basket.

My ultimate ambition is to create wealth and to be able to give back to the community. I've got a 10-year plan of keeping HRG Tree Surgeons running whilst creating a strong business in Edify Properties. Part of that plan is to give back to the community and help homeless people, because when I lost the business, I went through some pretty dark times of mental health and I met some people who weren't as fortunate as me and didn’t have a support network.

You pride yourself in a strong company culture, can you explain what your guiding principles are?

Culture is a huge thing for me because when I was working in sales, I had a lot of terrible bosses. When I started my business, I really wanted to make sure that everybody is treated in a way that you'd expect to be treated yourself. Tree surgery is very team based and it's quite a dangerous job, so it's really important that there's a strong team culture, and in turn when we look after the staff, they look after the clients.

We strive to do things in a morally sound way, knowing that we do things properly and we look after everybody also echoes into Edify Properties. There are some sharks in the property world, we want to make what we are doing a win for everybody involved.

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"We need to try as a nation to get people to talk more, because as soon as you talk and you let thoughts out of your brain, it makes them a lot lighter."

What are the current challenges and opportunities in the property market?

The main challenge is finding properties; it’s a very difficult market at the moment with the pandemic and not many people selling, so there’s not a huge stock of property. It’s a seller’s market because house prices are still going up and there are more buyers than sellers.

It’s going to be interesting to see how the property market develops when furlough ends and the stamp duty holiday ends.

The pandemic is resulting in less need for commercial property so there’s going to be lots of opportunity to turn commercial property into residential property, holiday lets, or HMOs (houses in multiple occupation).

You’re very passionate about mental health; what needs to change to help address this in the business world?

I’m hugely passionate about mental health. I think the biggest thing is that people don’t talk enough. With people working from home more, the challenge is how companies are going to create a good work culture and engage with staff. We need to try as a nation to get people to talk more, because as soon as you talk and you let thoughts out of your brain, it makes them a lot lighter.

Who inspired you at a young age and is that person still your inspiration today?

Both my mum and dad put entrepreneurial thoughts into my brain. When I was younger, I remember my mum reading a book about Richard Branson; he was similar to me in the sense that he didn’t have any grades at school. He’s always gone against the grain with different businesses to try and break up industries and it’s amazing to see how he’s gone from where he first started to where he is now.

Do you have an aphorism that you live by?

Treat people how you expect to be treated yourself, try to help one person every day and do everything in a morally sound way. Wear your heart on your sleeve and talk about things.

"It’s going to be interesting to see how the property market develops when furlough ends and stamp duty ends."

Founder, HRG Tree Surgeons