April 22, 2020

“30 years and counting! I joined CBRE (then Gunne Commercial) in February 1989 and just celebrated my 30th work anniversary in 2019!” John Hughes, a director with the Hotels team in CBRE Ireland sits down with me to chat about his career, his life and a few lessons along the way.

30 years and counting - John hughes - SM

“I grew up in Ballygar Co Galway, a small village where everyone knew everyone else. Our family were long associated with the village having settled there in the 1870’s and since that time were publicans and farmers in the area.  My parents had a strong work ethic which they passed on to their eight children. They may not have called them the RISE values but these were the principals they passed to us and most important of all was Respect. I was honoured to be awarded champion of the RISE values at CBRE in 2017.” I ask about the CBRE part of his career and he mentions Fintan Gunne who took a chance on him, “I was fortunate to share in many of the company’s successes over the years. There were many challenges along the way however there was always a strong work ethic and team spirit which thankfully continues to exist today.”


I ask about his background and how he ended up in property industry. “My family background is in the pub, farming and auctioneering business in the West of Ireland. Having finished school, I decided to pursue a property course at the College of Commerce, Rathmines and followed up with a course with the College of Estate Management, Reading. I always had an interest in the buying and selling of all property. My route to RICS was more “scenic” that others but eventually got there.

Before arriving at CBRE I had completed a two year round the world travel experience working for some of the time in Australia, New Zealand and the US. This was a most memorable time and I would recommend to anyone to do it. Work will always be there, but the travel experience is best enjoyed when you are young. Back then, pre Google, travelling (never a tourist!) relied on fixed place phones and the Lonely Planet travel guide book.” He adds that it was his grandmother who passed the travel bug to him!

I ask him about his role in CBRE now and what gives him the motivation to do what he does, “In my role on the Hotels Team, my primary focus is on the disposal of single asset and hotel portfolios throughout Ireland. This very interesting and rewarding role involves pitching for a sale, marketing the hotel for sale. This can be on a targeted approach or a full public campaign including newspaper advertising and supported by editorial. As a team we have secured the highest level of editorials during the past seven years. Over the years we have developed a good relationship with Property Editors due to the level of professional Press Releases issued and the public’s  interest in the hotel property market. This is followed by negotiation to agree a sale exchange contracts and progress to closing a sale. I should also mention raising an invoice! Over the years I have also undertaken a role in hotel valuations.

I thoroughly enjoy taking an initial though of an owner considering a sale through the various stages of marketing and negotiations and successfully concluding a transaction. It has always been and continues to be the “buzz” and satisfaction of the deal, not always the value.

I would be passionate about attention to detail, keeping clients updated and punctuality. My goals are always to do the best job I can. Thankfully on numerous occasion we have sold the same property at different times, suggesting that the then purchaser and later vendor were pleased with the service provided.

As a team member of like minded great colleagues, it is important that everyone has the same focus and with the combination and best utilisation of the collective skills, getting the job done. Uniquely the Hotels team is one that has a combined experience, let’s just say many decades!”

I ask if there was a significant memory from the last 30 years in CBRE that he can share about,“The sale by auction of Smyth’s Pub Haddington Road on 29 September 1999. On that day the Hotels team had 3 auctions – one sold prior to Auction (The Vintage Longford) and the other two (Murray’s Hotel Salthill and Smyth’s) sold at auction. Smyth’s generated considerable media interest as it was the first internet auction in Ireland.

Far more importantly and memorable on that day I was back and forward between Holles St (National Maternity Hospital) and the office as our first child Maebh was born that evening. Thankfully no post auction negotiations that day. Very proud then and a pride that keeps on giving today.”

I ask if he could identify one life-changing experience that made him who he is today, he answers “My dad’s passing”.

“The biggest life changing experience was the untimely passing of my dad when our family were young and the changes that everyone made to help the business continue. All the credit goes to our Mum. This was undoubtedly a motivating factor in my decision to go into property as it was a business I knew something about albeit more eclectic that selling hotels and licensed property.”

On the topic of change, I ask if he could share what he thinks is the biggest change in the commercial property industry that he’s witnessed, “4 main changes : Technology, Sector specific focus, the varied routes to the profession and regulation & compliancy.”

On the topic of things that never change, I ask for lessons that hasn’t changed in the course of his career, “How you treat people, enjoying what you do, learning is a lifelong journey, I returned to college on a part time basis in recent years and still learning how to take allocated annual leave days!” he says with a laugh.

“Be content” he says and continues “I’m fortunate to have a great family. I’m married to Colette for 22 years with three wonderful children (Maebh, Jack and Conor) and can’t forget Alfie the dog. Be passionate about sports - I enjoy cycling - Mizen to Malin challenge, hopefully, later this year having completed the north to south route in 2018, Ring of Kerry and McVerry Trust Dublin to Wexford charity cycle. I also enjoy supporting Galway GAA, Liverpool FC, skiing and children’s sporting success – it must have skipped a generation!”

Before we wrap up, I ask for some advice for the young people who are starting out in the working world today, “There’s no such thing as a silly question, always ask and ask but make sure you learn! Don’t get too anxious about situations as it will always work out in the end.”