When he is not managing seven million square feet of commercial property in Kenya, Knight Frank Kenya Managing Director Ben Woodhams, together with 50 close friends, likes riding his mountain bike through Ngong Hills Forest and walking his dog through the peaks along the Great Rift Valley on the outskirts of Nairobi, for a man who has managed to grow the company’s property portfolio more than tenfold since his appointment, it is fair to say he has earned it.
If you’ve walked through Nairobi, chances are that you have bumped into a red, Knight Frank branded sign board notifying potential buyers of property put up for sale by the world’s largest real estate firm, Mr Woodhams is the man behind the Kenyan project, managing a team of 170 employees.
Despite being British, Mr Woodhams, 49, has spent most of his life in Kenya.
He was raised in Mombasa County where his father worked for the British government. He spent most of his childhood between the age of three and seventeen interacting with Coast residents and getting acquainted with the Kenyan culture.
At 17, he left for the UK where he enrolled at Oxford Brookes University, England where he acquired his Bachelor’s Degree in Estate Management. He is now a chartered surveyor.
He worked in London for five years before he was posted to Dar es Salaam in February 1999 as General Manager Knight Frank Tanzania before rising through the ranks to become Managing Director, a position he held till April 2003.
The father of three was then assigned to Nairobi as General Manager Knight Frank Kenya in April 2003 and was later appointed as Managing Director in 2006, a position he has held until now.
So much is the Kenyan spirit ingrained in him that he applied for Kenyan citizenship in October 2014 and is happy to don Kenyan flag branded cufflings because he considers himself a Kenyan and is waiting on the Immigration Department to formally approve his request.
Mr Woodhams is well respected within the real estate sector in Kenya, he is a regular contributor in matters real estate in the media but he is equally outgoing as much as he is a workaholic.
“I love Kenya, it is a beautiful country. One of the best things about Kenya is because of its fresh food, fresh fruits, fresh vegetables. I grow avacados growing in my garden. I also love Kenyan mangoes. Kenyan meat is good quality but I am not big on Nyama Choma like most people,” said Mr Woodhams in an interview with Business Today.
Mr Woodhams supports Southampton FC, the club his father has supported throughout his life.
“I ended up supporting Southampton because my father supported the team. The club’s success has dipped since it last won the FA cup but I still follow my father’s interests,” added a lightened up Woodhams as the interview progressed.
The Managing Director believes that any manager should manage his employees well in order for them to produce maximum results.
“I wouldn’t say that making your business larger is a recipe for success that is a recipe for failure. Turnover should grow with expansion, employing people is relatively easy,” said Woodhams
“When recruiting people, you should actually ensure that you match the payroll with the turnover of the company, basically the cost of sustaining employees should be at maximum a third of the turnover of the business,” added the realtor.