Jay Sorensen is embracing his rural valuation career with a passion

Logan Stone director  Jay Sorensen is profiled in the Summer issue of the New Zealand Property Professional magazine.  You can read the article here.

Entering rural valuation

Jay acknowledges that when he started university he wasn’t entirely sure where he was heading, except he knew he enjoyed the agriculture sector and was interested in numbers. Then he ‘fell’ into rural valuation and embarked on his career with a passion.

From a Hawke’s Bay farming family, Jay was at Massey University studying for a Bachelor in Applied Science where he encountered rural valuation as an option. Until then it had been something he knew little about, and says it was not well marketed.

Logan Stone opportunity

At the end of his second year at Massey Jay sent out emails looking for holiday experience. Logan Stone, a national valuation and property specialist firm based in Hawke’s Bay for 30 years, responded. Boyd Gross, the firm’s primary industries sector leader, opened Jay’s eyes to the rural valuation world and that has been his ‘home’ ever since.

Graduating with a double major in rural valuation and management, and agribusiness, Jay joined the firm in 2008, at the age of 21, and seven years later became a director of the firm.

In the intervening years, he has actively pursued his career, and in 2015 was selected as the Property Institute of New Zealand Young Professional of the Year (an award his mentor Boyd Gross won in 1997).

Promoting valuation as a career

Drawing on his own experience of not knowing about valuation as a career option, Jay sees it as a responsibility and challenge to bring a younger voice to raising the profile of his chosen career among students and graduates.

As a past member of the Property Institute Young Leaders’ committee, he was involved in a project to develop resources for secondary school students to encourage greater interest in property as a career option. He enjoys making presentations to students in Hawke’s Bay at careers days and, having developed an affinity with some of the region’s schools, talks to groups of 10 to 25 young people at a time.

He’s heartened by the good questions that arise from these discussions and the growth in numbers taking up valuation studies at university in recent years. He is also pleased to see the Property Institute’s attendance now at careers days.

Addressing industry challenges

Aware that the industry is top heavy with older males, Jay sees his role on the Property Institute Standards and Valuation Committee as important, providing a younger perspective in reviewing and enhancing new standards and preparing for the changes facing the industry.

The automation of valuations is one growing trend that Jay believes will change the industry, with much of the simpler work possibly eroded, as well as the potential for more limited client contact and feedback opportunities.

Jay believes that the industry needs to continue to ensure members provide quality advice so they can maintain client contact and add value through robust conclusions that are well thought out and not a time-pressured output. This is something that an automated valuation model will never be able to do.

Young directorship

Business ownership was always a future aspiration, but very quickly became a goal that Jay worked progressively towards. He says that while still studying it became quite apparent that there were many older valuers within the industry, and that if he committed long term there would likely be ownership opportunities, particularly in the rural sector.

Having the opportunity to learn more about how a business operates, and being involved in the firm’s strategic direction to keep it at the forefront of an evolving industry, is proving pleasingly challenging.

Again, Jay believes he brings a valuable younger generation view to the board table where he sits with fellow directors, Frank Spencer and Boyd Gross. It is an ongoing learning situation, but Jay is stimulated by the challenges and sees bringing the staff on board with the firm’s growth goals as one of his particular contributions. The same goes for being able to train and help shape his younger colleagues and their careers.

Mentoring paying it forward

In Jay’s view, mentoring has been a significant aspect of his success and he is proud to be ‘paying it forward’ now, mentoring three younger professionals on the staff (one of whom, Hayley Mortleman, has recently gained registration). The firm regularly takes on students for holiday experience and provides an opportunity for them to work and observe valuation in practice.

When he first joined Logan Stone, director Roger Stone took Jay and a second graduate to lunch each Friday and work began from ‘day one’ on gaining their registration. During these

sessions Roger shared his personal strategy for growing his reputation and business. Jay took this advice on board and actively works on networking and looking for ways to stand out and to brand himself.

Making himself available for industry committees has been part of this strategy that he feels has returned invaluable knowledge and opportunities to learn from industry leaders.

Building networks

From the outset of his career, armed with Roger’s advice, Jay has worked to develop relationships throughout Hawke’s Bay, the North Island, and further afield. Even as an extrovert, he acknowledges this has required determination. However, he says the effort has stood him in good stead, with early networking contacts now getting in touch with work and opportunities.

Some of these contacts have come from members of a Young Professionals’ Group in Hawke’s Bay that Jay helped establish in 2012. This was set up to provide a networking forum for up-and-coming professionals, many of whom were new to the region and also looking to establish themselves and make contacts.

Jay says it takes time to gain traction as a work generator – five to six years of constant effort establishing a reputation, gaining registration and associate status, and building up personal knowledge and resources. He also believes that the learning needs to never stop.

Nutrient sustainability advice

As a rural valuer, Jay recognises the challenges facing farmers in the area of sustainability and the growing need to implement and prove sustainable farming practices. He therefore made the conscious effort to upskill and increase his knowledge, gaining an Advanced Certificate in Sustainable Nutrient Management.

Maintaining and improving profitability, while meeting new water management rules imposed by regional authorities, will be a challenge for many farmers. Jay believes that decisions made today could pose problems for compliance in the future.

He sees huge advantages for rural operators in gaining an understanding of property, values, farming systems and environmental issues. Nutrient management is becoming increasingly critical for rural businesses – for their pockets as well as the planet.

In his view, smart nutrient management will help farmers get the most out of their land while limiting their environmental impact. It is an area that Logan Stone is placing significant emphasis on, with two other valuers within the firm, also  having gained the qualification.

A successful career path

Not even a decade into his career, Jay feels valuation provides a good balance that keeps him stimulated. He thrives on meeting and talking with people involved in the rural sector – farmers, growers and the professional services that support them. Understanding their business and what makes it tick, and being out on the farm, orchard or vineyard, gives him satisfaction.