How an Ambitious Brit Became a Real Estate mogul in Turks and Caicos, and How He Persevered through Extreme Disaster and Devastation
Ian Hurdle traded the grey and rainy skies of England for the hot sun and turquoise waters of Turks and Caicos; not as a beach bum, but as an authoritative force in the Real Estate market. His unique entrepreneurial journey proved effective, and triumphed even through the recession, due to his innate business acumen and unwavering ambition.
Growing up, Ian watched his father become one of the most successful building contractors in the South of England; he semi-retired at a young age but craved new challenges and adventure and so came about the notion to conquering the Caribbean as the next phase of his career. Ian recalls, “Being nineteen years of age and at that point, having a six pack and some blonde hair, I felt like it would be a great ticket to come along for the ride!”
They moved to The Grand Caymen in 1993, and together, they spent five years building and flipping spec homes, which would be Ian’s first insight into the intricacies of the Real Estate industry. All the while, the father-and-son duo couldn’t ignore whispers about the island of Providenciales (the main island of Turks & Caicos) being the next golden nugget of the Caribbean. Intrigued, they went on a recon mission in 1998 and immediately fell in love with the island. Additionally, they recognized how underdeveloped it was, especially in comparison to The Caymens.
Captivated by the untapped market, they began building spec homes on Turks and Caicos, “But like any good father and son story, we had spent too much time together, and it was time for me to branch out on my own.” Ian started his own landscaping company and worked exclusively as a landscape contractor. When the recession hit, businesses all over the island suffered immensely. Ever the entrepreneur, Ian realized the need to diversify and identified a void in the property management market. There were plenty of absentee home owners looking for a reliable individual to look after their expansive estates, and Ian fit the bill.
By 2013, the market picked back up and tourism increased suddenly and significantly. Ambitious Ian astutely switched focus to capitalize on vacation rentals. “At that point, I learned that Real Estate agents were, effectively, using me as a resource. I had a cash flow of people coming into villas each week and I was referring them out to other agents… and not getting anything for it. So I decided to take my [real estate] license and the rest is history, as they say.”
He spent four years at Christies International Real Estate; and consistent with his inherent entrepreneurial spirit, intended to eventually branch off and start his own brokerage. Ian had innovative ideas to capture the international market, techniques and marketing tactics that were highly unpracticed and underutilized on the tiny island. At that point, local realtors would simply publish their listing in a magazine in hopes that it would catch a tourist’s wandering eye. “There was no thought process to international buyers or how to reach the international audience. Social media and digital media were foreign words to the real estate association at that point.”
He began headhunting Douglas Elliman and spent a full year traveling back and forth to the US in talks that ended inconclusively. “Douglas Elliman, although a great, contemporary brand and doing huge business on the East coast… once they come outside of the US, they are not so structured. It splintered into Knight Frank and it splintered into Savills; there was no cohesive brand to achieve what I wanted.”
Steadfast and determined to succeed, Hurdle took the suggestion of friend and associate Jud Bardwell, to begin communicating with Santiago Arana, partner at The Agency headquartered in Los Angeles (basically other side of the world from Turks and Caicos). However, Hurdle was dissatisfied with just a phone call and requested a meeting with all of The Agency partners. The English entrepreneur, who had never even been to LA before, took a long plane ride, sat in two hours of traffic, and finally arrived at The Agency’s Beverly Hills office.
“They asked me why I thought The Agency would be a good fit for Turks & Caicos and after about five minutes of waffling on, much like I’m waffling on with you now, Billy Rose basically tells me to shut the fuck up, skip the foreplay, and let’s get to the sex.” Although Ian has lived in the Caribbean his entire adult life, he still clearly exudes British wit and charm, but even more so, emanates intelligence and sagacity.
“We had a handshake literally two minutes later on a deal, and with that, I was put in a car and sent back to the airport.” After a long flight, a long day, and just a ten minute meeting, a plan was set forth and they broke ground as The Agency Turks and Caicos just two months later. He recounts that monumental day, “I don’t even really remember what I said in that five minutes, but it obviously impressed them.”
Just as Ian scored a huge triumph with The Agency, he was subjected to an unexpected and devastating tragedy, a pain no parent should ever endure. In October, his twenty-two year old daughter returned to the island from college to begin her career as an event planner.
“She came back and planned The Agency launch event. Fifteen days later, she became very, very ill. By the end of November she slipped into a coma, and passed away late December. So obviously in taking on the biggest opportunity of my career, and immediately being faced with this personal tragedy and the pressure that put on my wife and our other two children, and put on me… I think all of us have shown incredible strength — to not only to get through, but to produce with The Agency. And basically getting through that experience to the point where it still hurts, but there’s light at the end of the tunnel, you eventually start to find your feet and move forward with life.”
Ian showed immense emotional strength to endure such a terrible tragedy, only to be faced with another kind of disaster. August of that same year, Turks and Caicos was hit with the biggest storm in recorded history.
“The roof was ripped off our house, then another mega storm hit just a week later, which took what was already destroyed, and destroyed it some more. Being a small island, you have 3-6 months of patching the house until the insurance kicks in. On top of that, we were left with very limited resources to work — no internet, no phone, power in and out, and water issues. I can’t even being to explain over 18 months, just how challenging a journey it’s been.”
Again, Ian perservered, and recognizes the amazing feat. “To be in this position, where we are already considered strong competition to Sotheby’s, who are a long established and dominant force in the real estate market on the island — its very emotional and very pleasing.”
He has proven to be an exemplary entrepreneur, “I don’t just say something, I literally go out and get it, and make it happen. And then once we get it, then we worry about how we’re going to do it!” And he is very satisfied by how things worked out with The Agency and describes the working culture very different from other cut-throat, dollar-orientated real estate associations.
“It’s been a mind-blowing experience — they’re all so down to earth and very family orientated. Everything is about working together and revolves around collaboration. I couldn’t ask for anything more.” Ian’s astounding ability to overcome is truly remarkable. Due to his innate business savvy and unfaltering strength, he was able to navigate through the murkiest water and darkest skies to ultimately find joy and peace in paradise.