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My Love-Hate Relationship with Rightmove

2 May

As a former letting agent I used to HATE Rightmove.

I hated their market dominance.  I hated the fact that I NEEDED them to succeed. I hated them so much, because I needed them so much.

I needed Rightmove to succeed.  I needed them to feed the agency success.  And because they fed that success so well, I also LOVED them.

It was a bizarre love-hate triangle.

Rightmove was a behemoth.

And I always felt like a cowering and insubstantial David to Rightmove’s Goliath.

Maybe it was the imbalance of power which made me hate them so much?

Maybe it was because the relationship felt so one-sided that I hated them so much?

Maybe it was because I needed them more than they needed me which made me hate them with such a vengeance?

And I know it probably sounds crazy to any normal business owner to have such a passionate love-hate relationship with a supplier.  But it exists.  And I know I was not alone.

And it was a feeling which tinged my entire relationship with Rightmove: they knew I needed them.  And for that I decided they were arrogant.

Which made me hate them even more.

I hated the fact Rightmove knew they were so good at what they did.  I hated the fact they were so good at what they did.  And I also loved that they were so good at what they did – because it made me good.  It made me good at letting properties.

Without a doubt, it is the oddest business relationship I have ever experienced.

Looking back now, without my letting agent hat on, maybe I was unfair and maybe I was wrong: Rightmove did need me.

Without me as an agent listing my properties with Rightmove they would not have as many properties.  Without me and my properties they would not have such a massive selection of properties.  Without me contributing my small bit, they would not have their BIG bit.

Because despite my “small-ness” compared to their “big-ness” Rightmove needed me.

I may have only been a small fish in a big ocean, but every small fish provides a meal for a whale.

Every small fish has a part to play.  Every small fish is needed.  Even whales need to eat.

Without agents – no matter how small or how big – Rightmove is dead in the water.

And they know that.

Rightmove know they need the small fish to be the BIG whale.  Without the small fish playing their part, swimming alongside and scattering throughout the waters the whale will start to get hungry.

And big whales need a lot of small fish to survive.

Why I Decided To Sell My Letting Agency Business

1 Dec

Today I have done what would have been unthinkable only a few months ago.

I have sold my letting agency, Gorgeous Homes.

Why?

The simple answer is to focus on my core business interests.

And unbelievably it is that simple.  Everything else, I have learned, is emotion – and emotion clouds your vision.

Gorgeous Homes started life in August 2007.  I set up the agency first and foremost because I wanted to offer a high level of customer service to my tenants.  At that time, I was running a number of conversion projects in the area.  As a large landlord with properties dotted all over the country, but with quite a few in the Stoke on Trent and Newcastle Under Lyme area, it seemed to make sense.  Plus, I had found ideal premises just down the road from the building sites I was working on.

It’s important to note at this point. I do not live in Stoke and never have – I have always lived in Hertfordshire.  Stoke is a 300 mile round trip from my home…

Anyway, I had found ideal business premises and I was full of the joys of being a “business woman”.  The landlord of the premises wasn’t very convinced – I was a first time business person who had no track record.  But he came round – he made me give personal guarantees, pay a hefty deposit and pay rent in advance.

I didn’t care – I was going to jump through the hoops to do whatever it took.

I took the lease and started preparing the office for our occupation.  Here’s what it looked like before and after:

Gorgeous Homes hartshillGorgeous Homes hartshill

Gorgeous Homes hartshillGorgeous Homes hartshill

 

One week before we were due to open my father died.

My life was thrown into chaos.

At that time I was running building sites, managing teams of builders, trying to get the office ready to open and recruit staff.

I wanted to back out of the office.  I didn’t care that I would lose the 3 years rent I would then be liable for.  I didn’t think I could carry on.

I don’t know how I did it.  Maybe it was because the business gave me something to focus on.  We delayed the opening by one week and Gorgeous Homes opened for business on 13 August 2007.

I don’t have a clear memory of that first year.  I was almost destroyed by grief.

I could hardly face the building sites anymore, for some reason, I blamed them for taking up precious time which I could have spent with my father.

Gorgeous Homes, and the staff I employed, became my lifeblood.

Within a short period of time we had made our mark and successfully taken on a load of new business.

The following 2 years were great – we grew, we expanded, we took on more staff.  Then the growing pains started to appear.  Quantity over quality does not always equal business success.

We found ourselves overwhelmed with a never ending number of problems – non-paying tenants, non-caring landlords and a whole heap of trouble at our door.  Morale hit an all time low.

My new year’s eve was spent on the phone to a landlord discussing the upcoming court case of a non-paying tenant.

Later that night, I made a New Year’s Resolution: I resigned from all “problem properties”.

The 80/20 rule was quite clear to be seen (when you looked!): 20% of our properties made 80% of our cash.  BUT 20% of  our properties made 80% of our problems.  The good thing was: they were a different 20%!

We started to re-focus our efforts on the “better” end of the market – not an easy feat when the UK was stuck in recession and we were operating in an already deprived area of the country.

We decided to take advantage of the depressed commercial property prices and bought our own premises (at auction, of course!) in November 2009.  With over 1500sq ft of space to play with we thought the world was our oyster.  The Regeneration team helped us to transform an ugly derelict building into our gorgeous new offices:

Gorgeous Homes burslem

Unfortunately, looking back now, the timing couldn’t have been worse.  I had started developing property again in London and the South East.  Going to the office and the 300 mile round trip was becoming increasingly time-consuming and a continual juggle.

Hindsight is wonderful.  Now, I can look back and say – why didn’t you sell then?

But I didn’t.

When you start a business, it is your child.  I loved my business, I loved my Gorgeous Homes.  It was a part of me, and a part of my life.  It had my blood, sweat and tears all over the company accounts.

But I didn’t have the time to run it anymore.

I had great staff, but they needed a boss.  And their boss was always at property auctions…

In July this year, my manager left.  I started the recruitment process to find a replacement and was thrilled to find a fantastic employee with the potential to spearhead the office.  I was excited about the future and was ready to build the business again – to push for future growth.

In September/October this year, I took a month out.  With every passing week, I felt increasingly stressed about how I would juggle my commitments to the office alongside my planned property development work.

It was a very simple night out in October when the epiphany happened.  I was sat having a beer at a small bar in a neighbourhood square in Fuerteventura with my other half.  And the realisation just dawned on me:  “I cannot do this anymore.  I cannot split myself geographically to do what is required to ensure the success of the business”.

And it was that simple.

I felt incredibly sad.

I couldn’t believe the decision I had made.  And what shocked me more, was the sheer finality.  I knew then that I was closing the business.

My friend, who is also in property lettings, convinced me I had a business worth selling and that I shouldn’t just close.

I had no idea how to go about selling a business, but I knew there and then that I would have to learn.  My decision had been made – now I had to take action.

I returned from my break on the 16th October.  The next day, I called 3 of my key competitors and asked them if they wanted to buy my lettings agency.  Within 48 hours I had 2 firm interested parties.

I told them the key thing to me was timing.  I was keen to re-focus on my property development work in the South and thus a quick sale was imperative to the deal.  If they couldn’t act quick then the deal was not up for discussion.

I wanted to be able to attend any property auction my heart desired in December.  That meant the sale had to complete by the end of November.

It was a tall order and both my solicitor and accountant thought I was slightly crazy.  I think my friends also thought I’d lost the plot (but they were kind enough never to say anything, and instead showed unwavering loyalty).

On 30th November 2012 Gorgeous Homes closed it’s doors and the new owners took over the business.

How do I feel?

Bereft and excited.

Personally, I believe everybody involved in the situation is a winner.  The new owners are great letting agencies who will give fantastic service to the landlords and tenants.  My remaining member of staff has a fab new role with one of the owners and our premises will be rented to one of these letting agents.

And me.  What will I do now?

I will start a new adventure.

Older and wiser and, with more business nous, I am excited for the future and the possibilities it holds.

Are YOU A Property Angel?

5 Jul

property angel

Today I am on the hunt…

I am looking for a Full Time Property Angel for our lettings business in Stoke on Trent.

If you are the person, or you know anyone who may be – please get in touch.

Here’s the detail:

We are a small and successful lettings agency based in Stoke on Trent.

Customer service and ensuring tenant satisfaction and landlord happiness are our key aims.

We are looking for someone to take over the day to day running and management of the business in conjunction with another member of staff.

We run a tight, but happy ship.  We only work with people we like.

What are we looking for?

Someone…

…who is passionate about people and property and knows the lettings market inside out

…who wants the pleasure and pain of being the “boss”… and who in the future will reap the benefits

…who wants to go one better, be one better and is not afraid to show it – or do it

…who is organised, can juggle inspections, viewings and chasing arrears

…who is looking to build a long term relationship and who is committed and loyal

…who is assertive and confident and is not afraid to speak their mind

…who is happy, smiles and enjoys being with people and doing a good job

…who has their own transport and a driving licence

What do you get in return?

  • To work with an agency who cares
  • To work with an agency who is not scared to go one better
  • To be a part of, and help mould the agency to become bigger and better than any of us ever imagined
  • And you’ll even get paid for the pleasure! (salary negotiable)

If this sounds like you, please get in touch telling us why you’re great and how you’ll make us great.

 

Getting Into The Olympic Spirit At Gorgeous Homes

31 May

Opening the office door at 4.30am today, Karen, our lettings manager at Gorgeous Homes ,must have wondered what on earth had possessed her to get into work so early: Was it a manic lettings day? Was there a problem property? Did she have a back log of paperwork?

No.

The Olympic Torch was going past the offices of Gorgeous Homes and she was determined to get a photo of the occasion!

Having consumed 7 cups of coffee – she was rewarded for her early start!

 

Here’s the street scene:

Here’s the Olympic Torch bus:

 

And here’s the moment we were waiting for: The 2012 Olympic Torch passing the Gorgeous Homes office!

 

 

How To Find A Blue Chip Commercial Tenant?

13 Mar

Today I have got a hugely exciting challenge…I have been given the opportunity to tenant a large town centre retail premises.

Now I have had my eye on this building for years, but the landlord (a big commercial owner based in London) had previously had the building with a big commercial agent and I know talks were ongoing with a potential client for the past year.  But now things have changed, the talks have reached an impasse and the landlord needs help for his empty town centre building.

As a letting agent, I know my place in the pecking order. Gorgeous Homes are not big commercial players in the sector, and we’ve only been acting in the commercial sector for just over a year.  However, in that year I feel we have proved ourselves and delivered results that show we will literally bend over backwards to get a commercial property tenanted.

I’m chuffed to say that our town now ranks among one of the highest in the country for attracting new businesses in – and given that we’re working in a tough economic climate that is quite an achievement!

The sense of satisfaction I feel bringing empty shops back into use is huge.  I love the fact that we are bringing new businesses in who will grow the local economy and who may add jobs and services to our area.  I adore that we are, in our own small way, playing our part to making the town, the local area and the community a better place to live and work.

Until now we have only had smaller shops to tenant – and we have loved it. And we have thrived on it.

And now we have our biggest commercial challenge yet – and it’s only come to us because of the small successes that we have shown we can achieve.

I have known for years who I have wanted to put in this building.  They are a major blue chip company.  Will they come?  I don’t know.

What I do know is that this major building deserves and warrants a major blue chip tenant.  If we get this right – the tenant will benefit massively – and we as the local town will get the “halo” effect.

Wish me luck in my new challenge. My town and this building need me to succeed in finding the right commercial tenant.