Purplebricks chief executive Michael Bruce has suggested that calling his area representatives ‘Local Property Experts’ means they can be more proud than if they were known as conventional estate agents.
In an interview with London business newspaper City AM, Bruce claims that “every time you mention the word ‘estate agent,’ everyone gets a little bit of a smile on their face and an inner feeling of unhappiness.”
He goes on to say: “Most people wouldn’t tell you that they were an estate agent if they were in the pub, would they? What we wanted to do is make them proud to go out and tell others they’re an estate agent.”
Bruce says in the interview that a critical difference for Purplebricks’ LPEs is that because of the online/hybrid structure of the agency, they rely more heavily than traditional agents on advertising and marketing to bring in customers.
“Agents spend most of their time chasing the next deal, so what we’ve done is take them away from that environment. We can produce those opportunities, plus advertising, marketing and a brand. They can then concentrate on the customer – and that’s proved to be really successful” he insists.
Bruce - formerly chief executive of a 16-branch traditional agency in the Midlands - describes part of the objective of floating his company on the junior AIM market of the Stock Exchange last year was to secure improved technology and more LPEs in order to “put more tanks on the lawn” of high street agents.
“[The floatation] gave the opportunity for some of the people who had been in the business for a while, who had given their heart and soul, working 17-18 hours a day. It gave us the chance to reward them for that early effort.”
Bruce uses the article to reiterate his belief that Purplebricks will be profitable within the next year. “I think for a business that’s grown to the third biggest estate agent in the UK, in such a short space of time, by committing to be profitable by its third anniversary, I think, is a huge achievement.” says Bruce.
Asked how the industry as a whole reacted to Purplebricks, Bruce says: “First of all they dismiss you as having no relevance, no importance – that’s the first cycle, denial. After that they ridicule, and after that, and it took a while, but then they seek to address the scenario.”
He concludes the piece by saying: “Virtually nobody – zero – goes into a high street agent’s office, and haven’t done since Rightmove and Zoopla came into existence. They’re nothing but a high street presence, a face for their brand.”