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TODAY'S OTHER NEWS

PropTech Today: What is the point of industry collaboration? It’s a risk, surely?

I have been banging on about partnerships and collaborations for years now.

Whether it’s between two real estate firms, two PropTech firms, or between a PropTech firm and a real estate firm, partnerships are an immensely valuable ingredient of digital transformation.

As Jordan Kostelac, director of PropTech for JLL APAC, likes to put it: “if you’re climbing a mountain, you want to do it with a climbing partner. Not only is it easier to ascend, but means that, should things go wrong, you only have so far to fall.”

The reason I am writing about this subject again today is because of recent industry examples of partnerships at their finest and most practical, highlighting to agents that collaborations really can bring them new paradigms of success and growth.

Collaboration and partnerships are all about adding value to your business, helping you to grow while also mitigating as much risk as possible.

In today’s ecosystem, these risks revolve mainly around capital outlay: new offices because you’re struggling to service viewings, or the risky hiring of new members of staff, tasked with covering regions you have not previously been able to service.

The risk then rises as to how best to oversee and manage this new team member remotely.

There will be plenty more examples of this collaborative approach in both the property market and wider industries but let’s look at some complete and timely relevance.

The first and most up to date example of collaboration is the news this week of a collaboration between InventoryBase, providers of inventory and inspection software, and Accommodation.co.uk, a ‘next generation letting agent’.

On the surface this is about being able to offer remote inventory services. Both companies are driving forward and trying to venture into or strengthen geographic markets.

However, this partnership could not be based on a more simple principle and it is something we should all be acutely aware of. Partnerships like these work for both parties equally and should be encouraged.

In this case, the relationship, improves and streamlines the customer experience by increasing efficiency for Accommodation.co.uk’s agents who will now be able to, at the click of a button, ‘instruct a local inventory clerk to carry out check ins and inspections...enabling them to focus on doing the things they’re best at – and love’.

I am not sure many people love inventories but that is a discussion for another day…

The second example of industry collaboration comes from a slightly older relationship between Viewber and Sprift, the former being the viewing services firm - sending freelance agents to viewings your team can’t reach or service for whatever reason - and the latter a provider of comprehensive data on more or less every home in the UK.

This partnership is a genuine no-brainer. When agents entrust Viewber to send freelancers in their place, they are placing a lot of faith in that person’s ability and knowledge. By partnering with Sprift, Viewber has ensured that all of tis freelancers have in-depth knowledge about each property they provide viewings for (and the surrounding area, of course).

Viewber agents cannot guarantee the same level of intricate local knowledge that a high street agent can, but its new partnership with Sprift eliminates this significant barrier to gaining the trust of estate agents and renters and buyers alike.

The benefit for Sprift? Well, it gets to showcase the power and value of its data insights by working with one of most publicised residential PropTech companies in the nation.

I reached out to Viewber Co-Founder, Ed Mead, to get his thoughts on this new partnership: “Sprift provide invaluable information on individual properties and will be providing a Sprift report on every property Viewber shows, auto-populated in the booking platform.”

“This means when a Viewber turns up to show a property, not only do they have the info provided by the agent but also the info from Sprift which goes WAY further. As such, our Viewbers are incredibly well informed.”

“While digital alternatives to traditional viewings are proving successful in the rental sector - where the audience is younger and more tech-savvy - sales are different, often a very different demographic with older users who are uncomfortable with data entry and want an interpersonal experience throughout the buying process.”

“The agents, too, are often criticised for being slow to adopt new digital processes, but because PropTech is finally maturing, sensible solutions are now emerging and previously reluctant agents are seeing reliability and value in tech solutions. It’s been a very slow process, but it is happening.”

Together, creating room to grow

Both of these partnership examples demonstrate how collaboration can help companies scale their business without taking on too much extra risk in a way that is complementary to the requirements of their respective core client base.

Furthermore, these four companies have created symbiotic business partnerships where each party has skin in the game, and risk is shared equally. As one succeeds, so does the other.

This last fact does, of course, have a flip side, too, where if one company fails, so too does the other. This, understandably, can act as a barrier for many agents considering the possibility of forming a new business partnership.

Carrying concerns about their own brand protection, many agents feel they don’t want to risk their own reputation by placing even part of it in the hands of a third-party whose employees they do not have control over.

My view, however, is that this is where agents are missing the point, believing the risks outweigh the benefits.

I would encourage them to instead weigh the risks and benefits of not seeking out potential partnerships: how will they scale their business? How will they compete against emerging digital alternatives? How will they meet the evolving demands and expectations of their core customer base? How will they find the resources and knowledge required to stay relevant in a rapidly changing market?

To go back JLL’s Jordan Kostelac - he has the following to say on the matter:

“If you were to climb a mountain, you’d want to do it in tandem because when you climb in tandem you have an anchor and you have a climber.”

“This means you only have so far to fall. In the world of real estate and wider business, the best companies are those who are finding unlikely climbing partners.”

This is now the world we all operate in. In this ecosystem, it is clear that relationships are better than rivalries or suspicions. And while the rules of digital transformation don’t mean that divided we fall, they certainly dictate that together we prevail.

I even speak to some agents who fear that collaboration may be construed as a sign of weakness, an acceptance that you’re struggling to find success. I couldn’t disagree more.

In ten years’ time, when the dust of digital transformation is starting to settle, it is a clear and certain fact that those who are still striding forward will be those who have found complementary climbing partners.

*James Dearsley is a leading PropTech influencer and commentator, and is co-founder of PropTech platform Unissu. You can follow James on Twitter here.

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