A senior figure in the industry has spoken out against the shock sackings and branch closures announced by Spicerhaart.
Jon Cooke, chief executive officer of eProp Services, has sent an open letter to the industry - shared this evening with Estate Agent Today - to call for humanity and leadership in the light of the Coronavirus ravaging the estate agency business.
He makes explicit reference to Haart chief executive Paul Smith.
Cooke's letter follows reports of sackings and permanent branch closures by Haart, as well as temporary shut-downs of some offices.
An article in The Observer tomorrow cites one Haart employee in London who says she had two minutes' notice of her sacking on Friday evening at 5.45pm - just minutes before a government announcement offering extensive grants and a call for companies not to sack staff.
Here is Jon Cooke's letter to the industry in full:
I will keep it short as we all have a lot on.
Several industry colleagues have commented on my LinkedIn post about SpicerHaart’s actions last week. We have all been subjected to Mr Smith’s regular blogs telling us how to run our businesses, and I feel it is only right to provide challenge where it may not exist. With the current situation, we are all experiencing an emotional rollercoaster and occasionally anger will no doubt rise to the top.
Brands, companies and leaders will be judged by their actions over the coming weeks and months. In my opinion, the board and ‘The CEO of the largest independent estate agent’ should have realised that the government was about to announce a raft of measures to support businesses and their employees, and that may have had an impact on their decision As business leaders, we have a responsibility on our shoulders as never before.
I’m not naive enough to believe that tough decisions will not need to be made in my business or any other or that people will not lose their jobs, but it’s important that we make these key decisions with the full facts and in the context of the bigger picture. This is now not just about what it looks like on a spreadsheet, our responsibility is also to the wider community and the country.
We are entering into a time of great uncertainty, one of which this country and our industry has never seen. The supermarkets, which were recently at each other’s throats, are now working together to supply our food, unofficial rationing exists, and supermarket staff are now classed as key workers, ominously as are funeral directors. Potentially, we are looking down the barrel of the government and us, the private sector, combining to make available the money to spend in those supermarkets as the only option.
Now more than ever, it’s important that we work together with collective responsibility in mind, shareholders and boards, boards and management, management and staff, landlords and tenants, networks and members, we all have our part to play. My team spent some of their time last week on video conference calls with both major portals, providing thought leadership on their discount strategy, which benefits our members as well as the wider industry. We also, on behalf of our agency customers, spoke to all suppliers in order to provide further discounts and we will communicate these in the coming days. Additionally, as communication is more important than ever, we are providing our customers with a 1pm Facebook live daily update, beginning Monday. The first subject is the government’s financial support for staff and how we as business leaders can support our staff and therefore our companies throughout the coming months.
Now is the time to show some humanity in leadership, and not run to the hills.