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Why launching in recession proved to be a strength

Looking back to the 1980s, it was General Election time and Michael Foot had released the Labour party manifesto.

The party was considerably to the left of where it is today and Margaret Thatcher was riding high on her Falkland Islands victory. Foot’s radical manifesto was labelled “the longest suicide note in history” and he duly lost.

Fast forward to April, 2009, and I launched my Fine and Country Southern Hampshire branch in the teeth of a recession when you might have expected properties in the top 25 percentile of the market to be doing, if not badly, abysmally and many people thought this my professional suicide note, too.


But it’s true that strong businesses launch out of foundation during recession and such has been the case with my Fine and Country enterprise, supported soon after by Town and Country Southern which allows my business to present properties right across the spectrum.

It’s natural to look back each year to see what we have achieved and whether or not things went to plan.

At the time, the plan was to get things onto a sure footing, establish a market presence, and build a register of properties. I’m glad to say it worked and within a short time we had some pretty tasty homes in south east Hampshire lining up in our window displays. We haven’t looked back since then and have enjoyed a period of steady and sustained growth, the type that’s so much better for a young business than runaway success and a pace that’s too fast for everyone to stick with.

I suppose it helped that I had been in the Portsmouth area property scene for around 25 years so had some idea of what ticked, especially as I had run my own agency before.

But the real energy provider is the team of experienced people I have managed to gather round me so that now we have seven full-time staff, several part-timers, and everyone engaged in professional training so they know both the local market and the national legal requirements. I consider professionalism to be as important as the brand. No matter how profile the name or spectacular the properties you are trying to sell, if your staff lacks professional skills it will always be like trying to push water uphill.

With that in mind, I have served a stint as national trainer for Fine and Country to ensure all new entrants to the firm are up to the standards we demand. I’ve also played an active role in the National Association of Estate Agents and Association of Residential Lettings Agents because I’m a firm believer in what they stand for with regard to raising industry standards.

When I launched in Drayton, I think any people thought me certifiable but it seems to have worked out OK, so much so that Fine and Country Southern Hampshire now has a second office in Emsworth to cover the Hampshire / West Sussex border area.

As we hopefully continue to climb out of recession, the business is strongly placed and performing well in its region. Now we just have to wait to see what effect the General Election result has on the market as a whole although as the last six years has shown there’s always a buyer for the more interesting properties.

*Colin Shairp is Director of Fine and Country Southern Hampshire


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