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Seeing the wood for the trees - finding the 1% in your business

When was the last time you looked at your business and really thought about what you could do to improve?

Yesterday? Last week? Last month? Last year?

Many estate and letting agencies rely on owners taking an active role in valuations, listings, negotiations and sales, leaving little time to review the progress of the business. 

It’s like the old saying… ‘you can’t see the wood for the trees’.

Are we guilty of spending too much time on the day to day without taking the opportunity to take a step back and look at how we can improve?

Marginal gains is a concept that encourages you to look at each part of the business and find ways to improve it, even if it’s only by 1%.

If you can improve everything you do by even just a fraction, it all adds up to a big overall improvement. 

The term has recently been popularised in sport where coaches and managers seek to extract every ounce of performance from their athletes and teams by finding ways to improve everything they do. Think sports nutrition, innovative training, endless performance analysis to find the 1-2% that often differentiates great individuals and teams.

Sir Dave Brailsford, the architect of Britain’s recent success in cycling and now principal at Tour de France-winning Team Sky, is famous for scrutinising every element of performance to find marginal gains.

During the Tour de France, Team Sky took each rider’s pillow and mattress from home with them to help them sleep and recuperate better after each day on the Tour de France.

World cup winning rugby coach Sir Clive Woodward redesigned England’s rugby kit ahead of the 2003 tournament after identifying that the looser fitting traditional cotton shirts made players easier to tackle. The skin-tight fit style is now used by most major international teams.

The principle of marginal gains is a great addition to estate agency businesses. 

With the process of moving home now taking up to 16 weeks, there is no better time for agents to be looking at their own processes and procedures and seeing if there are improvements to be made to help them move their pipelines along, improve customer experience and ultimately get paid faster.

Challenge yourself, get out of your comfort zone and ask the awkward questions: 

1) Are you giving yourself the best chance of winning new listings? 

2) Are you giving your vendors’ properties the best chance of sale?

According to recent Rightmove statistics, 47% of sales email enquiries and 58% of lettings email enquiries were ignored. Could your process for dealing with incoming enquiries be improved?

Is your website optimised? A 2018 security update by Google means that websites that are not ‘https-encrypted’ now suffer significantly in the organic search rankings. 

Your website will also be suffering if it is not mobile-enabled (i.e. it does not automatically shrink to be viewed on a mobile or tablet). 

And with mobile internet browsing now having overtaken traditional desktop browsing, not to mention the availability of Zoopla/Rightmove/OnTheMarket apps, mobile-enabled websites are a must. 

When it comes to listings, the goalposts have changed. In 2013, 71% of listings had at least five photos. That figure is now 95%. In 2013, 40% of listings had a floor plan, that has now doubled to 80%. Have you moved with the times?

There is a general move in the industry toward improving the transparency of information available in a property transaction in an effort to reduce the time it takes for the sale to go through and reduce the risk of fall through.

Improving the information that is collected during the transaction has additional benefits. 

Sharing relevant information with parties interested in the property improves the quality of the viewings by giving prospective purchasers the opportunity to make a more informed decision.

There is greater commitment and a reduced risk of fall through as there’s nothing to ‘come out of the woodwork’ at a later date. 

If there is a lull between listings and offers, why not get the vendor(s) to get a head start on the legals and complete the property information and fixtures and fittings forms?

Take it a step further and work with a conveyancing solicitor on a no sale, no fee basis to prepare draft contracts so that when an offer is accepted, the seller’s pack is ready to go to the buyer’s solicitor within 24/48 hours. 

Constantly reviewing processes and procedures is the hallmark of any successful business. Estate agency is no different. 

There are challenges ahead and against a backdrop of squeezed fees, rising costs, fewer transactions and the growing online market, agents must look at ways they can improve their business in order to survive. 

Efficiency is paramount. Look at the ‘how’ and ‘why’ in your business and apply a few marginal gains. You’ll be surprised at how quickly they add up to make a big difference!

Action Plan

1) Download “Finding the 1%, Marginal Gains in Estate Agency

2) Set realistic goals; focus on the deliverables, rather than the end goal. If you want to improve the number of viewings you do can you tweak your process? 

a. Could you be spending more time on the phones going through your prospects?

b. Have you got a segmented database that enables you to target prospects looking for a particular type of property? If not, could you spend some time investing in getting this right?

c. Could you use social media to target a demographic and/or location?

3) Start with something small, test the results and measure its success.

4) Marginal gains will help you 

a. Improve your client on-boarding

b. Improve the quality of viewings

c. Speed up the conveyancing process

d. Reduce fall throughs

*Ben Robinson is Director of Agency Services at Landmark

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