Nicky Stevenson has had a very varied and interesting career in property. She started out as a lettings negotiator for Nicholas Lettings Agents in 2003 and for the next nine years worked for a number of different companies in lettings-based roles.
She eventually worked her way up to the position of Lettings Manager, running three offices for leading Thames Valley agent Davis Tate, followed by experiencing the London market at Chestertons Humberts’ busy Westminster office.
Then came quite an abrupt change of direction, moving into the world of training and live events for estate agents, at the Property Academy/Estate Agency Events, where she reached director level roles.
More recently, she has been a judge at the UK Business Awards, spent a year as the President of a networking group in Henley-on-Thames (chairing weekly meetings with forward-thinking business owners), and founded a business of her own – Hoopla, a plumbing and heating company based in Henley with a particular focus on rental properties – which she is now non-executive director of.
Since April this year, she has been Market Centre Director at KW Prime in London, part of Keller Williams, the world’s biggest real estate agency.
Here, I talk to her about Keller Williams’ wider growth strategy, the importance of ongoing training, and whether the sector now offers a level playing field for both sexes.
What is KW Prime and why does it represent a step-change in the industry?
KW Prime is one of six Keller Williams market centres here in the UK. It’s significant for the industry as we enable entrepreneurs to start (or grow) their estate agency business in a model designed firstly for the agent, not shareholders.
Agents take a majority of the commission, up to 90%. This model is also designed for the customer as naturally business owners are compelled to offer the best possible service, to exceed expectations, and to build lifelong relationships with their clients. A relationship driven approach, rather than transactional.
With the backing of the world’s largest real estate brand, systems and training, coupled with a local experienced team in the Market Centre to provide support and accountability, it offers an amazing opportunity to those who are passionate about property, and want to run their own business, without prohibitive start-up costs.
Is Prime part of Keller Williams’ wider growth strategy in the UK?
We want to be in a position where customers all over the country have the opportunity to choose a Keller Williams agent. We are looking to lead and expedite the industry becoming more professional. Our extraordinary training ensures our agents can offer the best possible experience for the customer. In many countries, we are already the leading real estate company, including in parts of Europe.
Gary Keller is investing $1 billion in technology for the worldwide business, and so whilst we are known currently as a training company, and even been voted the number one training company by a training magazine, we will soon become known primarily as a tech company operating in Real Estate.
From 2003-2012, you worked for a number of agencies on the lettings side of their business? Did you enjoy it and why did you decide to leave the life of a letting agent behind?
I loved it! I grew up with parents passionate about property and so it was inevitable to end up working in this industry. The fast-paced environment of lettings was such a buzz! The only reason I left it behind was to take the opportunity available at the Property Academy.
The Natter recently did a Q&A with Angelica Donati, a keen advocate of women in property – as someone in a high-profile role in the world’s biggest estate agency, do you feel the industry’s a level playing field or does more still need to be done?
I have never personally felt like I have been held back in my career as a result of being a woman. Do I represent the majority? I am not convinced. Would I like to see more women in real estate? Absolutely! I am incredibly fortunate to have worked with some inspirational females in dominant positions across my 16 years of working in property, and this continues to be the case at Keller Williams.
Are there any particular role models that spring to mind?
One of my mentors and an investor in KWUK is Diane Griffin. Diane has an incredible story. In 2006 she was a single mum with a baby and a toddler running a café. Now she has multiple sources of passive income from investing in KW countries including the UK and Poland, Market Centres in the UK and US, as well as running her own agency team of brokers. It all became possible after starting as a single agent with KW. It’s not a surprise therefore that Keller Williams in the US has been voted the best place to work for females.
It’s really important to me that women in business feel empowered. More can and should be done. Whilst at KW we have a focus on women in business, if there is anything I can do to support this on an industry-wide level, or support any individuals, then please get in touch with me, I will be delighted to hear from you – firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tell us a bit more about the Property Academy and Estate Agency Events? How did you first come to be involved in these?
I have always been a learning-based individual, and I remember the battle I had with a previous manager to attend a Property Academy event as a delegate. I was not permitted to go as it was not relevant to my role! Undeterred, I took a day’s holiday so I could attend. It’s so important to me to always be learning. It was at this event that I first met the Property Academy team.
What are the main changes you saw during your time as a letting agent and what do you make of the current lettings market? Is it too heavily regulated?
Wow, there has been so much change from when I started out, HMOs through to the recent Tenant Fees Act - and everything in between!
Regulation is certainly important to ensure higher standards in the market place, and a more professional experience for customers. There will be unintended consequences as a result of changes, but ultimately it’s an opportunity for property consultants to offer increased value and a professional experience with a full lettings service offering.
Superb answers, Nicky. Thanks very much.
Until next time…
*Nat Daniels is the Chief Executive Officer of Angels Media, publishers of Estate Agent Today and Letting Agent Today. Follow him on Twitter @NatDaniels.