Things can change.
For those who remember, it’s no secret that I became one of the industry's strongest critics of OnTheMarket (OTM). My reasons boiled down to an inherent dislike of the one other property portal rule, their decision to target Zoopla and their refusal to target the real issue which was and is Rightmove.
I will admit that things also got personal between me and Iain Springett, the then-CEO, when I was invited and disinvited to a presentation in the early days for merely expressing mild scepticism about their strategy. I’m not writing this piece as a belated ‘I told you so’ piece, though, what has brought this on is more of a reconciliation and the start of a hopefully new and positive business relationship with OTM with whom we will finally be listing.
What caused this volte-face was my recent interaction with OTM’s new CEO Jason Tebb. Jason is an altogether different type of leader, one who listens, considers and puts the interests of the business he leads ahead of his own ego. Today’s OTM is a very different business to what it was, as is Zoopla. Rightmove, not so much so, but even they have started to embrace the concept, if not the reality, of change.
OTM has dropped its arrogance, a trait which I believe was partly responsible for its failure to reach its potential, but it's keeping its agent-led focus, something that marks it out as different from its larger competitors who seem to think the consumer is their customer, not the agents who pay their bills.
Of course, OTM has a long way to go before they can become a real challenger to the big two, but I get the feeling Jason isn’t one for hubris, preferring to patiently develop his strategy and let the results do the talking.
He enthusiastically told me about his plans to differentiate OTM from the competition by creating a more immersive, more interactive and more proactive relationship with buyers, sellers, landlords and tenants. Certainly, if enthusiasm alone were all that’s needed, their future would be a bright one, but I got the feeling there is more to it than that.
More than any other portal right now, OTM has estate agency running through its veins. This is both a good and a bad thing in my view, but with a determination to learn from past mistakes, build on the strengths and manage the weaknesses, this estate agency focus could be a huge advantage. Above all, I believe that OTM has the opportunity to put its real customers first, to listen to what they really want and to deliver for them in an authentic genuine and real way that the big players really struggle with.
There is a sense out there that the portal wars have taken a pause for breath, but I think at best this will be a short one and it may even be illusory.
The pace and scope of change in our industry continues to accelerate at a breathtaking rate, propelled even faster by the pandemic. More than ever before we must flexible, adaptable and agile if we are to continue to remain relevant to our customers.
None of us can afford to rest on our laurels or retain a stubborn resistance to change, even where that means making friends with an old enemy because we should all be judged on what we are, not what we were.
*Simon Shinerock is Owner of Choices Estate Agents. For more information on Simon, see his blog or his LinkedIn profile.