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By Simon Shinerock

Owner, Choices Estate Agents

OTHER FEATURES

New Year Message - ‘Breaking Through in 22’

The past two years have been a whirlwind of change, challenges and chance. The main catalyst has clearly been the pandemic which has accelerated trends already present in society like WFH, but also the migration towards everything online and virtual.

However, despite all this change, turbulence and chaos, chaos being the one thing our current government seems consistent in creating, some things don’t change, even if a so-called ‘disruptor’ like Purplebricks wants them to and spends millions trying to convince the public they are the new normal.

If anything, what this pandemic has proven is the strength of the high street model of estate agency with highly visible local branches rooted in the community, providing expertise, dedication and a high level of service. Of course, the triumph of the high street over PB and the many other cheap online competitors doesn’t mean all high street agents can celebrate that victory or claim to be offering their clients the best products or service.

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Neither does the failure of online agency mean that the high street model doesn’t need improvement or reform, every business can benefit from the curated introduction of new technologies, new ideas and tweaked ways of working. It’s all about balance, judgement and discretion.

Sometimes we cling on to the old because it’s familiar and close our eyes to new ideas no matter how compelling they may be. I remember being advised by my manager at Pitney Bowes when I was 22 that all you needed to do to make something much better was to change it slightly - evolution, not revolution.

His name was Mike Walsh, he was my best man when I got married and when we had my daughter Charlotte, we had sold our house and had nowhere to live so Mike moved out of his flat for three months so we could live there. Later on, much later, he came to work for Choices for many years until he retired - thanks for everything Mike.

The relevance of Mike’s advice to agency is obvious, to me at least. As an entrepreneur I see it as my job to give my people the best tools to do the job, the best proposition with which to prospect and attract new business as well as the best tools to ensure we deliver on our promises, to under promise and over deliver. So, my objective has been to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary, to tweak the established system rather than throw it away.

For this reason, most of our business is and will remain entirely conventional. We have branch offices, we provide training and support to our people, and we provide back-up and support to our clients. We constantly review our systems, reveal our failings and do our best to learn from them and get better. By offering more, we seek to attract and retain the best people and so the virtuous circle is established. 

All this conventional wisdom is what underpins the business and it’s not going to change because it’s what has given us the chance to grow and, if it changed, we would diminish, no matter how brilliant our new ideas appear to be.

However, with all that said, new ideas can be absolutely brilliant and start to gain more and more traction. Speaking personally, ARO is the obvious case in point. Since launch, we have steadily learned more about how to exploit this remarkable proposition. Sure, we have made many mistakes, but going into 2022 we are making significant progress in all areas, lead generation, conversion and the growth of our agent network.

The big picture is there is room for different business models, provided they are done well and it’s the ability to deliver the results that is and will remain the most important thing. I learned a long time ago that a new model, whatever its theoretical advantages, delivered badly will always lose to a conventional one delivered well.

That said, if you look at our business on the macro level, you see magazines that give us influence, an on the ground estate agency that acts as a test bed for new ideas and helps sort the good from the bad and a growing network of agents using us for lead generation and marketing, and who rely on us to give them propositions to help them build their businesses. 

Did you know we generate more valuation leads for agents than Rightmove? Or that we have over 4,000 agency offices who are members of The ValPal Network, over 50 of whom are already licensed to sell ARO and that we are growing exponentially?

My old Life Assurance Manager, Glyn Garfield, once said to me: ‘Simon, if you want to build a successful organisation, the first thing you have to do is build a base of strength’. Looking back, this was very good advice - what he didn’t say, however, was how hard it would be and how long it would take.

Through failures and successes, by never giving up and showing real persistence, I believe we have finally built that base of strength. Its foundations are the four pillars of people, product, marketing and administration. 

I try not to assume anything because whenever I do, by oversight or carelessness, it always seems to bite me back. It would be incorrect to say the journey we have been on has been an easy one, or we haven’t made many mistakes, some serious. Or that the road ahead will be easy - it hasn’t been. We have done and it won’t be.

However, what I can say is that despite the setbacks and disappointments, the journey has been a challenging and exciting one. And because we have been persistent, every time we get knocked down, we get up again, because we learn from our mistakes and because we have the best and most unique products in the market, we now feel finally at home at the big table. 

Yes, the stakes are high going into the new year, but the prize is a big one and provided we follow through with skill and determination, provided we keep working together, all for one and one for all, agency as a whole can and will make the decisive breakthrough in 2022 – starting right now.

*Simon Shinerock is Owner of Choices Estate Agents. For more information on Simon, see his blog or his LinkedIn profile.

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