Improvise, Adapt and Overcome

Mike Cole

This is the slogan of the marines geared to setting their mindset to deal with any mental and physical challenge. I don’t think its stretching the analogy to compare this mindset to what is required for running an estate agency business (or maybe any business) in 2020.

Certainly many have compared dealing with this Coronavirus to being in battle. You have an enemy, an invisible enemy in this case, that we are all finding our ways to try and defeat in a battlefield that is our homes and places of work. What was absolutely clear is that standing still and hoping it goes away was not an option. Being aware of the need to improvise, adapt and ultimately overcome seems to me a pretty decent starting point.

In agency, the challenges have been numerous and varied. The way we are working today is far removed from how we were working on January 1st this year. 80% of our team are currently working from home being the most obvious change. It was 2% at the start of the year. That required a substantial and very speedy investment in technology to ensure the customer experience didn’t change, or even improved.

That our staff are now spread over a radius of around 100 miles, but the consumer would be none the wiser is tech that has been available for a while of course, but not something your traditional estate agency set up was geared towards. Investing in the tech required was a logical step, but what I found harder was the change of mindset as a business owner for having my team so sporadically located. I always loved having my people together, creating a community and a passion for the business and the brand that is much easier to do with close and physical interaction. And I still believe that’s the case and the place I want to get back to. But it’s simply not viable at this point in time and changing my own thinking and those of the team around me to a totally new way of working was a more difficult change in truth.

As of right now, the property industry have been dealt a hugely fortunate hand in the new lockdown rules. We are being allowed to remain open, so long as we continue to conduct business in our new way. That is minimal office based staff and strict adherence to viewing and valuation rules around PPE and distancing. It means business levels can continue pretty much as normal – except something else odd has happened in the last 6 months.

The new normal in agency is actually substantially higher level of transactions than had been the case in the previous 30 months. A bizarre, but very welcome twist from this whole scenario.

Our sales operation is actually ahead of its target for 2020, despite the fact our offices were closed for 2 ½ months in the first lockdown. Our New Homes sales team are only slightly behind and the Lettings team the same, all of which I highlight more for general industry information than our own prowess. ALL our branches have increased their market share in both sales and lettings in 2020, which I do include for our own prowess! 

We’re open for business and we’ve found a way to do it very effectively. There are more challenges ahead no doubt, but we have shown an ability to improvise, adapt and overcome to date and I will ensure we stayed focused so we continue to do so. We are marines!