'Management Viewpoint' Situations Vacant
Brian Radford, property consultant and writer, gets on his soapbox once again to suggest ways for landlords and agents to reduce stressful workloads and improve service to their clients.
Letting / Managing Agent
- must be hard working, prepared to be a surrogate mother, father, brother and sister, therapist, builder, lawyer, tax advisor, timber and damp specialist, diplomat - typing an advantage. Salary: by negotiation (but a lot less than you are worth).
I can think of few other professions where so many diverse skills are required from day one. There are training courses, but these are mainly available once you have joined the profession and may not be available at all if you work for one of the hundreds of small to medium-sized agents that manage anything from fifty to five hundred properties.
For the proprietor of such an agency, one of the biggest problems faced is the delicate balance between the need to have a competent, well-trained staff and the cost of training. Add to this the worry that once you have invested in that member of staff, they will: a) expect to be paid more; b) be poached by a competitor. During the early to mid nineties, I was in exactly that position, struggling to gain and maintain a foothold in the local market, investing in new technology and seeing the competition ranging from small family-run agencies to national estate agency chains spending an ever-increasing and seemingly limitless budget on marketing. I now believe that I made a major mistake in not spending more on staff training. Okay, there will always be a turnover of staff - this is inevitable. Far more is to be gained from an employee who knows that you value them enough to invest in them than the loss of an occasional team member. Remember, you may end up employing some that have been trained elsewhere.
An additional error of judgement was a dogged determination not to join a professional body such as ARLA, UKALA or NAEA. I am still not sure if this was because I didn’t want them interfering (my perception at the time) or whether I honestly believed that I didn’t need them.
Looking back, I can now see that a combination of training and the reassurance of being a member of a supporting organisation would have given me the confidence to move my business forward and deal with issues as they arose.
If you are now in the position that I was in six or seven years ago, I would advise that you take a step back, look at what you wish to achieve and the quality of life you require and allow other people to take some of the pressure off you. However you look at it, the stress of running a letting agency is often under-estimated, you are responsible for buying the toilet rolls through to ensuring that there is adequate maintenance cover on Christmas day. Many agents that I have spoken to refer to a feeling of isolation, whether this relates to dealing with the multitude of problems that arise in day-to-day management or from a sense of wondering if you are doing everything you can to maximise the business potential. I can assure you that having had the benefit of studying the operating methods of over 100 agents, you are not alone if you feel this way.
If you took fifty agents and swapped their answerphones on Monday morning, it would probably be Tuesday afternoon before any of them noticed.
Why ? Because every agent, no matter how big or small, has the same problems as you.
We live in a world where we seek to be professional, but what is professionalism ?
I will argue that professionalism in our industry is running a business that is accountable to its clients, both landlords and tenants, that complies with current best practice in all aspects and above all a deep rooted sense of wanting to deliver the best service possible. If you are constantly
seeking to achieve the above (and give yourself enough time and staff to do so), you can be sure that you are at the top of the Premier League of agents. The very fact that you are taking the time to read this column is proof of that.
Remember - in a service industry such as this, good staff differentiate you from your competitors and are one of your most valuable assets ..