Not just luck
It's not all about luck, it's also about hard work...Meet Ben Evans, our Solihull Partner.
It was rush hour on Wednesday 17th October 2018 and I was on a packed train – standing room only – making my last commute home from Birmingham Snow Hill to Dorridge. 15 years in the Birmingham city centre property market had come to an end. 13 of those were with the same brilliant company I joined as a lowly lettings negotiator. I left as Managing Director and the only other shareholder beyond the founder, who had established the business 18 months before I joined.
Myriad reasons fed into the decision to leave and sell my stake back to my business partner and, standing on that train, I felt relief, sadness, excitement, terror. I look back now, as we tiptoe out of a global pandemic nobody could have foreseen, and I thank my lucky stars for that decision.
Two reasons why
There are two main reasons why my life and work are far better now; both hinge on the way that Mr and Mrs Clarke operates for its Partners as well as its clients.
I am grateful for the modern way in which Mr and Mrs Clarke is modelled. I work from home, with a head office team behind me, who already predominantly worked from home pre-pandemic, to provide all the support I need without having to physically mix. I live in the area in which I work – no commuting other than alone, by car, to safely-conducted viewings and valuations. And I have none of the overheads of a high street agent (which now also needs in-office PPE, social distancing signage, a reduced workforce in situ each day and the like), allowing me to transfer those savings to my clients.
I am able to focus solely on the service I am delivering, since I no longer have the headache I’d have had this time two years ago: managing the process by which 20-something staff were going to rotate and commute on a cyclical basis, whilst still trying to deliver first-class service.
Similarly, my attention would have been diluted by needing to manage how clients and customers may (or may not) visit the office. Indeed, proclamations are being made within the property industry that “the high street estate agency office is finished”. It remains to be seen whether this is true, but what is certain is that genuine revenue-generating footfall into offices was declining in the technological age anyway, and surely must now be consigned to the past. Why visit, when – if the agent you’ve chosen is good enough – all one should need is online and within the expertise of the agent themselves?
The second thing for which I am grateful is entirely linked to the first, but relates to my children. Being able to work flexible hours which suit both me and my clients has been invaluable. Everyone has benefited: I can react to things when I’m on “dad duty”, and do the pro-active side when it’s my turn in the office. It’s not all been a bed of roses with the kids, believe me, but I’m thankful for the options that have been afforded to me as a result of the decisions of the last couple of years.
I don’t like the phrase, but there is a “new normal” which is going to affect our lives for some time to come and I, for one, hope it helps us refocus on what’s important for the whole of society, not just what we as individuals want. Applying this to the world of estate agency, I hope it brings about more discerning choices when picking an agent – I hope vendors interrogate not just their fees and how many properties they’ve got, but how are they working and interacting, which values do they uphold and how are they contributing to the national effort?
Every day, I am reading about how consumer sentiment is understandably changing – preferences swinging towards smaller, local businesses who can truly operate safely, who can respond and adapt quickly, who are genuinely local and who minimise commuting and staff interaction to mitigate risk. This stands to reason; it is a widely-held belief that 75% of the population migrate towards businesses they believe operate in ways which align with society’s interests.
Ben Evans, Solihull Partner
Many people may choose to stay in their properties and extend, improve or enhance them in some way, particularly with a view to working from home more. Seek the advice of a good local agent if you’re doing this. If they’re anything like me, they’ll love to give you some insight – all free of course – about how best to go about it, where you can add value, and who you should consider using for the work. I’m under no illusion as to how fortunate I’ve been and if I can help even one person improve their home and their work/life balance, perfect.
My clients have the assurance that my workplace comes with no risks attached, and I hope they will find comfort and value in that, as well as the fact that we, as a business and through our model, are contributing very positively to the distancing effort still required to beat this dreadful virus.
The property industry is, of course, just one cog in a far larger machine which needs to function effectively if we are to overcome the challenges we face. But if we can all, collectively, make more considered decisions then I’m convinced we’ll be back at those football matches, birthday parties, foreign beaches and favourite restaurants all the sooner.