When the Government locked down the property industry on 23rd March I was coming to the end of an excellent first quarter’s business and had a diary full of training courses, mentoring sessions, speaking engagements stretching ahead into the second quarter and beyond.
Within a week, around 80% of my future business had cancelled or postponed as my clients understandably, and often with my recommendation, looked to batten down the hatches, preserve cash and come to terms with what was happening.
For myself, I had already taken steps to ensure that I got all revenue from outstanding invoices into my bank account and to build up a “war chest” against what was clearly going to be a difficult future trading period. I am pleased to say that not a single client caused me any issues and all settled outstanding invoices on or ahead of time. Thank you.
Having undertaken the “damage limitation” exercise, I then set about ensuring that I continued to support my clients and also raised my head firmly above the parapet in PR terms in order to be remain visible, relevant and ready for when opportunities became available again.
During the lockdown period I organised eight peer group meetings on Zoom and had around fifteen clients and contacts at each, freely discussing the issues of the day and coming together in a spirit of co-operation and collaboration. These were extremely well received and valuable to everyone and I received some very positive feedback from all involved.
I have also been very active on LinkedIn and Twitter. One of my posts on LinkedIn about furloughing attracted over 23,000 views and considerable engagement.
I also did a number of webinars and podcasts as a guest contributor for other organisations.
Together with Rob Hailstone of the Bold Legal Group I did a webinar with Nick Ball from TM Property on their TM:TV channel. This was so well received we did an encore and ended up scoring a hat-trick with a third episode.
I also did a webinar on compliance with Landmark estate agency services, a Facebook live “Lunchtime Learnings” session with good industry friend Stephen Brown and the first episode in a podcast series with Sim Sekhon, the Managing Director of Legal for Landlords.
I also did a short video for Ed Mead at Viewber and his popular #mypropertystories series. In it I talk about a couple of viewing experiences from my early days as an estate agent. You can view here:
One of the things I decided to do during the toughest days was ensure that I took a look at my business and myself. I have recently read at least six or seven inspirational books in recent weeks including two by Matthew Syed – Rebel Ideas and Black Box Thinking – amazingly we are both now involved with Agents Together but more about that later.
Like everyone, I have greatly increased my use of Zoom and other video conferencing platforms (Teams and Skype in particular) and, as this has been embraced across the industry and in general, I decided that I would revisit my training programmes and create an online offering.
As well as creating fifteen separate “bite-size” modules in three broad categories – sales skills, management and compliance, I have worked with my website developers to integrate an online booking and payment system into my website.
The sessions, which all run for between 60-75 minutes, will be delivered live online via Zoom using screen sharing and with limited delegate numbers to ensure active participation. This means they can be accessed from an office, home or garden shed providing there is an internet connection.
I am launching these modules at very competitive fee levels in order to gain traction on this new method of delivering high quality content.
As well as working on my own website, I have produced new copy for two websites and also written a number of press releases, articles and newsletters for different clients.
I have also started working as an adviser to three new “start-up” estate agency businesses. All with completely different business models and led by people who feel that now is the time to bring about change and do something differently and, hopefully, better.
Finally, I mentioned Agents Together. This is a charitable foundation created by Michael Bruce of Purplebricks “fame” and aimed at supporting and helping people and businesses within the estate agency industry with two main pillars – healthy mind and healthy business.
As well as providing access to some excellent resources and material on well-being, including webinars and video content from leading behavioural psychologist Jo Hemmings and others, the foundation is providing mentoring opportunities for those who would like to take up the opportunity to engage with an incredible range of highly experienced and articulate people from across the business, education and sporting sectors. Mentoring could be about motivation, business planning, growth, people management, compliance or whatever is required.
Mentees apply to the foundation and are matched with an appropriate mentor based on their needs. Mentoring can be a full six to twelve month programme or, what we have described as “speedy mentoring” which is a short (half an hour or so) call on a particular question or topic.
I was delighted to have been contacted at the very outset by Michael Bruce and asked if I would get involved and I am pleased to have helped set up the foundation alongside a fabulous team of like minded individuals. As a Founder Member I am also a mentor and now working with a number of mentees.
July is seeing my first forays back to face to face meetings with clients. I did my first such meeting on 2nd July having not visited a client at their offices since March 18th. A number of my speaking engagements at seminars are now being rescheduled and so, whilst there is a long way to go as we explore the "new normal", the light at the end of the tunnel is certainly beginning to burn more brightly.
Michael S Day MBA FRICS FNAEA FARLA