The pages and screens of main-stream media, social media and the trade press love opinions and the more outspoken they are, the more coverage the instigators usually generate.
Several industry and market commentators have built significant personal brands and, in some cases, successful businesses, off the back of their regular outpourings. Some, of course, just end up annoying the hell out of people and see their popularity and credence flow and ebb, ebb and flow.
They are, of course, all entitled to their opinions. Some clearly given with genuine belief, some given simply as “click bait” and with an ulterior motive.
Statistics are often quoted, sometimes selectively, to justify these opinions. House price indexes are produced using so many differing sets of data (asking prices, sale agreed prices, completion numbers) and differing timings (at point of listing, point of sale agreed or months after completion when registered at the Land Registry). Average prices on a mean or median basis, national datasets or regional samples? Often the datasets being quoted are actually very small and rarely supported by a statement about how they were derived or the volume that is underpinning them. A bit like a market share pie chart produced on a wet Wednesday for a particular street in a particular town that strokes the ego of the producer but is reflective of very little.
According to a well-known statistic, 73.6% of statistics are made up. Make of that what you will!
Having been in the property industry for 48 years - I started when I was three! (just for clarity, I made that last bit up!) it will come as no surprise to know that I have opinions on nearly everything! I also have more letters after my name than in it, a shed load of experience to draw on and a client bank of hundreds of businesses with whom, I interact. That clearly makes me a guru, an influencer, a respected commentator. Well maybe, but probably only if you either agree with me or, perhaps more importantly, where I have stimulated some further thought and debate.
Now the purpose of this blog is not to attempt to instruct you on who or what you should listen to or take notice of. You are more than capable of deciding that for yourself. Personally, I am a huge believer in using data to support business plans and the conversations we all have with clients and customers. Having good quality data to underpin or reinforce actions is a key element in running a successful business.
It is easy to get swamped by the volume of information available. However, if it is like that for agents, imagine what it’s like for the public? Is it any wonder that people often sit on their hands, not knowing which way to turn, when things are not crystal clear? Why not help them by providing clear and honest information that they can comfortably digest and engage with?
We operate under challenging conditions but whilst we cannot change the wind, we can adjust our sails.
In amongst the noise, there is huge amounts of good quality and relevant information swishing around and, perhaps most importantly, within individual businesses, every day, every hour, every minute. What are your customers and clients saying, doing, planning? What patterns and trends are happening in the economy and your particular market? What are your KPIs (key performance indicators) telling you? What good, bad, or plain ugly, things are your competitors doing?
It was Thomas Edison who said that he had not failed, he had simply found ten thousand ways that didn’t work. If you have a team, engage with them, share, debate and discuss. Look to adopt adapt and improve.
How often do you sit down away from the distractions of the day-to-day business with your team (all of them as they all have valid input) and get structured feedback from them? How often do you look to speak specifically to people from other businesses and walks of life – they are all living in the same world that you are and are likely to have some observations and information that informs and that you could use?
What messages are you conveying both internally and externally? Are they consistent across your business or if a customer was to speak to three different people in your organisation, would they get three different views? In a changing market it has never been more important to ascertain the facts and then ensure that everyone is consistently “on message”
What worked successfully six months ago will likely not work now.
Most businesses know they waste half of their marketing spend but don’t know which half. Make sure you monitor, review and take appropriate action.
Has your training and coaching changed or have you actually cut your training and marketing resources due to financial pressures?
In terms of coaching staff, many will have only worked, until recently, in a fairly buoyant market where the need to really understand the motivation of buyers and sellers and to have an ability to create sales was perhaps (wrongly) seen as less crucial than it is today or will be tomorrow. Many who thought that agency was relatively easy are now finding it hard and many will slip away from the industry. Some rightly, but some where they were simply not given the right support to succeed.
No person or business should be an island. We are all part of a wider infrastructure, an eco-system of interacting parts. Joined up thinking, joined up communication, joined up and collaborative action is key.
My view would be to be a sponge, invest the time and seek out the relevant facts that you can use to help direct and inform your business but don’t forget to focus on what you know is happening right under your own nose and across your desk. Trust your instincts, the instincts that have served you well. Make sure you do see the wood from the trees.
The national context is important and useful and being aware of the opinions of others likewise. However, look in the mirror, use your specific, local information and knowledge to coach and develop your team and to demonstrate your expertise and positivity to potential customers and clients.
The wind may be blowing in a different or changeable direction but now is a fantastic opportunity to adjust one’s sails.
Michael S Day
MBA FRICS FNAEA FARLA