Let’s make no mistake here, it’s not often I get to sing my own praises by blowing my own trumpet, or indeed any musical instrument. So when I do, I like to play it loud and clear – because it actually seems that part of my plan (or if not a plan as such, at least a crazy stab in the dark) might just be coming together.
The phone call marking the result was from someone who only a few weeks ago would have brushed me away with an irritated smile. Today, though, her tone was very different.
“I’ve been thinking about what you guys are doing, and what we’re doing,” she said. “And I was telling [business owner] what you’re up to and saying you know we really should get together and have a conversation about how we could work together.”
It was a satisfying moment, not just because we could potentially do some good business together, but also because I have a little history with her company, a local letting and estate agents.
We used this agency to set up the tenancy for our property here, the half that was renovated first (after we split this big property into two) and which has been home to a sweet family for just over two years. The manager was very capable and experienced and we had a good experience with them. So when I saw their advert for a job vacancy, just two days a week maternity cover, I decided to go for it.
It was a basic role, mostly admin, and was part of a twofold plan – firstly to get to know the area, make contacts with trades and other professionals – and secondly to learn about business. After working in television production for nearly two decades I had barely any experience of a ‘normal’ job.
It was enjoyable, quite the learning curve, and altogether a good experience. They had some good systems in pace some of which I have adapted and implemented here. But it was also a strange place to work, a very disjointed business where the management had almost nothing to do with the departments beneath them. It is the only place I have ever worked where, aside from the one or two people I worked with, not one person ever asked me a single question about myself, not even where had I worked before, which I would say is basic chit chat.
When the lettings manager left, her replacement was completely unsupported, and the department descended into a disaster waiting to happen. When it did happen, she again received pretty much zero support, nearly had a nervous breakdown and left. The entire lettings department with several hundred properties on its books was left to me and my other part time colleague to run, working alternate days so there was barely any continuity. We worked lots of hours overtime to keep on top of it, but there was no way the equivalent of one full-time person could cope with that workload.
The legal requirements of letting agents on behalf of landlords are huge and leaving a department to two part-time admin staff was a risk I could not believe a business like this was prepared to take. But unbelievably, no one ever said anything to me or my colleague about how things would work, about what we were expected to do, about anything really. No one asked if we were coping. They just carried on as normal and, a few weeks in when I told the business owner things weren’t happening because we didn’t have time, he got really annoyed.
It was a superb example in how not to run a business!
I pushed them to recruit someone full time and offered to leave, because our building business was getting very busy, and as soon as they had someone, they were keen for me to hand my notice in, which I did. On my last day I emailed the business owner and said we should stay in touch as we would be doing more and more in property. I never heard anything back – of course, I never expected to – but I wanted to give him to the opportunity to confirm my suspicions! It seemed so silly, and lazy, and small-minded, not to send even a brush-off reply to someone who had gone above and beyond and who could be a potential source of income, but that was just typical of this company.
The new manager started soon after, and I tried to keep in touch, popping in occasionally to the office. But it was clear I wasn’t wanted, they were too busy to stop and chat and she viewed me as a nuisance. So time slipped by and my time with the agency slipped into the past.
Then last month our tenant told me she was buying a house and would be vacating. I called the lettings manager and asked her to value the soon-to-be-vacant house, also the property we currently live in (which we hope to move out of at some point) and then I also threw in the small terrace house just up the road that we’ve just renovated for a client.
My plan worked. She clearly and suddenly realised I was potentially a tad more interesting than she had first viewed me. And so today’s phone call was sweet. I just love being able to surprise someone!
I said I had been thinking we should have a conversation about who we should refer clients to when they ask us which letting agent they should use. Was she looking for more business, and she assured me she was. I heard £££ signs chiming in front of her eyes. And that’s fine. They chime in front of my eyes too, sometimes.
She also suggested perhaps they could be pushing our services, both within the sales and the letting departments, which was, frankly, quite fantastic to hear. I told her we are developing bathroom packages, makeovers on varying budgets which we are currently testing and which we plan to offer to landlords looking for a cost price new look, and she made a noise that sounded quite interested.
Business is just so exciting! Even more so when other businesses start to take you seriously and want to work with you. It’s like verification that you’re on the right path and going somewhere.
This isn’t a revenge post, I just happened to work there during a really difficult period, although it did expose deep flaws in their management. It is a however a post celebrating the success of how by just keeping on keeping on, other professionals will eventually sit up and take us seriously. Many won’t, of course, but it’s important to take action when the right ones do.
It’s also a reminder that really good things can come out of trials.
And now all we have to do is take advantage of the improvements in our position, and make the most of the ride!