As the residential property management sector continues to boom, it is clear that many more firms are now realising the value of franchising. SDL Property Partners has been operational for well under a year now, yet we have already seen a number of other property firms moving into the market.
There’s a sense of ‘what’s not to like?’ about the concept – after all, as well as helping businesses like ours to grow, it gives passionate property entrepreneurs a chance to run their own business. Within the SDL Property Partners scheme we have a real mix of members, from established, experienced lettings agents to a chartered surveyor, looking to increase their range of services, to those who want to start working from home.
In fact, the franchise model is proving so successful that I think it will form the basis for the whole property management industry within the next 10 years. There are currently more than four million residential leasehold properties in the UK, and that figure is growing at a rate of about 150,000 per year. It’s clearly a lucrative market, particularly in cities like London where this type of property is more prevalent.
DELIVERING THE DREAM
While competition in the market is always welcome, it remains to be seen whether all the property firms that are offering a franchise scheme can – and will – actually deliver. I first saw the potential for this kind of model well over a decade ago, and one thing I have learned is that you need to be a big player to stand any chance of success.
Agents and individuals choose franchising precisely because they want to be part of an established network with processes already in place for compliance, accounting, marketing and IT infrastructure.
It’s also a way of accessing training in business development, for instance, or new legislation, such as the GDPR, without incurring high costs. Franchisees are looking for genuine expertise and an understanding of the market, otherwise they might as well go it alone.
Compliance is one area where this model can really benefit smaller companies. The sheer number of regulations now governing property management means there have never been more barriers to entry for ambitious business owners who want to work in the sector. Unless they choose to ignore these regulations, and, subsequently, put residents’ safety at risk, it surely makes sense to work with a professional company that has the framework in place to be fully compliant.
THE VALUE OF BELONGING
Many of our franchisees tell us that they also value being part of a big organisation, in the SDL Group family. We want our members to grow and share our values, so as well as teaming them up with a mentor, many also come along to our annual conference, where they can meet other professionals in the industry and get up-to-date with the latest changes.
At the last event, which took place in January, our partners were also among the biggest advocates for our 2018 fundraising campaign to raise £100,000 for The Donna Louise, a children’s hospice in Staffordshire. Many of them showed their support by pledging to round up their invoices or make a donation for the new customers they won.
From a personal perspective, SDL Property Partners is a project close to my own heart because I have built my own career in this industry, and I want to help others do the same. As you’d expect, some new members have reservations about moving from being employed, either by a property company or one in another sector, to becoming self-employed – but the most ambitious tend to see it as a way to earn more money, not less.
As an entrepreneur, I share their excitement about setting up a business and being in control of your own income. We now have a presence in London, as well as Birmingham and Bristol, and by December, we could have 30 franchises across the country. From that we’d like to take it to 150 or more. There are strong candidates, who have already applied for the scheme, and though many have experience in the property industry, what we look for above anything is enthusiasm, drive and passion.