Estate agents across the UK tuned in to Channel 4 on Thursday to watch six children become negotiators for a week in the TV series When I Grow Up. It’s still available on Catch-Up, if you missed it.
The programme is the last in the series and follows the raw recruits as they join franchised chain Hunters for seven days, helped by CEO Glynis Frew, national sales director Martin Robinson and York sales manager Vanessa Wilson.
The action takes place initially at Hunters’ HQ in York where they are drafted into the company’s sales team following some basic training on telephone negotiation, property valuations, open-house hosting and brochure writing.
They are then let loose on the company’s Harrogate branch including the opportunity to deal with real clients both face-to-face and on the phone.
“We are family-orientated business and we try to look after people and their families, so the idea behind the programme – which is to offer children from a wide range of backgrounds the opportunity to have their horizons widened – attracted us,” says Frew (left).
The three senior staff involved were asked to take screen tests before the project was given the green light and the business had to endure significant disruption as a huge film crew, chaperones and ‘tonnes’ of equipment took over Hunters’ HQ.
The children came from a variety of wealth and educational backgrounds which, Frew says, is like Hunters’ employees.
“Some [of our staff] are graduates and some didn’t do well at school but that doesn’t mean to say that they are not intelligent; it’s just that school didn’t suit them,” she says.
“Two of the children were really gifted on the phone; they called up real clients and tried to persuade them to reduce their asking price. Money doesn’t have the same meaning for children as it does for adults, so it was fun to listen to.
“The customers took it in good heart too – they weren’t warned that children would be phoning them up or that they’d find them on the front desk at Harrogate.
“I think it shows how estate agency isn’t about qualifications, it’s about natural interpersonal skills which some children do have.
“Kids don’t know how to position something – they come straight out with it which is where it was it was quite amazing and nerve-racking.”
Frew says she missed the children after they left because they were so refreshingly honest and challenging in a way adult staff are less likely to be.
“It makes you question all your assumptions,” she says.
One of the most fascinating aspects of the experience for Hunters is that the children started out at the beginning of the week being competitive but, as the days passed, became more collaborative and team-focussed to “get things done”.
All the children received a certificate from Hunters and are now included in the ‘hall of fame’ photo montage in the company’s HQ reception, which is normally reserved for employees who stay for longer than five years.