Purplebricks founder Michael Bruce has launched a foundation today that seeks to improve the mental and business well-being of estate agents across the UK.
The former Purplebricks CEO, who is now estimated to have made at least £35 million from selling his shares in the company, says he wants to give something back to the industry.
Called ‘Agents Together’ and backed by a host of well-known industry names including his brother Kenny, Stephen Brown, Chris Watkin and Mike Day, it also has a loftier aim.
This, he says, is to improve the public perception of estate agents overall, although Bruce admits that “Rome wasn’t built in a day”.
Funded during the first year via £1 million from Bruce, it will employ mental health coaches for agents who need it, but is also enlisting volunteer mentors to match with agents who need help with different aspects of running their business.
“There are hundreds of people out there who we believe will offer their services without a cost, but if we engage people in a health professional capacity such as a psychologist then that might be on more of a commercial basis,” says Bruce.
The mentoring programme will be free and includes two types; 30-minute speed mentoring sessions as well as a more structured and long-term programme.
As well as local and national volunteers, this will include several well-known UK and international business names from outside the industry, who are yet to revealed.
Sessions will be online only initially, but once the lockdown is fully lifted could include face-to-face meetings.
“If I was mentoring someone and they were mad enough to want my help then I’d certainly want to meet in the flesh because you do need to get to know them,” says Bruce.
He believes that the challenges presented by the Covid-19 pandemic will prove a turning point for estate agency and that the foundation can help people come together, and says it will be concentrating its efforts at first on estate agency businesses leaders.
“After Coronavirus arrived, the whistle blew and everyone walked off the field,” says Bruce. “I could feel that there was a change of mood in the industry and there was an opportunity to bring agents together in the way I always wanted to.”
The foundation is headed up by CEO Sarah Edmundson (pictured, above), a former Fine & Country agent and now Allstars trainer, who is working alongside its trustees. These include former Virgin communications chief Will Whitehorn and Moneypenny’s Samantha Jones.
“In the early days of the lockdown it was clear that there were some agents out there, particularly those working home alone, who felt they needed help but didn’t know where to go,” says Edmundson.
“It was glaringly obvious that giving them one place to come to with no commercial objectives other than to help people could be of great use now, as well as into the future.
Agents can now visit the website where helpline directories, an information hub, details of how to find business and mental health training and a forum are live, while other features including videos will be added later.