Embracing change and competition

“I run an independent estate agency with several offices and our market share is being eaten away by competitors, both new high street agents and ‘online’ firms. I need to get my teams to recognise this threat and up their game, but I sense reluctance and complacency. Any thoughts welcome!”


Julian O'Dell, TM Training imageRunning courses is interesting as every group is different and the range of subject matter means no two days are ever the same. Add to this the fact that we travel across the UK to train agents and you can see why variety is guaranteed.

The vast majority of agents come to our courses with an appetite to learn and enhance their skills in what is undoubtedly a hotly competitive market place. Every now and then however, we encounter a delegate who really doesn’t want to be there. These people represent our greatest challenge, but nonetheless it is one we relish. Change is not something that everyone welcomes…


dinosaur imageOne gentleman arrived five minutes late (a classic sign of treating the event with disdain) and sat with his arms folded for the first hour. I invited responses from him now and then, which resulted in the odd grunt or monosyllabic answer. Just as the hour ticked past, I noticed him picking up the pen we had supplied him (having checked whether he had brought one with him – he hadn’t) and he made a short note on the paper in front of him. He was of course forced to unfold his arms to do so. They remained unfolded for a few minutes before he made another more detailed note.

When the going gets tough the tough get better, which is why, because they failed to adapt to a changing environment, we don’t see any dinosaurs these days!

He approached me during the coffee break, apologised for his late arrival and explained that he had been in the business 40 years and had not understood why he was being ‘sent’ on our course. He then almost floored me with the comment; “but I have to say that if the first hour is anything to go by, I wish I had been on this course 40 years ago.” An extraordinary change of attitude and one which remains a proud moment in my career! I figured that if I could convert him, I could convert anybody!

I have had nobody of that extreme nature for many years, until last week. Again, the slightly late arrival, giveaway body language and sullen look and a few embarrassed squirms from other attendees at his comments.

The delegate was hard work but we made some headway. We have a follow-up session with the same firm in a few weeks… it will be interesting to see if that person makes an appearance and their prevailing attitude if they do.

So why behave like that? It must centre upon the belief that they know it all, are perfect in all that they do and that any new ideas or skill refinements are unnecessary.

I find this attitude hard to understand as nobody reaches perfection in any walk of life; perfection is a journey, not a destination.


The best people in business have a thirst for new ideas, a ravenous appetite for new angles and approaches and a recognition of the ‘performance gap’ that exists in all of us, namely the gap between our actual performance and perfection – training helps close that gap. The narrower the gap becomes, the better. Top sports performers’ coaches encourage slight tweaks and new ingredients to their play and style that make the difference between winning gold or silver, being champion or runner-up.

That is why the best agents read avidly, seek better ways of doing things, engage with other practitioners via social media, and realise that 100 per cent market share may be a pipe dream but look to edge closer to it by improving every day.

This is not meant a justification of why you should come on our training courses, but rather an attempt to make those agents who are fearful of change, who see no need to improve on their current skillset and who have the “We’re doing alright Jack” mentality to think more deeply, particularly in the face of a harder world and increasing competition.

Your team will need to be ‘sold’ the need for change before they even begin to go about embracing and actioning it. “When the going gets tough, the tough get better” might be a useful mantra to use.

After all, although it may seem a strange analogy, dinosaurs ruled the Earth many years ago, but their inability to adapt to the changing environment ultimately led to their demise. Let’s face it, you don’t see many dinosaurs around these days. Apart from the very occasional one on our courses obviously!

Julian O’Dell is founder of TM Training & Development

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