Have you ever wondered why some of the most successful businesses seem to come out of nowhere? The answer is they don’t. Success comes from getting in first, getting it right and growing a business organically, developing a solid base of happy and satisfied customers. And that takes time. Making a lot of noise before that point can only work against you. Gnomen is one of those businesses that has kept under the radar and grown through stealth. The company actually began 15 years ago and now has over 800 agency branches using its software.
Back then, co-founder Hassan Hassan was a web designer with a passion for user experience (before the term ‘UX’ had been coined) and having worked on the launch of an estate agency website, could see the potential for an innovative – and disruptive – project. With colleagues Aqeel Malik and Montana Hassan bringing their passions for software and property to the party, the three devoted themselves full time to the project.
“Our first customer was Wapping-based estate agency Abatoria Residential,” says Hassan. “They needed a website with content management system so they could update their own content, but what I call ‘mission creep’ saw this develop into a full-blown software package – and the birth of Gnomen.”
“It’s 15 years on and Abatoria Residential is still with Gnomen today,” adds Montana. “That says a lot.”
It was a critical time to be developing a software package, with exponential growth in the internet, wifi communication and the beginning of cloud computing. It wasn’t long ago, but seems like another age when all computers were networked – hard-wired around expensive IT equipment, servers, main frames – and all on site, tying staff to offices and desks and requiring capital investment and expensive IT support.
“Software, website, database and content management were often seen as separate entities, requiring respective designers and developers to get their website feeds working,” comments Hassan. “There was little client interactivity via customer service portals, using a login.”
The team at Gnomen envisioned a new estate agency management software platform which could sidestep all this. “Our big break was to embrace cloud computing before many other agency software firms did. We could see it coming,” says Hassan.
Gnomen would be an all-in-one solution for software to work in harmony with a website and client service portal where customers (buyers, vendors, landlords, applicants or tenants) could get updates on their property’s progress online. This, with lower infrastructure costs, hands-off back-ups and security and remote access to the company’s business, from anywhere. When Covid came, Gnomen customers thanked their stars for it.
Gnomen has proved its worth during Covid – staff can work from home, seamlessly.
Independents lent themselves to persuasion and easy onboarding. Larger agencies were committed to huge capital investment computer infrastructure running bespoke software systems and couldn’t just flip to the cloud. But smaller, more nimble companies could, and independents would be the foundation upon which Gnomen grew its customer base – and largely by word of mouth, spreading their reputation for flexible, reliable technology and attentive and effective customer support.
They took on franchises like Century 21 UK, RE/MAX, Scottish Property Centre, Shepherds Commercial – the Gnomen platform is scalable, so optimised to meet the needs of growing franchise groups.
Pioneers of the hybrid model
Gnomen’s versatility has developed into hybrid offering – staying one step ahead of the evolving estate agency market. “We’ve had a lot of former Purplebricks LPEs who contacted us because they’ve heard on the grapevine that we offer a hybrid estate agency capability,” says Montana. “Many of them don’t want to rejoin the traditional agency world and we give them everything they need to run a similar independent operation and model, out the box,” he adds.
But the platform works the other way around too, as Montana explains. “We offer the platform to transform a traditional agent into a hybrid one – and a bit like the big break cloud computing gave us during the early noughties, this industry trend is also helping agents to develop their businesses in the right way and not get left behind.”
And so Gnomen is increasingly showing up on the radar of must-have SAAS technology for this rapidly evolving industry. It has the flexibility, versatility and reliability to meet the needs of agencies of any shape, size and ambition. And perhaps its greatest strength lies in the people who founded and continue to run Gnomen, who have the passion and care for their own business and success and more than that, the business and success of their customers.
Established: 2005 Based: Central Greenwich, SE London
Senior team: Hassan Hassan, Managing Director; Montana Hassan, Business Development Director