Former Countrywide lettings boss John Hards has for the first time revealed his thoughts on why the Alison Platt years were so damaging for his former employer.
In a recorded video interview, Hards traces the key decisions that are causing so many problems for its current management team today.
These include the decision to merge its sales and lettings operations, bringing in a new team of directors with mostly retail but not property industry experience, clearing out knowledgeable senior and middle management and losing focus on what really made money.
“A lot of what Platt did was a good idea, but mixing up the sales and lettings teams wasn’t one of them,” he says.
“The lettings division turned over £150 million but Platt thought you could just bring in a new team and it would be ok.
“Sales people don’t understand that lettings is a more detailed kind of operation – it looks easy but it’s not, and putting them in charge wasn’t a good idea.
“That was allowed to happen and it was very disappointing – but there was a PLC board that backed all of this all of the time.”
Hards also says that many people who came into the business questioned why it had so many brands and why in many towns they competed and each had separate lettings and sales directors.
“To them it didn’t seem logical and then Alison arrived and she too didn’t see why it had to be that way,” he says.
“It does make sense financially to merge the operations but not on the ground – you need people concentrating on driving those revenues and being experts at what they do.”
Hards also says Platt didn’t understand why there were so many regional, divisional and managing directors and wanted to get rid of them, even if they had enormous experience.
“But the company was director heavy because it gave people skin in the game without having to give them big salaries. Regional directors were all about driving performance, whereas divisional ones had a lot more administrative work so, although they had similar titles, they had different jobs,” he says.
“Countrywide was always good in a tough market but once the experience was got rid of, we lost that edge.”