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Revealed: What really went wrong at Countrywide during the Platt years

Former Countrywide lettings chief John Hards reveals what he believes were the key strategies that landed the company in trouble.

Nigel Lewis

countrywide

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.”

Read more about Countrywide.

Watch the video

March 18, 2020

2 comments

  1. Prudential’s Joe Bradley calculated only 10% of sales came as a direct result of local advertising, so he dropped property advertising altogether. Result, we went from 5% market share nationally down to less than 2% in 6 months. Unsurprisingly, our competitors simply told owners we wouldn’t advertise their property if they instructed us. Clive Thornton of the Abbey National promised to “show agents how to do it”. What happened to him? Where’s Joe Bradley these days? Hopefully, there will be learnings taken from those experience. There’s nothing quite as good as a really knowledgeable estate agent to run an agency network.

  2. ‘A lot of what Platt did was a good idea’, this sums up the isolated bunker mentality of the top tier of Countrywide. During her reign of terror when many great agents were given their P45’s lots of whom I know, the share price dropped by 82%. At present Mr Creffield is overseeing a similar run of good ideas, fines for AML, fines for 10 million pounds being in the incorrect Lettings holding account, and now the prospective COO Mr Marsh deciding not to join. With a similar affect on the share price.

    Time for someone to end this sad saga of mismanagement, lost opportunities, and remove the stale pale brigade, with entrepreneurial, fleet footed and agile minded personnel, who realise real estate globally is entering a new phase, old models are crumbling, as are new pretender online models, it is time to start with the consumer journey, using data, AI, Machine Learning, IoT, Big Data, etc, and solid top down people management, which is the core responsibility of the c- suite, and has been so terribly muddled.

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