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Stop and think

We’re back to work, but for most it’s certainly not ‘business as usual’. If you find you don’t have time to even think, now is the time to stop – and do exactly that, says Nathan Emerson.

Nathan Emerson

Link to Nathan Emerson's CommentFor many estate agency business owners, the past few months have been an interesting process of trial and tribulation and many have dealt with this in several ways.

Some have utilised the period to completely overhaul and restructure their business. They maintained a significant proportion of their staff in operation enabling them to capitalise on the opportunity afforded to them to pause, reflect, restructure and act. Reassessing not just which services and suppliers they do or do not need, but more importantly how they want their business to look, feel and act going forward. A complete assessment from top to bottom. These however are the extremely fortunate few….

Link to Nathan Emerson's Comment

Nathan Emerson

For many, this luxury simply was not there. Having to furlough staff in order to protect the very fabric of the company, they often had to pick up the mantle themselves, running the company with a small skeleton contingent or even single handily balancing the workload of several offices.

The return of staff released from furlough presented further challenges. Who to bring back and when? Key performers who worked through were now tired in need of rest at a time you need them most.

“We now have 40 per cent of our staff doing 100 per cent of the work,” said an agent I know, questioning – did they really need all of their team back with the non-furloughed doing so well?

Short-staffed with a market surge

The market has sprung back, energised with the release of pent-up demand, then refuelled and turbo-charged with Stamp Duty support. Agencies are working flat out ensuring safe business practice, whilst firefighting on a daily basis.

Make an appointment with yourself, block out a full day and do not let anything change it.

However, running a business reactively may be sustainable in the short term, but hampers the medium to long term performance. Operational decisions based on daily demands can undermine overall strategy, leading to layering of structures and supplier services upon existing workflows which in turn causes inefficiencies with a compound effect which is not always immediately detected.

So, what can you do about this?

Say NO and STOP! Set protected time aside to work on strategy, opportunities and streamlining with more efficient workflows and regaining control of the business rather than letting the business run you.

This may sound mad when we are all so busy and you may think “I simply do not have time to eat let alone rule time out of the diary”, and for the most part I would agree.

Everyone is fully committed, diaries are rammed and if I asked you to do so this week or next the answer would surely be “No”. Yes you are busy today but is your diary committed this time next month? Make an appointment with yourself, block out a full day and do not let anything else change it.

Prioritising the greater needs of the business over the short-term demands will pay dividends. To give you a recent example:

An experienced agent was recently referred to me in need of support. We booked some time to explore this, yet with just 24 hours to go he cancelled his day, protesting he needed to attend four urgent valuations now arranged for him. He listed one property that day with a fee of £3000. The others were not coming on the market; they were quickly booked and unqualified by eager staff. He got the listing and so felt he had made the correct decision.

But consider this: he actually converted just 25 per cent of his appointments that day. His company profit margin runs at 12 per cent so he stands to make just £360 if he even sells it. His listing to sale ratio is 37 per cent. He has a 20 per cent fall-through rate.

So, to recap he cancelled a whole day on the back of a 30 per cent chance to potentially make just £360 in 6 months’ time and furthermore his less experienced team actually run his diary and dictate his direction. It is a story I observe only too often. Owners can find the business itself actually starts to run them.

Second attempt at stopping

In contrast let me share with you what happened when I finally forced his hand. He agreed to complete the exercise. Ground rules were set and he was issued with thought-provoking questions to consider and a notebook. He then withdrew to a remote location for the day, undisturbed.

It was the longest day of his life, but as a result of that one day he streamlined his workflows discovering considerable wasted man hours, found over £39k in direct savings, drew up a new departmental business plan and gained clarity over two issues he was avoiding dealing with and losing sleep over.

The issues are now gone, we now have monthly protected sessions; he now sees his staff needed his leadership. He rediscovered the benefit of sometimes simply saying “No”. He is on the path to setting the clear direction for his company to work for him. His quote “I feel like a new man – thank you!”

The moral of the story: If you feel busy, worried, stressed or losing control and find yourself making rash decisions in this uncharted environment we find ourselves in, do not worry you are not alone.

Take a deep breath, press stop, say no and understand there is a way through. Do not let your company rule you – rule it.

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