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What have the Romans ever done for us?

Many readers will remember the famous Monty Python sketch from the Life of Brian, Nathan Emerson says that in years to come, we may well be discussing what the COVID-19 crisis did for us.

The Negotiator

Link to Guest BlogBeleaguered citizens unhappy with their lot suffering under enforced oppression, they seek a return to life before the Romans. They see the restrictions of their situation; they want to rebel and return to a life before the invasion.

John Cleese raises the question to his band of fellow freedom fighters, “What have the Romans ever done for us?”

A militant question, yet as they thought about it, they realised that upon reflection the Roman invasion had turned out to be a good thing. They now had the aqueduct, sanitation, roads, irrigation, medicine, education, wine, public baths, safety, order and peace. Things they never had before.

COVID-19, unplanned and unwanted, has changed our lives, as an industry and also, sadly, on a personal basis.

It is funny within the context of the film; however, it has a much deeper meaning on many levels. Under great hardship, if the opportunity is taken, much good can come out of adversity.

Then and now

Scroll forward 2000 years and a prevalent question for today’s times might well be “What did coronavirus ever do for us?” Like the citizens under Roman rule, COVID-19 was not planned – yet enforced upon us. A terrible disease that has changed all our lives, as an industry and sadly, on a personal basis. Forced into lockdown, staff furloughed, depleting cashflow and uncertainty… sometimes you must accept that which you cannot change and focus instead on the things you can. Those with a positive attitude, strength to grab the time and the commitment to prioritise for the future have an opportunity to evolve as never before.

Consider some of the milestones we have achieved and the long-term opportunities:

  • Working remotely from home.
  • Harnessing video meetings with Zoom, Team, Goto and others.
  • Adapting to new technology, embracing video valuations, virtual viewings and digital solutions.
  • Agree, facilitate and finalise transactions without physical meetings. Business owners have the learned skills to remote liaise, motivate and manage teams remotely.
  • Businesses have streamlined costings at levels that have not been seen since the financial crash of 2007.
  • Businesses are reviewing the suppliers they are using and training staff how to actually use them properly for the first time.
  • Businesses are addressing cash flow management.
  • Companies are seizing the opportunity to improve systems, processes and workflows.
  • Free industry webinars are providing insight, learning and education filling skill gaps.
  • Vocational courses are oversubscribed as furloughed staff are spend more time training than ever before.
  • Businesses are using the time to reflect, plan and provide for the future.
Lessons learnt

How many would have achieved just one of these things during the year without the COVID-19 effect? Would the citizens have had so much without the Romans?

The lessons learned can help shape the service offered and the tools used going forward. Flexible working and the embracement of new technology can provide greater customer satisfaction, additional revenue streams and higher levels of staff engagement.

Furloughed staff will return to work rested and ready to go. Business owners have opportunity to consider, reflect and plan more sustainable and profitable businesses with healthy cash reserves.

There is sadly no hiding from the fact that the financial effect of Coronavirus will be hard and sharp with the real stress to cashflow yet to come, but this is a short-term issue and medium to long term benefits which evolve will be positive.

What next?

The reality is that there are three types of agency that will eventually come out of this.

  • Those that go straight back into working the way they did before – doing the same thing, the same routine and the same systems.
  • Those that make partial changes and adapt some of the lessons learned with all good intentions.
  • Those who make more considerable and structural changes to their business with an understanding of the opportunities ahead.

The question is which one are you?

I am extremely optimistic about the future and honoured to work with some superb clients, many of whom will now go back to structurally stronger businesses, financially streamlined with improved systems and a mandate to improve profitability.

Fortunately we will not have to wait so long for our Roman invasion to leave us but in the meantime as the Monty Python boys would sing to you – “Always Look on the Bright Side of Life!”

Link to Guest BlogNathan Emerson is an experienced property industry consultant working with estate agency owners and industry suppliers. He is a Director and Main Propertymark Board member and a Director and Main Board member of the charity Agents Giving. Nathan is committed to progressive change, modernisation and improved standards within the industry.

June 4, 2020

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