How to start a lettings agency: Advice from an agent who set out on his own

15 October 2019

"Be prepared to work hard," says the founder of a thriving agency in Bristol, who has proven it's possible to set up a successful lettings agency even in a challenging lettings market.

Think starting a lettings agency in the current environment is crazy? Think again. Jack Stephens started JBS Bristol just three years ago and his business is thriving, with a five-star rating on Google, which he’s achieved almost entirely on his own. What’s the key to his success? “Be prepared to work bloody hard,” he says. 

“You need to put your head to the ground and be working as hard as possible to deliver the best service,” says Stephens. “Don’t go into it for the money - go into it because you want to build a good, trustworthy business.” Stephens was already working in the lettings industry in Bristol when he decided to set up on his own. “I thought ‘I could do this better’ so I ended up handing in my notice,” he says. “I had two clients who wanted to sign straight away and I decided that I was going to give it a real run.”

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One of the biggest challenges in establishing a new business has been marketing. “I don’t have a marketing budget, which is the hardest thing, I don't pay to advertise anywhere purely because I can't compete with other budgets from other agents,” he says. Instead, he has grown JBS Bristol’s portfolio on word-of-mouth and positive reviews alone. “I've got to win every client I get in front of.  Once I’ve won the clients, as long as I'm doing the best job possible, I find that's the best way for me to gain new business, because they then refer me to others. So for me, the most important thing is making sure that the customer is exceptionally happy.”

That service starts with a managed package that includes “absolutely everything,” says Stephens. “The customer knows exactly what they're getting out of their monthly cost.” Even JBS Bristol’s let-only package goes “above and beyond”. “we're not just finding tenants and that's it, we'll get involved in the inventory, getting that all prepared and then checking tenants in, make sure they're all set up in the property.”

Stephens says investing in technology has been essential in freeing up his time to concentrate on growing his business and advises others who are setting up on their own to do the same. “You do need to adopt new technology - Goodlord was a no-brainer for me because otherwise I would have needed to hire extra person,” he says. “Make sure you've got technology in place to free up as much of your time as possible so you can go out and get the business in.”

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