5 expert tips for growing your agency and landlord portfolio
Whether you're a small or large letting agency, there's always room for growth. Here are five expert tips from agencies that have grown successfully.
Letting and estate agencies looking to expand their activities, whether organically or through acquisition, will need to consider many different aspects of how they can grow and what may slow their progress. Stratfords, Dawsons, Avocado Property, and David Conway & Co. share what they've had to consider when growing their agencies successfully over the years, to help you do the same - in the right way for your business.
Their top tips cover how to:
- Make sure your growth aligns with your business priorities
- Get the right people in place to support your growth activities
- Ensure your expansion matches your capacity so your service levels don't dip
- Demonstrate why you're the best in the area to facilitate your success
- Avoid the hard sell to landlords for long-term growth
1. Make sure your growth aligns with your business priorities
As you grow, you'll need to ensure you stay true to your business values, something that Ricky Purdy, Director of Residential Lettings at Swansea-based Dawsons, always bears in mind as the agency business continues to grow.
“We make sure prospective clients know we have the attributes of the larger companies in terms of efficiency and cost savings - which we pass onto the client - but we don't inherit the perceived negative sides of large national companies, such as long waiting times, being seen as a number not a name, and dealing with multiple people and departments,” he says.
2. Get the right people in place to support your growth activities
Once you've decided that it's the right time to grow, you'll need to make sure that you've got the right staff on board, to help support your growth. For small businesses especially, growth can mean starting to relinquish some of the control that business owners have kept hold of during the early years of their company, so trust is a big part of growing your agency.
"The core of [our plan to grow] is trust and building strong relations with the people you work with and employ," says Luke Thirkettle, Director at Stratfords Residential Sales and Lettings. "Having to let go of the way I did things was quite difficult at first, but once you get the people that you trust around you, your business will go from strength to strength, making that growth possible."
3. Ensure your expansion matches your capacity so your service levels don't dip
Mike Robson, Managing Partner at Avocado Property, believes that each landlord and property should receive the right amount of attention and a personal service. That's only possible if your team isn't overwhelmed with the rapid expansion of your agency, and are supported to ensure they have capacity to do their jobs well.
"If you're letting 40 or 50 properties a month, knowing what a landlord's long-term plans are and what the issues are surrounding the property when you're just a property viewer is difficult," says Mike.
If your staff are fully trained and have access to the right systems and suppliers, this can help ensure a continued high level of service while allowing visibility across the board, so you can always demonstrate your expertise as a company from the first point of contact.
"If someone rings our office and asks for information, they'll nearly always get an answer because anyone in our team can log in and see the latest on that particular tenancy," says Luke. "Having that visibility across any of the systems we've got, whether it's the CRM software or Goodlord - we can see the updates in real time, to answer the questions that come our way."
4. Demonstrate why you're the best in the area to facilitate your success
As a business, you need to demonstrate why you're the best agency for your landlords. This can be as simple as including your awards, supplier logos, or networks you're a part of on your site.
"We're part of an industry recognised network, the Relocation Agent Network. It breeds a bit more confidence when we're on appraisals so it's an instruction winner," says James Conway, Director at David Conway & Co.
"It's a network of several hundred of the best independent agents selected in each area, and you have to be invited to join it [...] It means that we're part of a bigger group, giving us a more expansive reach and way to advise our corporate clients in particular."
Similarly, your professional accreditations demonstrate how serious you are about maintaining a high level of service - rather than paying lip service. "We've found that landlords are happier to sign up to an agency that has proof of its professionalism," says James.
"With RICS, we're assessed every couple of years so landlords know that we're always operating with the latest information, helping keep their investments more secure and offering the best customer service. It's a key reason landlords choose us over our competitors."
5. Avoid the hard sell to landlords for long-term growth
Although landlords should be able to see your agency's achievements and credentials, subtlety is the key to sharing them.
They should be there to set your landlords' minds at ease when they're considering your agency, but what will attract them to you is the extra value that you're sharing through educational content.
It can be more beneficial to play the a long game and build recognition of your brand with this content, rather than going in directly with the hard sell.
"Put out quality material - don't try to sell to people," says Mike. "Don't talk about, 'we, we, we' - share what's happening in the industry because people want to know. Everyone in England's interested in housing - I don't know anyone who's not obsessed by it."
Industry expert Christopher Watkin is a big advocate of giving your landlords extra value, rather than shouting about everything that your agency has achieved. "What is interesting to homeowners and landlords is what's happening in the local property market, the next buy-to-let deals," he says.
He compares the first two years of attracting new customers to being both a hunter and a farmer - ensuring you gain new landlords while nurturing those that you already have on board. The ultimate end goal?
"In two years' time you can slowly reduce being a hunter and just be a farmer all the time. And farmers are a lot more wealthy than poachers."