Wednesday 31 December 2014

Happy New Year - this is the one!


Last nights celebrations and time spent with my family marks a turning point in my journey to opens own estate agency. It's gone from planning and getting a few things ready in my days off from my full time job to ticking off major projects such as the home office and the website.

I'm sure that there will be doubts and decisions, obstacles and successes, heartaches and celebrations.

I'm aiming to continue my blog insights into my life and my way of thinking but to extend it to convey my emotions as this thing becomes more personal and closer to reality.

Watch this space, and I hope 2015 becomes a successful and enjoyable year for all of us

Sunday 28 December 2014

Books for Christmas - plenty of reading


I got several books for Christmas this year. I'm turning more prolific with my reading recent rely and I've been given several books as Christmas presents to keep me going.

I find that reading of any kind keeps my mind going and I always seem to be able to pull ideas out of most books that I feel I can use in business or my everyday life.

For instance, I've just finished an excellent biography of Robert F Kennedy. His ideals and the way he conducted his public life really struck a chord with me and I can relate his insecurities about the way he was perceived.

I received the following books for Christmas this year-

* Thirteen Days by Robert F Kennedy
* Fatherland by Robert Harris
* The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
* An Autobiography by Mohandas K Gandhi
* Roth Unbound by Claudia Roth Pierpoint

Happy reading!

Monday 22 December 2014

Sleep patterns all over the place


I can't sleep, then I can't stay awake and I really don't know why. I've been falling asleep somewhere between 7pm and 11pm then waking up anywhere between 3am and 8am. I'm trying to eliminate the causes as I go, but I'm really stumped at the moment.

I've come away from eating and drinking too late in the day - 7pm has become the cut off time-

I'm not waking up by thinking about or worrying about anything, in fact I'd say that I have less and less to worry about as I get closer to my dream. Things are starting to fall into place and I'm moving to an area that I want to work in, in a way I want to work.y current job is going well, and I'm cutting hours in the new year, which will help me to pull things together. I'm also pretty close to getting the right order of things, so I can clearly see where I'm going to be, and at what stage.

There are some patterns that I'm trying to break - the really early starts do coincide mainly with me falling asleep before 9pm, but not exclusively.

My day job isn't so physical that it tires me out, so we can rule this out as an effect.

Maybe I'm just excited. I think we've bought well for the kids this Christmas, and I think they'll love their presents. I'm also raring to get to the new year and to start making great strides towards opening my estate agency. Maybe it's this?

Wednesday 17 December 2014

Changes are afoot with my employer (again)


As we fire headlong towards Christmas and every moment of time seems like it's at a premium, I've negotiated changes at work that I think will help me move forward with my ideas and create that commodity we call time. I'm taking me working week from 5 full time days to 3 full time days in the new year. Plus the job role I'll be conducting will be more flexible in terms of the exact hours I need to be there. As a result I'll be able to make the massive strides forward I need, rather than the tiny, though productive, steps I'm currently making. The idea is that I'll split the extra time between making some money to bridge the shortfall in hours, and setting up the business. Having full days to be able to devote to the business will mean far more than the odd hour here and there and I believe will start to see the fledgling ideas that I've started to share in this blog turn into a solid, viable and exciting business.

I've decided to go down this route to get moving forward quickly. As you can see from the day count at the top of the page, the click is ticking quite quickly at the moment. Granted it's an arbitrary number I've picked but at the same time it's the target if all my efforts.

In terms of earning the money to bridge the shortfall, January is actually good months, as there is no council tax to pay in February or March. I'll fill in the gaps with income from mystery shops. At the moment I do the odd mystery shop in my lunch break or after work. With having four days a week without work opens up the possibility of full day mystery shopping trips. I used to go out for a full day and conduct 10 to 12 mystery shops and earn a couple of hundred pounds in a day. I can go out and do this again, ensuring that I keep the relevant records for the tax man.

All in all, I believe that the time will allow me to earn in the way I want to earn and get my business off the ground.

Monday 15 December 2014

Are blogs worth anything other than getting my thoughts down?


I've been blogging now for close to a year, and the impending anniversary of the start of my blogging activity has got me thinking-

Are blogs worth anything other than getting my thoughts down?

How do you measure worth?

Let's start at the base level, the definition that I'm sure many would apply - do they generate any money. Now this blog is too young on Blogger to enrol in their advertising programme and I usually make this blog on the move, so I don't have access to html links from Amazon or others. In that sense, it earns nothing. And my older blogs that have Adsense and Amazon ads on warm me very little as well. So in this sense of worth then, not presently, but enough content will eventually bring a trickle of money every month and will filter people to my website when it's up and running.

These blogs are a conduit for my ideas and the finalised blog entry isn't always the same set of ideas as what I set out to write. In this sense, it's my learning style to think about what I write as I write and this gets my creative juices flowing. The ideas will formulate how I operate my business and how I will be different to other estate agents on the market - especially int local market. So in this sense of worth, yes, but I need to be able to reference and re-read my blogs to filter the concrete ideas I will use going forward.

My blogs get interest on social media and are often "shared" by other users, but the interaction level rarely goes any higher than that. I find this frustrating, as I'd like to know people actually read the words and digest the meaning of my blogs. At this level, I think that my blogs are read and some parts of them are used, but I'd like a degree of interaction or feedback that confirms this. So in this sense of worth, yes and no.

Mondays always lead me to reflection. On with the rest of the week.

Wednesday 10 December 2014

Ray, the walking estate agent


I've worked with many people who consider themselves good salesmen. Watching The Apprentice this series makes me realise that some work really really hard at sales and others just have it naturally.

When watching the programme it makes me think back to people I've worked with in estate agency and how successful or otherwise they were in their sakes roles.

Some can use their gender and their natural spiral to strike a deal, without resorting to high innuendo. Roisin from this years programme struck a great deal with the diamond seller in last weeks episode probably in part because he found her alluring. But you can't have that connection with every customer. So what about different sellers and how they operate? I've come across a few.

There was a guy called Lesley and he played on this fact with customers. He often referred to himself as the man with a woman's name. It distinguished him from all of the other estate agents out there. And it got results - people remembered him.

Which brings me to Ray, the walking estate agent. He was the loveliest man. He had nothing but good to say about everyone, and everyone had nothing but good to say about Ray. He had a driving licence, but no car. So Ray walked everywhere. He'd leave for an appointment a mile away over an hour before so he could walk there and be in plenty of time. He wasn't the most dynamic of characters, he often needed reminding or prompting but he was just a wonderful guy. His vendors, buyers, landlords and renters loved him and just bought from him.

The walking everywhere was Ray's "man with a woman's name." What's yours?

Inspiration comes in many forms


I've always been one of those people who has hot something out if every day, every seminar, every meeting. I think if I have spent the time doing something then I should be able to take something practical away with me from it, even when an employer is paying me to be there. I am a practical learner, and I need there to be pragmatic outcomes to anything I attempt in order for it to engage me and for me to get the most out of it.

Whenever I come across a problem at work, I always analyse the situation and how I'm handling it to ensure that I can approach it in the most efficient way next time it crops up.

I am a determined individual and I ensure that I've I come across something that I can't solve immediately, that I get it solved and pass this solution on to my customers and colleagues.

When working in a lettings agency before, I constantly came up against the same problem - landlords renting unfurnished properties and tenants wanting furnished properties. So I came up with the solution of providing a furnishings list that can be provided by a 3rd party (our company) upon request. These items would belong to the tenant got the duration of the tenancy and we would usually buy them back from the tenants at the end of the tenancy, of they were reusable.

It's providing these services that make the difference in standard operations and those that go the extra mile for the customers.

And going the extra mile usually earns the extra money!

This is how I will approach every day when I open my business.

Sunday 7 December 2014

How I'd have dealt with the changes in stamp duty this week


I'd share a basic stamp duty calculation to spark a conversation with your customers, both buyers and vendors.

The calculation is-

Someone buying at £185,000 would have paid £1,850 under the old stamp duty rules. Under the new rules, they will now pay £1,200, which is a saving of £600.

The reason I would use this calculation is to prompt a discussion, to pick up the phone. I have stated in a blog already that I believe you should speak to every one of your clients every week-

This is the perfect opportunity and perfect timing to have this conversation. For my registered buyers, then they will no doubt be registered with more than one estate agent. It's the agent that services these clients, looks after them and has the right communication with them that will more than likely win the business and the recommendations.  I'm sure some buyers will have missed the changes in stamp duty or will have heard about them but maybe not understood what it means to them. A 2 minute chat will clear this up and may change their search criteria. What a valuable conversation to have!

Depending on the part of the country you are in, you may hand to tweak the above calculation but it's just an example and it's the communication with your clients (every week, remember) that's important.

Give it a try!

Saturday 6 December 2014

I'm felling like the Bruce Willis character from Sixth Sense


I'm feeling like the Bruce Willis character in Sixth Sense at the moment. Not that I'm completely ignored, but that the World is happening around me without any input from me. I feel like it at work, at home, at my photography course, setting up my business and when out Christmas shopping.

At work everything and everyone is completely focused on Christmas and getting every last pound out of the customers at this vital time of the year.

At home it seems like I've lost a little bit of control over what tasks need doing, what parts of the house need attention and naming small things like what we are going to do at the weekend. Part if this is the cold dark nights and sort is being so busy at work that all I want to do is get warm and watch the TV!

In terms of my photography course, the initial excitement of taking photos, learning new techniques and showing the group my photos has died down. We have a lot of work to do to finish off our folders, get our portfolio together and finalise our project. This takes a lot if time and energy out of the week and out if the class.

With all this and Christmas shopping and preparation going on, a lot of other aside ya of setting up the business have stalled. The garage/office has stopped half way through, the work on small business grants has stopped and I haven't made any new plans until I can get these sorted.

I also sell books and games on Amazon and eBay, so this picks up at this time of year as well, so this is a drain on time. I think it's best to park all of the progress until the new year and start again in earnest.

Not sure…

Wednesday 3 December 2014

Photography stalls as the light fails


As I've mentioned before on my blog, I'm taking a course in photography at the local college. The reasons are professional and personal. Personally it's always interested me, and it's nice to have a hobby and to have like-minded people. Professionally I'm often appalled at estate agents photographs. The subject matter is often poorly chosen (bathrooms and toilets are a particular bugbear.) The photos are often poorly staged and badly composed. The images more often than not don't add to the overall appeal of the property and do nothing to sell it, which is their dole purpose.

I'm taking the course on its merits, trying to accept the whole of the teachings and to take photographs of portraits, landscapes, abstracts, etc and not just photos of interiors that will assist me in my future profession. I think that having a rounded skill set and being able to apply different skills and techniques will assist me in taking great photographs for my clients.

As the weather has turned colder and the evenings are darker earlier, the light has hugely affected my ability to, and inspiration for taking photographs. A large part of photography is understanding and playing with the light, and when the light changes so significantly so quickly it affects all the settings and I admit, has thrown me out.

I'm looking at taking my camera with me on Christmas shopping trips but I'm sure I'll be distracted by more pressing issues. I'm not overly sure about how many photos I'll get taken but any practice I can get will be beneficial to refining my art!

Saturday 29 November 2014

My weekend internet page reading


Just found these-

I've got a lot of reading to do!

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Ambition is infectious


Ambition is infectious. The sight of it imbues others with extra confidence. That is the Moeen Ali effect.

His cricket tangibly uplifts England. When he's involved - batting or bowling - the players have an extra spring in their step; their efforts are loaded with expectation; opponents visibly wilt. But natural talent is not enough. England need to play smarter cricket too. That's what this one-day international tour of Sri Lanka is about.

This section taken from the BBC website about the England cricketer Moeen Ali sums up how I want to go about my business. I want to be able to be this infectious ambition.

Picture 2 estate agents. One that works for an employer, clocks off at five, gets paid at the end of every month whether they sell your home or not. The other works for them self, can be contacted in the phone from 8am to 8pm, only earns if they sell your home. Which wpuld you choose?

If you could add to this an enthusiasm for their work, an understanding of marketing beyond a traditional estate  agent and beng a professional photographer.

Plus they are someone who can convey all of this when sat in your home at the time of market appraisal.

Hopefully, it's a no-brainier, because that estate agent is me!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

I need to enjoy family time without thinking of all the tasks I have to complete


It's difficult at this time of year to find time to get everything done that you want. There are extra time pressures, such as Christmas shopping, Christmas meals and events and the weather and light closing in. This has the effect of making me think that I have little time to focus on all the business activities that I want to get done.

I have stalled a little on business grants, garage conversion and social media presence over the last fortnight and I think it's starting to take it's toll. I'm also doing fewer mystery shops and finding planning things like family days out a strain. My emails that need action are building up, as the surveys I need to conduct generally require a desktop or laptop computer rather than a smartphone screen.

I think that this is a natural thing at this time of year, but I'm finding it very frustrating. I want to be able to enjoy my time with the wife and kids without having a list as long as my arm at the back of my mind.

It's time to go back to the diary and to reassess what can be done in the time I have, and what can wait until the new year.

Monday 24 November 2014

Is any reading good reading?


I'm currently reading a biography if Robert Kennedy, by Evan Thomas. It's a really interesting book, filled with facts and opinion about RFK's life and how the brothers ran America as President and Attorney General. It has got me thinking -

Is any reading good reading?

I ask this because I'm trying to expand my mind and keep learning about this interesting world - not necessarily just reading books directly related to estate agency or marketing (although I've read many of these, as this blog will testify.) I have been thinking about my reading and whether the simple fact that I am reading and learning about something is as good (or near) as actually reading more and more material specifically about estate agency. I'm of the opinion that you can always pick up an idea or two from any source or activity. I'm the type that will sit through a day of seminars for the one gem that will give me an edge over my rivals, or an indication of one part of my operation that I need to question  and improve.

For example, from the book about the Robert Kennedy, I have picked up the relentless nature of his beliefs and how this transformed into the disciplined way he went about his, and his brothers, business. I will ensure that I have clearly defined business goals and I will make every decision and action with these in mind.

What's next on the non-business reading list?

The Satanic Verses by Salman Rushdie
Fatherland by Robert Harris
Strange Days Indeed by Francis Wheen
The Fatal Touch by Conor Fitzgerald

Any further suggestions? 

Friday 21 November 2014

Professional interest and personal panic


There's a professional interest and personal panic when I see a shop being renovated in the town I'm going to operate in. I think "is it an estate agents? What are they going to be like? Will they steal a march on me?"

Twice since I started the 245 days journey there have been actual estate agents open.

The first was not long after I started planning, and it was a low-key opening in a side street, and in the couple of months since they opened I haven't seen one of their boards, or any adverts in the local newspapers or any listings on Rightmove. I know that opsonise an estate agency is, and will be, a slow burner but I don't feel that they have started with a bang, or had a good presence, or offered anything different to the existing agents. Phew (so far.)

The second is starting to emerge this week, where an agent from a neighbouring market has decided to open up an office in town. I don't know a lot about the existing office or the new satellite office of this company but I'm going to research today and see what I can find out.  As it happens, I'm on the park and rude, travelling past their existing office in a minute or so...

It's a sales and lettings office (I was hoping for lettings only) and again, it doesn't look to offer anything substantially different to our existing agents, from first look.

I'm not afraid of competition, in fact I think that my experience and the proposition I am building will stand up well against the vast majority of estate agents I have encountered. In my view traditional estate agents have been left behind by the service levels offered in other service industries. Complaints about estate agents, particularly about fees and communication, are rising. This shows that customer service levels haven't reached the standards that they should. Simple conversations or disclosures about fees and basic agreements about contact with customers can eliminate most complaints of this nature. I will have a contact schedule written into my contract with clients that let them know how often I will contact them, and how.  Something like-

"I will call you weekly, on a Thursday between 1pm and 5pm, as this is your afternoon off work. This call will be to give you a marketing update and any alterations we need to make."

Tuesday 18 November 2014

A head cold takes over my day, hopefully not my week


I've got a cold, and it seems like it's taking over everything else in my life.

At the moment I'm just sleep, work, sleep and not a great deal else is being done. It's stopped all my mystery shops, my surveys, work on the computer and any physical work towards setting up the estate agency.  All I can do is get rested, get over this and regroup at the end of the week when, hopefully, it's all cleared.

On a connected note, I've been offered via work the opportunity to have the flu jab for only £5. I don't know how this stacks up against other offers but if it buys me a few days of not feeling like this over the coming Winter then it may be worth it.

Monday 17 November 2014

Inspiration to finish off my home office


I've just read a blog that sats a home office in the garden can add 5% to the value of a home-

This has made me happy in my pursuit if completing my home office to stsrt my estate agency in. I am actually no further forward than my last blog on this subject, but the news that it can add value to my home is another spur to get it completed - next phase us this Friday, my next day off. 

It will be to move the items to the back half of the garage and paint and waterproof the front half of the garage. This will be the final part if waterproofing and weather-proofing, before I start to assemble the cupboards, tables, chairs and units that will inhabit the garage whilst I use it. I want to create a mix between a conventional office, an inspiring place to freate some truly different marketing material, and a place that uses the extra furniture I already have stored in there.  Hopefully Friday will leave me set to assemble furniture and dress the place with inspiring materials to kick off the next stage in my startup - moving out of the house into the home office!

Thursday 13 November 2014

Is my degree a boost or a drain to my aspirations?


Yes, I'm on the park and ride bus blogging again. Or waiting for the bus to arrive this morning. Not usually at this time of day, but when I travel a little later, I'm often surrounded by university students travelling around the city. It takes me back to my university days and gets me thinking about the relevance of my degree to the rest of my life.

Going through secondary school and sixth form college, it was always said to me that I should go and do a degree in something that interested me. What interested me then and still does now is language. So I chose a degree in linguistics. I found it fascinating and completed the 3 year course before thinking "what now?"

Teaching or researching in the field of linguistics didn't appeal to me, so I went out into the world of commerce,

Now to a lot of ends, a degree in linguistics means very little to a potential estate agent. To a lot of ends it can mean a great deal.

In my opinion, estate agency when carried out to its best, is a marketing activity. A chunk of marketing involves words and how they are put together to, in this case, sell properties. Add to this the ability to be creative and you have the right mix to be a leading and innovative estate agent, in my opinion.

As I have previously mentioned, I am currently on a photography course to increase my awareness and skills in the area of photography to enable me to be the best agent in my town at this. My experience in many industries in many roles will help me to look at the whole picture.

I would say that the moral of the story is to decide at the outset that your degree will match your career aspirations or will be flexible enough to support you in whatever you want to do.

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Starting a business on my own is more and more appealing to me


Watching The Apprentice tonight, and the last few weeks, has cemented my desire to start my new estate agency business on my own. The process itself will skew the way people operate around each other, as they fight for the opportunity at stake, but there is always a degree of tension when you have people working together.

I'm sure that's why many employers now look at candidates for their ability to fit into the team, after their filtering process has identified that they match the required skills.

My intention is to grow the business as fast as I can and far enough to move into premesis and recruit people but the initial idea is to go for quite some time as me on my own, with some secretarial help from my wife when needed. The next step after this would be to train up my wife to carry out the same tasks as me. I hope that this will take me some way down the road with the business before I have to consider an office and a team.

Monday 10 November 2014

My organisation steps up a gear to ensure I'm productive


I've got a diary and things are slotting into place!

From sitting in front of the PC or a blank piece of paper and having so many hundreds of things to do, and achieving none of them - I've got a diary, I've identified spare time and I've given specific tasks to these times to ensure that I'm better organised and I'm actually getting things done.

And, do you know what? It feels like a massive burden has been lifted from my shoulders. I'm still using spare time like this, sat on the park and ride bus, to write blogs and respond to emails. But I'm happier in the knowledge that I have other things in some sort of controlled order and this time can be spent on things like this.

Each time slot has been given it's own specific tasks, linked to my start of the week list of items I must get done. This week is-

*risk assessments for my photography course and the new business

*move photographs from memory cards to disk and format cards

*get completely up to date with all pending surveys and cash in where I can for Christmas presents

*fully research and contact small business/new business grants providers in my area

*hair cut (I know it's trivial but it's been far too long)

These and a few other things have made it to my "to do list" and I intend to keep using it to ensure I hand a plan, and I can sleep at night.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Downtime helps the mind focus


I've been wrestling with the amount of time I spend on setting up my estate agency business. It feels that alongside a full time job, two other small business interests and a family, the work put into setting up my estate agency means that I gave little or no downtime. I'm not talking about hour after your watching TV or playing video games, but some time spent doing not a great deal, and this helps me to reflect on where I am, decide on next best steps and do things like this - writing my blogs. I'm actually typing this whilst on the bus on the way to work (park and ride has changed the face of many cities) and therein lies the problem - every spare minute is filled with activity. Now this blog can be quite therapeutic, and I'm able to use it as a sounding board for me, as much as it provides an insight for you - the reader.

Ill blog again into lunch break, and probably again on the bus on the way home, and possibly again tonight whilst I'm back on the PC.

However, there needs to be more time spent on playing with the kids, family days out, quality time with my wife, etc to ensure I keep a focus on why I'm doing all this.

Don't think that this is a moan about how things are going, it's just me putting down some thoughts and fears about how it's going.

Presently I've got about 100 emails needing some action - the vast majority are surveys, which bring in Christmas spending money. I carry out loads of mystery shops, as I looked at in yesterday's blog. Yesterday afternoon I had 3 jobs to sort out in the bathroom and there's a couple more to sort out in the house.

In all, I need to carry out the following-

*get all the jobs in the house done and straightened our before the business starts

*decide on whether I will continue with surveys and mystery shops when I start the business

*set aside times for certain tasks, such as surveys, emails, time with the kids - in other words, plan my time (I'll get a diary today)

*decide when the best time to stop my full-time job and start full-time in the business is

Looking forward, not backwards.

Tuesday 4 November 2014

Photographs from my time away


I've been practicing my photography skills whilst away from "245 days" in the last week.  I am now trying to match the skills I am learning to the end product of photographing property and making it more saleable as a result.

This is my take on not following the crowd when I was in London and taking a photo of Big Ben.  I moved away from the tourist crowds and looked at the building through different eyes.  I hope to be able to use my eye for seeing something different and the framing effect when photographing houses.

This photo of the underside of a bridge in Central London is testament to my desire to overcome the fear of light and shadow in my photos.  In terms of taking photos of someone's property, the effect that light and shadows can have will add to the interest in the photo and hopefully this will translate into click-through.

The green and blues from the field and sky in this photo and setting up what I want to do when taking marketing photos of the gardens that belong to my client's property.  I see so many photos taken that do not conform to the rule of thirds, and this does the garden a disservice.  Being able to see the sky too will remind potential buyers of what they will be in the garden for.

I think that a lot of estate agents are afraid to embrace the seasons as they may date the property, and how long it has been on the market.  As an agent that believes he will sell every property quickly, I don't have this hang-up.  It's also really easy to go back to the property and re-take any photos that may be a giveaway that the property has been on the market for a little while - Autumn l;eaves, snow, Christmas decorations, paddling pools, etc.

Taking these photos has helped me to think about the photographer, estate agent and marketer that I want to be.

Monday 3 November 2014

Tomorrow is key time for the next steps in my start up


New job started today, a non-stop day, that was followed by my 3-hour evening class on photography.

This is my last thoughts of the day before I go to sleep and prepare for another!

I'm happy with the first day in my new role at my new location - it all went to plan and everything fell into place.

My spare time now will be in the evenings, so tomorrow evening will be a full session in the PC to be getting back up to speed. I've got a blog to put together here only photos taken on my trip away from home.  I've got a blog to write on the town I will operate in. I've got some research to do about grants for small business.

Wish me luck!

Sunday 2 November 2014

245 days to go returns from holiday


I've just come back from 5 days away and it's a time of change and restart in the journey I've been on to set up my own estate agency.

I visited Cambridge, London and Essex during my five days away from work and home. There were huge opportunities to take many photos and I'll upload a selection in a later blog with commentary relating to my learnings and how I intend to use them in my business. I met up with many old friends and family members and has a great opportunity to discuss some of my plans, listen to their ideas and experiences and get a fix on how I want to go forward.

I start my new role in a new company site tomorrow and the change in direction here will, I hope, give me fresh impetus. I've grown stale working for my current manager and in my current role into current store. A change of scene, slight change of role, change of location and different working hours I believe will all contribute to me being able to be much happier in my life in general and this having a knock-on effect on the effort and enthusiasm I can dedicate to my new business.

So we move onwards from here - a great few data away with the family, a new role with working hours I prefer and more energy to start the new business.

Win, win, win!

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Options for my home office


I've started my home garage, changing it from this-

and now, today I've got to this point-

Whilst spending my day painting the walls and floor with a weatherproof sealant, I have been thinking about what the next steps will be in converting this space into an office that will allow me to work in quiet and comfort, whatever the weather conditions outside.  First consideration has been to waterproof the walls and floor, as the UK winter (and often the other seasons) can have a big impact on the security and safety of this potential workspace.  It has flooded more than once, through the walls from the outside garden flower beds, so I have accentuated the beds and put in more plants to soak up any excess water.  Next step is to make the office a place where I can work and be inspired to market properties as well as I can.


Leave it as it is
           Least cost and time/effort
           Has the effect of a New York loft
           Will be more expensive to heat, as there is no insulation
Another coat of white paint
           Low cost and effort again
           A blank canvas to add pictures and effects to inspire
           Doesn’t solve the heat and insulation problem
Lining the walls with an insulating material
           Will help to keep long-term heating costs down
           Cheapest option that involves further action
           Major concerns over building regulations
           Brings fire safety issues in to play
           Time and money to source the right materials at the right cost
Line the walls and then plaster/board over and decorate
           Will look like a conventional office
           Will be more insulated and save on heating costs
           Expense starts to grow
           Sourcing materials is even more costly and time consuming than above
Pay a builder to convert officially
           Will add value to my home
           Will be official and legitimate
           High cost solution to what may be a temporary problem
           Will accentuate my desire to permanently work from home, rather than eventually build up the business to an office base.

I am genuinely undecided about the best way forward, as I want this to be a low-cost solution to a problem, for the time period that I am working from home, and I also want it to be weather-proof, comfortable, safe and inspiring.

Decision time will be my next full day off work, 2 weeks from now.

Thursday 23 October 2014

Some of my inspirations


You can be inspired in all sorts of ways by all sorts of people.  Some of my inspirations are as follows-

I love the music of Hootie and the Blowfish, and their lead singer Darius Rucker.  They can be found all over You Tube, but they also have a jukebox on their website-

I also love the music of Foo Fighters, Red Hot Chili Peppers and David Gray.

I love all types of art and have been to many art museums in cities all over the World.  My favourite artist is Mark Rothko.  I don't get into the whole modern art debate, I just like his paintings-

I think that TV is starting to take over from the movies as the premium entertainment vehicle of it's genre. Recent programmes that have caught my attention include True Detective, Hannibal and the recent Dr Who
series have been excellent.  My favourite show has just finished airing in the UK, it's the US version of The Office.  The characters had more depth and more time to develop than the UK predecessor, and the programme was witty, funny and hugely entertaining every single week.

I think that originality and creativity runs through the likes I have for all of these things, and I hope that shows in my work. How about you?

Wednesday 22 October 2014

Poetry to be creative?


I'm starting to think creatively and I feel I need to get as much creative process as possible going as I can. I've never been an actor or a painter, but I used to write a lot of poetry in my teens and early 20's.

I've started bits again, mainly inspired by events and situations I've found myself in.

Here are 3 recents poems-

The methadone metronome
Teeth like melting snow
Framed by black
Eyes that betray the presence of the body
Are you aware that you're here?
If not, where do you think you are?
Clothes that haven't seen a washing machine in months
Skin likewise with soap
There's an army of these, each it's own sleeper cell
Unaware of the tens of thousands in a similar trance, with similar hunger
What can feed the need?
Anything that can be sold on for money
Money that will sit in the pocket for only minutes
This army of zombies attack the retail trade and soak up resources
They soak up resources from the Police as well
Their offspring are paperwork, CCTV images, statements
These replace the offspring that were taken into care
Where next?
Who is understaffed?
What can we sell?
Who's on to us?
We are all on to you,
But we grow tired too

Sick of abbreviation (abbr.)
Thick Scottish accents leave me dumbstruck
Car indicators that are never used
Far from what was learnt on driving lessons
Noise for the sake of noise annoys
Toys used to be toys, not apps with in-app purchases
Health and Safety has become it's own industry
Wealth earned from advising people to use common sense
A beard is now a fashion accessory
A weird change from it being seen as someone who hadn't shaved
Miracle creams from every provider under the sun
Satirical TV stations have sprung up from repeating others leftovers
Dave, GOLD, Watch, Pick, Challenge, all in HD
Save me from these flashbacks of my childhood, teens, twenties

Notes from a talk
It's been changed to a bigger room because "it's such a hit."
But there's only 5 minutes to go, and there are only 4 others here
A pair of windswept silvers in row 2, look like they'll get a flask of tea out soon
The other 2, at the front are actually part of the staff, they're leaving now,
Awash with self-important utterings in  RP pronunciation
I've actually walked in with the crew, might get mic-ed up if I don't keep moving
Here come the crowd, and it's clear that I'm dragging down the average age
I expected besuited estate agents, university professors and civil servants
I've got retired civil servants and university professors - the estate agents are out of suits at home,
Or still in suits at work, they're not here
I'm looking for information, debate, society and
Well, I'm looking for a way in, a different way of working
An epiphany that awakens my senses to a money train
My sense of energy, my sense of self, my sense of commercialness
All asleep for a while
But not now

Just a bit of fun, hope you like them!

Tuesday 21 October 2014

Enthusiasm sometimes gets the better of me


I'm having to rein in my imagination and enthusiasm a little today, I'm raring to go with my estate agency and I'd open it tomorrow if I was a bit more impetuous. It's been a long-standing dream and I won't rest until I get to do this for myself, but it has to open right and correct. I want to take my local market by storm, so I have to get everything properly formed before I start advertising and get people on the phone to start me marketing their property.

Imagination and enthusiasm
This has run away with me a little over the last few days. I want to have a website, 4 blogs, 2 You Tube accounts, 4 accounts in other social media, market every day and still have time to do all the other things I carry out now - surveys, consumer trials, mystery shopping, writing books and buying and selling books and video games. I have to be realistic and decide when to switch these things off to concentrate on getting this business right. It will be after Christmas to start switching things off, with the most time-consuming going first.

I have also got to rein in my ideas for the business. I'm sure that loads of tech and kit will make it interesting for me, but it needs to be cost-effective and the right thing for my customers. I've looked at tech for showing properties to customers, for sale boards with tech to contact customers walking or driving by, expensive laptops, producing glossy brochures for advertising each property for sale, etc.

I've consigned all of this to the trash pile, as it's a group of things that I would believe added a small amount to the process but at a high cost to the business - and ultimately to the customer.

I'm focussing on the things I need to get in order first, and developing my ideas about where I want to go with this, what I want to be and what I want to achieve.

Monday 20 October 2014

A big week lies ahead


A big week lies ahead. Back to work today, followed by evening school, so I won't get many things done today, however it's a big week, and I've got plans!

Tomorrow morning is research into business grants for small business and start ups. It will start online, but I'm hoping to set up a meeting with the local enterprise agency (or whatever they are called nowadays) to speak to someone face-to-face about if and how I can go about this. Failing this, I'll go to the local Citizens Advice Bureau to see if they can get me any information. My father volunteers for the CAB in another part of the country, so I know that they are a useful source of information and advice.

Wednesday evening, after work will be dedicated to more work on the photography side, developing my style and ideas on what my photography will look like, and how I can develop my style and skills from my photography class, where I have been capturing images of landscapes, flowers and portraits. I need to develop ideas in the area if interiors and how I can make exciting, original and appealing photographs to sell my customers homes, without infringing on the Property Misdescriptions Act.

I will also be furthering my blog on the local property market. I have written 5 posts so far, and publicised then via a Facebook page on my local town. It has had a small response, and is a slow burner but it's interesting for me to formulate my ideas on the msrket and the competition. This will help me with strategy in the long run as well.

Thursday will be dedicated to weatherproofing my 2 nx garage in preparation to convert it into an office. The interior walks and floors will need to be watertight and this is the first task. It's half cleared and ill pant the inside walls and floor if the back half, before moving the stuff inside and preparing the front half. It's a full day job, I expect, when including drying time.

Busy week!

Saturday 18 October 2014

I've just been to a talk on the future of social housing


Notes from a talk about the future of social housing

house prices,estate agents,housing crisis,Housing,Social housing,right to buy

First speaker, female, book about growing up in social housing and how this is intrinsically linked to class. Once I have a house with a bay window and a tree outside, I've made it!

Second speaker, male, about the effects of Right To Buy, and the privatisation of the UK's housing stock in the Thatcher years. New public housing production fell off a cliff and the Conservative government expected the free market to step in. It didn't. We still haven't addressed this since and it runs to the core of the current issues in our housing market. The government wants a huge number of homes to be built, without issuing any incentives or subsidies to do so.

Third speaker, male, about housing associations. He sees them as the "least worst option." There is no such thing as a UK housing market. There are a series if regional markets. I'm terms of the North East of England the main concern is that economic activity and growth have been low for a sustained period - thus subduing the house-building market.

Opened up to the floor, for questions or reflections from the audience.

Your thoughts on Right To Buy?
It's fine, as long as there is something in place to replace the social housing stock. It strikes through to the British psyche of home ownership and being a nation of homeowners.

What is your opinion of Right To Buy as Buy-to-Let?
The realisation of the asset may come much later than the purchase. Second or third generation Right To Buy owners may not see the house in the same way as their parents or grandparents who initially bought the home from the council.

Comment on the floor
The future of the housing market will not succeed by leaving the free market to resolve private and social housing needs. There needs to be incentives and interventions by government to produce a different response from the house building companies.

Friday 17 October 2014

Making time for everything needs planning


Here comes another weekend, another weekend off work and another weekend where I've made loads of and for what I'm going to do to entertain the kids. But I am using today's blog to remind mysf that I need to make time and make plans for my fledgling business.

A trip out tonight and a quite full day out tomorrow make the weekend feel hectic at the outset, but there's light at the end if the tunnel. I'm going to a talk and discussion on the future of social housing tomorrow - a sort of busman's holiday. During the day out with my wife and kids, I will break away for a couple of hours, leaving them to explore the city. I'll be interested in the theory of the talk, in the future of social housing, but with always a slant towards how this relates to my business and how I can use the information to expand the business and earn money.

Tonight's trip out will be to an illuminations, and I need to use this time to get my homework done for my photography class.  I need to take one photo, bearing in mind the discussions we had last week on composition. It needs to be well composed, using the rule of thirds, leading lines, the balance of colours and textures. I will also need to present it to the rest of the group and explain my photo in technical language. Wish me luck!

I'll share the photo on here and the feedback I receive.

Wednesday 15 October 2014

My brush with The Apprentice


Watching these guys in The Apprentice gets me thinking. I entered this years The Apprentice and I got through to the last few hundred, where I has to put a 30 second pitch to the production team.

I turned 40 earlier this year and the landmark started me off on a bit of a journey, now with 229 days to go. I entered The Apprentice and Mastermind, I entered the Great North Run and I write and published my first ebook.

This has heightened my desire to open my own business, and to open it as close to perfect as possible. I mean perfect in terms of getting it open as close to ready and as close to my own vision as possible, on or under the budget I have set myself.

But back to The Apprentice, and the potential business partner to Lord Sugar. On last years programme, Neil Clough struggled at the interview stage with his estate agency-based proposal. This years crowd are too busy fighting and undermining each other to make these tasks successful so far.

Tuesday 14 October 2014

Social media as a platform to reach other like-minded professionals

230 I've been getting involved in discussions with other estate agents and entrepreneurs on various social media platforms. I think a debate, and the ability to have discussions, share ideas and generally talk about the industry with other people is heartening and useful. I'm mainly coming across useful content and discussions on LinkedIn social media site, under the Estate Agents UK Networking Group. Once on there, you can ask questions, start discussions, respond to other people's content, or just have a read of what other people have put there. I have found posting specific questions about marketing get a good response and generally start a lively debate, where people share their experience of that particular subject and usually have some strong views about it. I have developed in other areas on LinkedIn as well, as I have started to make connections with people I have worked alongside in estate agency over many years in the past. I think that having a network of people that you have shared experiences with and can trust their opinion will give you a testing ground for ideas and marketing projects. On other social media, I have developed another blog, based on the property market in my town - the idea is that as my knowledge of the market develops, and the content specifically related to the town builds, then I will become an authority in the property market where I will operate. This should lead to me being trusted and being sought out both by home sellers and landlords, for my experience and knowledge. This is also being serialised on the Facebook page that I have set up relating to the town I will operate in. I am using the town for my photography practice, and posting these photos on the page as well. I also add links to local events and local news to ensure that the page stays fresh and interesting. I use Twitter to publish links to my Blogger pages, so that I can reach a wider audience with my blog, and likewise with Tumblr, where I can also share a lot more of my photos and my thoughts about them. All-in-all I am finding that the links I can make via social media are becoming more and more useful to establish my presence in the local market and to add to my connections with people who have a similar outlook and will give me honest feedback. I urge anyone to give it a go!


Monday 13 October 2014

Facing my fears


Ive had a couple of nights of poor sleep and I think I know why. I'm formulating, cojitating, weighing up and thinking about setting up my own estate agency with every spare minute, and the parts I fear loss of control over are starting to get to me. I don't lie awake at night specifically thinking about these things, but I'm sure that the constant thought and planning must weigh on my mind most of the time. 

I always find looking over these issues and then talking them over quite cathartic, so I'll put them in print here, and then discuss them with my wife later today or early tomorrow, and look at how to tackle these issues. There are 2 main issues that are starting to bother me at the moment.

The Rightmove question
This one for me is the biggest question, and possibly the biggest monthly overhead. My intention at first is to either go without Rightmove from the beginning, or to offer it to customers as a pay-up-front additional extra. I do not believe that Rightmove is the be-all-and-end-all for estate agents, and I'm willing to back my judgement on that by not signing up with them.

However, I don't want to lose potential instructions by not offering it. I don't want to give the other agents in town a way to knocks service by stating that I'm missing a vital piece if the jigsaw.

Action : Speak to Rightmove and find out the cost of monthly listings. Also find out the possibility of pay-per-listing and the cost of this. From there I can see what a potential cost to my customer may be. I also need to provide a solid, reasoned argument as to why I won't be using Rightmove and have this ready to proactively address my customers concerns.

Industry resistance to online-only agents
I know that I shouldn't overly worry about what other people think of me, but it's not their thoughts, it's their potential actions. I read with interest, the following article last week-

And it regards estate agents in the North East of England coming together to all agree to remove themselves from Rightmove and Zoopla and all list their properties only in a new portal that specifically excludes online-only estate agents. Now this isn't my patch, but news can spread, and the ill feeling that estate agents with High Street offices have towards online-only agents is quite widespread. I don't want to end up
operating in a town with this level of animosity.

Action : To ensure that I know my own reasons and arguments for being an online-only estate agent. I will highlight my lower overheads, and explain that is why I am cheaper than the local agents with a High Street office and a team of staff they have to pay for whether bust or not. I thnk I'll push this as a selling point, rather than a weakness.

Thursday 9 October 2014

Everything I think I need to sort out before opening

228 After a whirlwind and scattergun start to my plans for opening an estate agency next year, I have decided that the next best step is to gather together all the aspects that I think I need to cover before the grand opening.

Here goes (in no particular order)-

  • A new computer or laptop. My current one is fine for family use but I need a separate workstation with more memory.
  • A dedicated telephone line for the business.  Either an extra landline at home or a dedicated mobile phone and number.
  • Sorting out the 2nd garage at the rear of the house that I will convert into an office space.
  • Furniture for this home office, including a desk, lockable filing cabinets, chairs and stationery.  I have an old dining room table, dining chairs, an office chair, a sideboard, a wardrobe, a chest of drawers and some other smaller pieces of furniture in the garage already, so some of these will be re-used or upcycled.
  • A cashflow forecast and business plan for the first year of trading.
  • I need a website designed and built.  The design and content are still to be decided, and will take the form of a complete blog of it's own.
  • I need to source a provider of for sale boards, design what my boards will look like and have them produced.
  • I need to get a grip on what advertising I will use, how it will look, where it will appear, etc.  This is a massive subject and will be it's own blog subject in the future.
  • I'm looking at links to the local community to run alongside my advertising and other marketing.  I'm thinking about links to a local school, a local sports club and some other community projects.  I will provide them with support and financial help, maybe with a twist.
  • I will need a solicitor for 2 reasons.  Firstly for advice for setting up my business as a legal entitiy, then a reliable referral point for any conveyancing business that I come across.
  • An accountant, for the setting up of the business as well.  I will need advice regarding how to set up the business, whether a sole tradership, a partnership or a limited company will best serve my needs.
  • I will need to open a business bank account, with online access, but also a local branch for paying in any rent money taken in cash or by cheque.
  • A final decision on whether I open with sales and lettings.  If I have lettings as well then I will need contacts for the management of the properties, such as electricians, plumbers, glaziers and central heating engineers.
  • I will be looking into the availability of business grants in my area to help with the set-up costs.  As I type this, I have now put this to the top of my mental list.
  • I have an idea about becoming a "hybrid" of online and offline state agents by using the window of a High Street business to display my properties and contact details.  I'll need to look into this and start to speak to local businesses about the possibility of this.
  • I will need to register with the ombudsman service for estate agency, look at membership of the National Association of Estate Agents (NAEA) and, if relevant, the Association of Residential Letting Agents (ARLA)
  • I will need to look at contacting, and forging a working relationship with a local mortgage adviser that will be able to assist my clients with their financial needs.
  • Likewise with a local surveyor, especially for clients that are buying without arranging finance.
  • I have spoken to several companies in the past that supply a software tool for managing an estate agency.  A sort of client and property database, with the ability to upload properties to portals, match clients with properties, email property details to clients and other daily functions.
  • On that note, I will need to look at which property portals I am considering and from there, look at costs and fit this into my marketing plan.
  • I will need to look at several levels of insurance - any changes to my car insurance, any changes to my home insurance from having a business operate from home and any business insurance I need for operating in clients homes.
  • I will most probably set up a charitable foundation where any fundraising will go.  I also intend to donate a percentage of my profits to this charitable foundation.  In the early stages of my thought process, I want some of this money to go to a local charity and some to go to a charity related to housing, maybe Shelter.
I know that this won't be a comprehensive list, and other things will pop up as time goes by.  If anyone has any ideas, suggestions or can see any glaring ommissions then please let me know!

Tuesday 7 October 2014

I'm having a good day!


I feel great today, quite positive and I've got a lot of menial paperwork and organisation done at home.

I've got loads of progress made at work.

Got good feedback about my blog, and about my photography yesterday.

None if this is particularly related to opening the business, but I thought I'd record my feelings and let you know how I feel!

Monday 6 October 2014

Keeping up the spirits takes things to look forward to


When the weather is awful, as it is today, it can be difficult to raise your spirits and raise your mood. Especially as today feels to me like the first day of what's going to be a long Winter.

So, what do I do to get in the mood to work, develop and get my blood going.

I've already mentioned in previous editions of my bold that I have taken up brain training and have goneback to   running. Both make me feel alone and ready to go for the day, but on a non-run day, and with brain training over and done with for the day, what keeps me going?

The light at the end if the tunnel seems far away, and most of what I'm getting into for the business are slow burners or things that are still at the planning stage. There is the burning desire to do this properly, the countdown that you are at the top of every blog page (now only 231 days to go) but I need smaller steps along the way to keep spirits up and focus on the task at hand-

I went to the Sunderland v Stoke march on Saturday with my family

It's my eldest's birthday on Saturday, so we're going out for the day.

We're going to see the family and meet up with some friends in Essex for 5 days in late October.

There's a midweek evening kickoff Sunderland match in early November that I'll take myself along to.

We always do something really Christmassy in early December to start off the season. It was the Polar Express train ride last year.

Christmas and New Year will be celebrated heartily in our house, with children of only 7 and 6.

In January I'm looking to go to Spain with  the lads for a few days of drinking and relaxing in the sun.

My birthday in February.

We're planning on a family trip to Disney/Florida in March, or to Disneyland Paris and a trip around France (depending on finance.)

All these small steps build up to give me the next focus and keep me on an even keel whilst working full-time and trying to prepare a new business at the same time.

Sunday 5 October 2014

Last photos from week 2 of my photography course - slow shutter speed

These are the last 2 pictures I took tonight, using a slow shutter speed of 30 seconds to capture the movements of traffic (and traffic lights) on a busy road and a busy roundabout. The first one is from above a motorway, and I left the caged bridge crossing in the picture to give it some focus and context-


The second photo is of a roundabout, with the same technique, slow shutter speed and a narrow aperture (to balance out the amount of light getting in) and this is of a roundabout.  I'm not 100% happy with this - I could have done with a more elevated position and a busier time of day, but the movement of the car lights and the traffic lights is still evident-

As I said, this is all for this week, hopefully I'll learn some new techniques next week and I can move forward from there to develop my own style.