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!