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!