Have you ever noticed that it is much easier to fix other people’s problems than your own? Whether it is resolving a friend’s complicated love life or decisions over a potential job change, the solutions are often clearer when you know the person well but are not personally involved.
When you are running a business with its own problems and challenges, it is sometimes difficult to step back and see the bigger picture. At Reapit, we have spent 25 years working with the lettings industry and along the way we have learnt a great deal about what it takes to run a successful lettings business. Here are five of the best tips and tricks we have encountered.
Good business starts with good management
The first highlights a problem that is endemic in our industry today. Business management is a skill set. It has been defined in different ways by business thinkers over the last century, but the basic framework is always the same.
It is a never-ending cycle of planning and setting objectives, organising resources and routines, directing, and motivating employees and controlling performance by comparing objectives against achievement. This is a fundamental and logical management cycle, followed by countless business leaders across the globe. And yet, we rarely see it put into action in UK lettings businesses. All too often the industry rewards successful negotiators by promoting them into jobs they cannot do. They often recruit managers from within, assuming their skills as negotiators will equip them in their new roles.
However, management is something new. All too often managers lack the confidence and skills to manage a team and lean back on the job they did before they received their promotion. They become listers and valuers, spending most of their time out of the office attending market appraisals and instructions, leaving the branch to operate on its own without management.
The elephant in the room is that many companies we meet, know that their managers are not managing but tend to ignore the problem.
The insight here is to learn from the more successful agents we meet, who make sure their managers are equipped with the correct business management skills, so they can drive their branches to succeed in any marketplace.
All agents train negotiators to generate business, weaker ones rarely train them to manage. If you do not have a business management training culture in place, then implementing one could be incredibly valuable for your agency.
Embrace tech and build software knowledge
We meet thousands of managers, negotiators, and administrators in our AgencyCloud training courses every year and there is a clear relationship between job type and software knowledge.
Many managers and senior players we meet take the view that an understanding of their CRM product is unnecessary at their level, and it is more important that their junior staff members learn how to use it. Some have come from a different generation, brought up on non-technological systems such as applicant cards stored in a box. They often shy away from technology, avoid training and think they can get away with leaving the computers to the juniors.
This approach might have worked 10 years ago, but anyone following it today is walking a dangerous path. We know that successful agents in the online, hybrid and traditional lettings branches are embracing technology, and you will never be able to truly manage your business unless you understand how it functions. In an ideal world, managers and more senior players should have software knowledge as good as, if not better than their staff. Granted they may not need to understand some of the routine procedural functionality as well as their administrators; however, to drive the business successfully they need to fully appreciate and monitor what their business generators are up to.
So, the insight here is simple – embrace technology, however challenging this may be. The world has changed and to keep up you must do the same.
Direct conversations are preferable for prospective tenants
Why bother actually talking to people? Surely in this internet-driven industry there is very little point.
There are undoubtedly regions of the UK and sectors of the market where applicants tend to prefer email to spoken communication. High-end lettings agencies operating out of prime residential areas are a good example. However, our more successful clients tell us that an actual conversation with a prospective tenant is always preferable from the agent’s perspective.
This is even more productive if the conversation is face-to-face. A 2017 report in the Harvard Business Review stated that face-to face-communication is 34 times more successful than email.
Just think how sweet life would be if you could give everyone a basic level of service, but to be able to identify and focus on that small group who are most likely to rent through you.
Here is the insight. Our most successful clients tell us time and time again that you can achieve more by actually talking to people.
Successful agencies build habits for success
We have already mentioned the need to equip managers with the correct tools for the job. One of them is the concept of developing and maintaining habits.
The most common objections we hear in training rooms relate to time and resource. ‘We are too busy,’ or ‘We are short staffed’ mean the same thing – we need more man hours to get the job done.
What is interesting though is that our most successful clients do not seem to suffer from the same problem. We have examples of small teams letting and managing substantial property portfolios across the country, and the one factor that seems to bind them together is routine.
In the book ‘The Power of Habit’, Charles Duhigg breaks down habits into 3 steps: cue, routine, and reward. The queue is a trigger that set a routine into action that once completed provides a reward. For example, when you start your working day you fire up your laptop and have a coffee. Because you have done this many times before, the opening of the laptop has become a subconscious cue, sending a message to the basal ganglia in your brain that controls your habits, setting a routine in motion. You head to the coffee machine. The reward is a great tasting drink and a fresh boost of energy.
How does this relate to a successful lettings business? Well, the insight here is to step back from your business and understand the cues, routines, and rewards that your staff need to be successful. For example, the coffee mentioned earlier could be a cue to spend 15 minutes planning your day – the reward being a sense of organisation and control.
Organise well-structured morning meetings
Holding a well-structured daily morning meeting is one habit that successful offices always seem to follow. However, this is a much-misunderstood area of the industry, and we often see badly run daily morning meetings restricting rather than encouraging branch performance.
There is no such thing as the perfect daily morning meeting; however, here is a list of successful suggestions and ideas that we have encountered that can help you organise effective morning meetings:
- The meeting needs to have a specific start and finish time every day and ideally run no longer than 15 minutes.
- The first time it is held it is likely that it will overrun the 15 minutes time slot. Allow 30 minutes for the first one, then reduce by 5 minutes each day until 15 minutes on the fourth day.
- Set a timer and stop the meeting after 15 minutes. Do this every day and the meeting will move along at a good pace.
- Ideally the meeting should be held away from interruptions, in a separate office. If not possible then hold it in the office before the business opens.
- Mobiles and tablets should be banned from the meeting.
- A good way to keep things moving along is to hold the meeting standing up.
- One way to keep the meetings interesting is to delegate the chair to different staff members each day.
- You may need to adapt the agenda to allow for your particular market and business model. Trial it in one branch, then review and amend if necessary.
So, there you have it, 5 tips and tricks to help run a successful lettings business. These have all been tried and tested among our clients and applying them across your agency could help you to put growth on repeat.