Opinion: In a difficult environment for agents, fee earners are the key to success

It’s easy to talk the world down.

Boris’ Brexit blues, Neil Woodford’s failing funds, sterling ping-ponging: each news story conspiring to kill off consumer confidence.

But consider this: UK unemployment is at its lowest level for 45 years*, UK consumer spending has reached a 60-year high**; and my own business has experienced its busiest year to date.

I’m simply not qualified to talk about the macro-economics, but recruitment within the property sector is definitely my speciality.

So why, when so many are talking about impending doom in the sector, are we seeing such demand from our clients? Simple: fee earners.

Estate agency has always been an ever-evolving entrepreneurial business, with cyclical ups and downs.

Recently we’ve witnessed a thinning out of high street offices, particularly amongst large City-listed groups closing high street offices in reaction to the realities of today’s consumer demands.

I do believe this is part of a wider move away from high street shop fronts that’s impacted across all sectors. It’s not simply an estate agency trend.

It’s telling that whilst high street offices numbers are reducing, we’ve also seen the arrival of large-scale equity investment in both bricks and mortar and hybrid agency.

Here’s the thing.

Regardless of whether it’s high street offices, hybrid agency or the new ‘hub and spoke’ model that’s being adopted by many regional groups, they all rely on attracting and retaining talented fee earners to drive their revenues.

So, what are these in-demand fee earners looking for?

Job site Glassdoor found that work-life balance featured heavily in the top five considerations of job offers, along with salary, location, commute time and benefits.

It seems that for many, the ability to have a degree of control over your own work-life balance is now an attractive proposition.

Intriguingly, Glassdoor also found that 84% of candidates stated, ‘a company’s reputation is important when making a decision about where to apply for a job’.

The company’s brand and the way it communicates, demonstrate its beliefs to the wider world.

It will come as little surprise that talented people look for employers who share their beliefs.

With the demand for talented fee earners only likely to increase, now may be a good time to look at how your business can attract and keep the best talent in a competitive market.

* Source: Office of National Statistics

** Source: Trading Economics

  • Josh Rayner is founder and head of Rayner Personnel
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  1. Hillofwad71

    The Corporates
    Countrywide for example fuelled expansion by using borrowed money to buy in existing businesses ( now paying the price!).This approach  often means  little more than golden goodbyes  for equity partners approaching retirement age .
    Thanks very much for the cheque,good night and goodbye after a respectful short period .
    However  the  up and coming  high fee earners within those businesses  who hold little equity find themselves in a new culture and now  into salaryman  +status .
      The prospect of future  chunks of equity for all their hard work  lost for ever as the company they are part and parcel of is  owned by shareholders .
    ,Furthermore  a huge £90m legacy debt to service  too so no real incentive to remain on the premises .
      There seems to be little in the way of share options being  bandied around .
      Presumably this layer is a very happy hunting ground for you? How do you think CWD can retain these star players ?

  2. Woodentop

    Joshua have you just left school!

  3. smile please

    I the spirit of positivity i agree in main what you are saying.

    I would go as far to say the industry we are working in and the market that is approaching is changing and now more than ever a good lister is worth their weight in gold. Its not about winning an instruction its about getting it at the right price and right commission.

    Good companies which can attract these individuals will flourish in the next few years, the likes of corporates and lazy market leaders will lose market share.

    I think a true, authentic ethos at a company is now more important to attract the talent and most importantly retain them.

    1. Woodentop

      Nothing new.

      1. AgencyInsider

        May not be new – but there are plenty of agents and ‘disruptors’ out there who need reminding!

        1. smile please

          It may not be new granted but i think more relevant than ever.
          I had to recurit a lister recently and the pickings were slim to say at best. Lots of interest from agents, all wanted to work for me but i did not want to work with them. 
          I did find one person and was happy when they accepted. Having a relevant brand that agents wanted to work for helped me find that one person.
          How many agents employ just to fill a hole? In my corporate days this was standard. 

  4. PeeBee

    Assuming Mr Rayner is referring to listers as “fee-earners”, I would like to question his choice of all-too-common phraseology.
    A ‘lister’ lists – end of in a great number of cases.  Obviously a vital part of the overall Estate Agency operation – and a specialised one at that – but in reality they only put the cats in the sack after they have already been herded together by others… and then leave the job of keeping the feline feckers contented and selling them to new loving owners to someone else!
    A good lister isn’t necessarily a good Estate Agent – and vice versa.  They generally have different skillsets – and completely different attitudes/mentalities.
    And there the problem lies.  Companies that employ listers – and I mean good listers – have a competitive advantage over those that don’t – but not necessarily one that will make them more successful where it matters – exchanges and completions.  You know – the things that happen when the sales negs, progressors and sweeper-uppers – the real “fee-earners” – do their bit.
    smile please hit the nail almost square on above:
    “Its not about winning an instruction its about getting it at the right price and right commission.”
    The one thing he missed was that it’s also about winning saleable instructions – not smashing bullsh!t targets for bonus or glory.  Get that bit wrong and all you have is a window full of stuff that nobody wants…


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