Short term challenges may result in long term changes

One after another my clients are telling me that the changes that they are making in their businesses  as a result of Coronavirus are likely  to be permanent ones.  One client closed 5  of his 6 offices 2 weeks ago and now has a skeleton staff working at head office and everyone else working from home.  He said  as the transition has been so seamless that  he may well decide never to  reopen his 5 satellite branches. This would  save him over £300,000 pa in rent ,business rates and utility costs alone.

A client in London which has been worst hit by the virus used to deal with a high percentage of maintenance reports by telephone. The tenant would typically  spend 15 minutes describing the problem and having a general moan and the landlord would then ask for 3 quotes for a £50 job.  Now through necessity , they insist that all repairs must be reported on line with supporting photos  and no quotes are given for jobs  with a value of less than £250. As a result, the time they spend on each repair has halved. This will save them over £80,000 pa in future.

Another client has been experimenting with virtual viewings. They work in a very rural area where a single viewing can take over 2 hours. They have decided that in future  they will ask all applicants to view properties virtually  before they conduct a conventional viewing.  This will save them at least £50,000 pa

A client with a big town planning department told me that they have just had a virtual meeting which would previously have  involved 2 members of their team traveling from London to Lincolnshire. This would have meant 24 hours away from the office and  an overnight stay.  The council planning officer agreed to conduct a virtual  meeting using zoom , the site plans and the computer generated images.  The meeting was successfully  concluded in 1 hour 40 minutes. They are on a fixed price contract so this single virtual meeting  saved them  well over £1000

Finally one of our mergers and acquisitions solicitors told me that for the last ten  years  he has caught the train to London at 7am every morning and returned at 7pm. Now he works from home in Buckinghamshire and he said that it is so fantastic to have 3 more hours a day to spend with his family that he would rather  change jobs than  commute to work ever again. Many of his colleagues feel the same way. His senior partner has bought in some very imagine on line working initiatives including virtual coffee breaks and lunch breaks when staff can interreact with their work place friends  via zoom.  They even ran their monthly interdepartmental pub quiz on Tuesday evening  as a virtual event via zoom. Just think how much your business could save if some of your staff worked from home. I have run my  own business like this for nearly 10 years.

As a business owner it is all too easy to despair at the current situation  but you must look forward to how life could  be after the current crisis is over and a great way to use  your time over the next few weeks is to consider how changes like these could reduce your running costs  in the future so that your business can emerge from this terrible period  leaner, stronger  and more profitable than ever before.

Adam Walker owns and runs Adam J Walker & Associates Ltd

 

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8 Comments

  1. Mark Manning

    Great article Adam and I have to agree that through this crisis will come great learnings about how we conduct our business and the way we communicate with our team and clients.

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  2. GPL

     

    The future is far from bleak, it’s just getting through the present that is challenging.

     

    …..with Adversity comes Opportunity

     

     

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  3. Paulfromromsey87

    Necessity is the Mother of Invention.

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  4. Property Pundit

    Brilliant to see a large number of firms re-assessing their portal priorities. Time to tame or remove the leeches from your business.

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  5. Eyereaderturnedposter12

    An interesting and good read…

    Our industry has, to some extent, been fairly “behind the times” in respect of developing more ‘modern’, efficient and work-life balance focussed operations.

    Many have tried, some have failed…could it be that the COVID-19 narrative has forced agents to consider alternative structures, beyond our collective belief that a high street ‘shop’ is the only means of running a successful agency. Additionally, the customer base’s apparent demand/preference for a high street presence, may also shift in these curious times, as they become forcefully accustomed to alternative means. By continuing to provide the same level (or better) of service, I believe we’re proving to a great number of sellers/Landlords/buyers/Tenants, that indeed you don’t NEED a high street presence, to be a good agent

    It certainly won’t have escaped the attention of a good number of  owners/MDs, that a change in operational methods (that at first seemed very difficult to consider/digest)…may have some significant merit in the medium to long term.

    We’re certainly looking at alternative methods/structures, and read articles such as this with great interest.

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  6. padymagic

    My only thought is most estate agents are by their nature friendly individuals who like to be part of a team. We like to meet our colleagues at work, bit  of office banter etc.

    working from home will go against the grain so to speak.

    i get we need to adapt and change will no doubt come. But at what cost?

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    1. Property Pundit

      This lockdown will show a lot of people why offices are the best option and not the other way round.

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  7. GPL

     

    Positive Points well made Adam.

     

    It’s not all Gloom.

     

     

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