Boost Interviews Ransoms Residential
What is it like to run your business?
Challenging certainly. Rewarding in lots of ways. Everyone running a local business probably has a similar experience of ups and downs. Doubts some days and a sure-fire belief the next. Running your own business is so different to being an employee in my experience. The hours are not set and it just becomes your life. The greatest thing is when someone new puts their faith in what you do and you prove them right for making that decision. Love that!
What does a typical day look like at the office?
Crumbs! Each day is often different. You never know quite what is going to happen. At certain times of the year it is so busy that even the best laid plan can go off course. Most days start early for me. I like to get certain things done before “opening hours” – so while some may still be having a snooze, I will often be sat going through tasks that will help the day run smoother. Client and customer emails are number 1 on the list. Anyone who has made contact since the end of the previous day MUST be contacted back. Then it is on to appointments ranging from viewings, valuations, checkouts, inspections or moving someone into their new home. I get to visit a lot of properties which I love to do. Ransoms Residential also has a policy to pay rents over to our landlords on the same day we receive it, so another major part of each day is making sure those transactions happen. We don’t want our clients waiting days or weeks for payments. We usually end the day again with emails and going through our checklists to make sure nothing has been missed.
What kind of problems do you help other people overcome?
I guess there are many. The entire purpose of our services is to deal with problems, so others don’t have to. The lettings sector has become very regulated over the 16 years that I have been working in the industry. The level at which each aspect of dealing with a tenancy and looking after everyone involved is very high and continues to become more technically difficult. It is different for us as we deal with these “problems” day in and day out – but I can see why some landlords can make mistakes without realising and want a professional to handle it for them. These issues range from financial aspects even as early as purchasing a rental property that would be a beneficial investment. We help a lot of landlords seek properties for investment and advise on that. Tax issues. Maintenance issues. I think all of this is a problem for people and our job is to lessen or take that problem away.
What percentage of your time is spent doing what?
Ah a tough question! I don’t think I can easily answer how long each task takes, BUT I can say that the task taking the most time is communicating. It has been said a billion times before that communication is key, but from the negative experiences I get told about by the clients and customers I meet it is obvious lots of companies are not doing it! If you want your own life and the lives of others to be better you have to COMMUNICATE! Nothing is more frustrating to people than not knowing what is going on or not getting responses. It is better to communicate too much than not enough and we all have so many tools at our disposal to communicate that it should never be lacking.
How does the time use vary?
It really depends on what is happening that week. During busy summer periods you can bet your last pound that a lot of our time is taken moving people in and out of properties. In quieter periods of the year time is spent carrying out inspections to schedule. I think in this role you have to be flexible with time management and be able to prioritise as things happen. Often a situation arises without warning and requires immediate attention. Experience goes a long way to help with this, but it keeps things interesting.
Are there busy and slow times or is the work activity fairly constant?
Yes, absolutely. I always tend to find busy periods almost seasonal. Spring and summer are a boom time ordinarily for people seeking rental homes and moving. In Exeter this can also be heavily affected by annual movement of staff for big employers such as the University of Exeter and the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. As you approach Christmas and people’s thoughts move towards financing festivities it can begin to get quieter. This is not always guaranteed however as one December we were at full capacity for moving new tenants into properties in time for Christmas.
What got you started in doing what you’re doing?
Hmmm…. Well, prior to working in the property industry I had a number of roles in different industries as a young man. I had worked for a large financial institution and also an independent, local solicitors, but I always loved properties. I was one of those at a young age that was hooked on TV shows like Homes Under the Hammer. I saw a job advertised with a well-known independent Estate Agents and arranged an interview. I was fortunate enough to be selected and I had an excellent manager that taught me a huge amount in a short space of time. I also worked in various lettings roles for a large corporate Estate Agents which was another great learning curve, mostly on what not to do and how to not treat clients. After this I worked for another local independent Estate Agents in a senior position creating a sizeable lettings portfolio almost from scratch within a few years and expanded to create employment opportunities. Unfortunately, I ended up being treated very poorly by an employer which spurred me to put that effort into my own venture and the rest is history.
What experiences/qualifications do you have that brought you into doing what you’re doing now?
I left school at 16 following my GCSE examinations and 2 weeks later I was working full time for a finance company in Dix’s Field, Exeter. What a difference going to an adult working world which instantly was teaching me so much about business and people. While working there I undertook NVQ’s and various other minor qualifications, but the experience gained was absolutely crucial and opened doors very early on. I was then employed at a solicitors firm in Exeter which introduced me to an entirely new way of dealing with clients and how professionals operate. I studied conveyancing via Cilex (then Ilex) during this role, which I sadly did not complete, but once again it was building great experience. Relating to my own business – the experience I then gained was by undertaking every role in the lettings industry. Lettings administrator, Lettings negotiator, Lettings maintenance manager and Lettings Manager. When you have spent years working in each of these roles you absorb everything that is required and you do your best to excel at each. You learn what to do well and what not to do at all. That experience is everything. Then you just add your own flavour and voila Ransoms Residential.
What would you say are some of the biggest barriers to entering your chosen market place? Are there any?
The biggest barrier is that there is no shortage of Estate Agents or letting Agents around. Some of them are very good as well. So how do you establish yourself? The flip side of that coin is that there are plenty that are not so great which is really a bonus as you can outshine them. You have the “we think a lot of ourselves and charge too much for what we do agents” and the “we do as little as possible, you get what you pay for agents” and plenty in between. Many potential customers can see right through arrogance, pomp and nonsense. Our approach is to provide value. Value is not always financial and is determined by the customer. If they see value in what you do for them and their experience along the way is a good one then they tell someone else and they tell someone else and so on. The majority of our new clients come to us through word of mouth. We have had several clients actually increase their own fees voluntarily, because they see that value. That is a new experience for me not encountered anywhere else I have previously worked.
What would you say are the most important characteristics about being in your line of work?
I would say the same as required by any business. Communication and not slacking on it. Organisation so everything runs smoothly. Flexibility to manage the unexpected and still keep everything on track. Resilience, because it is not all sunshine and rainbows. Expertise to stay ahead of changes which then keeps your clients ahead of changes. Experience, because it pays dividends when dealing with a wide variety of situations and people. Finally, caring. Care about your work. Care about the people you are dealing with and care about yourself. It makes a huge difference.
What part of your business do you find most satisfying?
Oooooh lots! Seeing so many great properties of all sizes, types and locations. I am lucky to have been in many amazing homes that I may never have got the chance to step foot in if not for the job that I do. It is always satisfying to deal with a new client who doesn’t know you and then form a great relationship. Something else that has been a new experience with Ransoms Residential is the relationship I have with our clients. Our discussions may start relating to properties or maintenance, but it always leads on to a yap about literally everything and usually some good laughs along the way. When some of our landlords have ended their service due to selling their properties. I have been genuinely sad that this aspect of working for them has ended.
It is also very satisfying when a customer recognises and rewards you for your efforts with a kind word, an out of the blue email or some gesture of saying thank you. We have been fortunate enough to have many and I absolutely love it. I know many companies enter themselves for local and national awards, which is fine, but we prefer that kind of genuine feedback from actual clients. Those are our awards.
What part of your business do you find dissatisfying?
There are parts to everyone’s business that Directors will find more challenging or less enjoyable, but I think if you find something dissatisfying you have to look at it closely and make changes. There are darker sides to all businesses and for this industry there is risks for landlords. On the very rare occasion actions have to be taken when dealing with a negative tenancy situation. I would not say this is dissatisfying as you just make sure you are always prepared, always capable and always supportive of your client. One thing that is genuinely dissatisfying is people not turning up for viewings or “no shows” – Even after booking the appointment and confirming the appointment there are still those that do not turn up. This is even more challenging with the additional steps we now take for safety against Covid19 as it is wasted time, wasted preparations and wasted PPE which is all being done for their safety. A cost that small local businesses could do without for the sake of a phone call or an email to cancel.
How does your business differentiate itself from its competitors?
A lot of businesses try to differentiate themselves from their competitors. It is necessary, but we think a provided service and your clients should tell the story. It is easy to say we do this and we do that, but the most important thing is what our clients experience. Do what you say you are going to do and overdeliver. Let people see what you actually do. Don’t just tell them what you can do. Show them what you do. Broadcasting how great you are isn’t enough. FYI we are great though.
What are the biggest challenges your business is facing in the coming 6 months?
Almost certainly what we are already experiencing with the effects of the Covid19 pandemic. Many businesses have had to make lots of changes in how they conduct their services and keep people safe. Ransoms Residential is no exception. We began making changes for the future as soon as the lockdown began. We are very conscious of putting people first and the safety of everyone including our staff is paramount and we advertise regularly the procedures we have in place. We have adapted and will continue to do so, but this has also affected the behaviour of those looking for homes and moving. Fewer people are moving unless it is absolutely necessary and every part of the process from viewing to moving in tenants has changed. Our job is to make sure we do not deviate from any of those changes and instil confidence that Ransoms Residential takes every step to keep you safe throughout your move.
Do you think the business will overcome these challenges, if so how?
Yes, absolutely. We are doing it now and we have been overwhelmed at how well the changes have been received by clients and customers. They understand that “normal” is now different and everyone is doing their part. Appointment times are spaced far apart and with distancing. We wear masks and gloves to appointments to keep people safe and 90% of the people attending also wear masks to keep us safe. We have strict rules in place which everyone we have met adheres to. It is uncomfortable. Everything takes longer if done correctly. It is an added expense, but we are much happier doing things this way. Safety first!
What are your major successes these past 6 months?
People measure success in different ways. I am not one for patting myself on the back. I think every day an independent business is operating and providing services that people want is a success. Every new client. Every lovely comment received. These are successes. Especially in these unusual and difficult times.
What would you say to a younger you? Or a student entering this industry?
Firstly, be yourself. Do not try to be what you think an estate agent should be. The shiny suits, noisy shoes and a clipboard do not make a property professional. Your capabilities, caring for others, having a good attitude (even when dealing with difficulties) and learning how to do things correctly is what will make you a professional. If you can get employment with an independent business it will usually be more beneficial for your learning and more beneficial for your career in the long run. Keep your standards high. Try to overdeliver on what you say you are going to do and COMMUNICATE!
How do you market your business?
We use various methods throughout the year, but we are fortunate to have people come to us through word of mouth. We do the usual things, but we love to do the unusual things. Guerrilla marketing looks so much fun and we have dabbled a bit with it in the past. We would love to do more! We like to engage on Twitter as our main social media platform and we use it to run fun competitions. For example, the Ransoms Residential Christmas Advert is becoming almost an expectation after having one for the last 4 years. We also offer prizes as part of those competitions which have included a hamper from Harrods and a champagne set from John Lewis.
With the current coronavirus now in full swing, how are you preparing for the economic after effects of the lockdown?
I think I have probably covered this, but we will continue to make changes as necessary and watch closely the effects of Coronavirus. All businesses have been affected and local, independent businesses need to stick together. We should all do more to praise and encourage the businesses we see making continual best efforts to keep operating and keep people safe. All it takes is a tweet saying “you are doing a great job” to build a better business community. We have sent some and we have received some. We should all be more willing to praise each other’s businesses for successes small and large. There certainly isn’t enough of that.
Over the next 12 months, 2 and 5 years where do you see the business heading?
I really don’t know. 2020 has been very strange so we will see how things go. Every business has a plan and certainly aspirations which don’t always go the way they were intended. Some parts of the plan work and some do not. Ransoms Residential will carry on and always review how things can improve. We hope to grow like any business.
Do you have plans to expand and grow the business?
Always. One of the main things I have always had in mind is providing employment. What a great thing to create jobs and create a great team beyond family members. We have also been asked 20-30 times in the last year if we can sell a property. The business has been set up from the beginning to also deal with house sales and purchases. In hindsight it is something we should have started a few years ago. Let’s see what happens.