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Article > Setting Up a Letting Agent Business - Part 4

Article kindly supplied by John Paul
Suite 1, Easington Business Centre,
Seaside Lane, Easington, Durham, SR8 3LJ


Part 1 of this article was published previously on the site HERE

Part 2 of this article was published previously on the site HERE

Part 3 of this article was published previously on the site HERE


Staffing Issues
One of the most difficult aspects of running a business is employing people. I have learnt some valuable lessons over the last few years, unfortunately, some of them the hard way. You can have all the procedures, policies and systems in the world but once you introduce people into it, there’s always a chance things could go wrong. Getting the right staff at the right time in your business cycle is hugely important. Employing the wrong person and you could find yourself in tribunals or the courtroom.

What Sort of Person Should I Employ
When we advertise for staff we never say that experience is essential. Reason being, we have the systems to train the staff the way we want. You could also get a great candidate form another industry, so we don’t limit ourselves. Experience can also be a hindrance as we found out in the early days. Once example was when we took on a portfolio manager who could do nothing else other than talk about her previous employer and how great she was, despite her previous employer going bust!! She just criticised everything we did, and how perfect her old boss was. It alienated the staff, reduced morale and we had to let her go pretty quickly. We have found that employees with previous experience have pre conceived ideas about how the business should run and are not as susceptible to change as total “newbie’s”. Sometimes you need people so you can mould them the way you want. You need them to have all the qualities you would expect them to have, such as motivated, professional, ambitious etc that goes without saying, but you don’t want staff too head strong and stuck in a certain way

Don’t pay too much attention to the CV either. We all know that a CV is just to get your foot in the door and most, if not all people, exaggerate what they have done, I’ve done before. People phrase things in such a way as to make it sound impressive but in reality it was a simple task.

What I do look for in a CV is professionalism and good use of English, this can also be found in the covering letter which I always look for. Its a personal choice and by no means secures a great candidate but from past experience a well worded CV with a covering letter says more about a person.

What Wages Should I Pay
We always pay better than most of our competitors, providing they are worth it. Let’s be honest people go to work for money. Don’t kid yourselves and say you do it for the love of the job, or satisfaction on a tenants face when they get a house. People are money orientated and need money to live, so that’s what drags them out of bed every day. We make every effort to make sure they enjoy their jobs, we have corporate days where all the staff are invited, we also let them to pick their own uniforms and involve them in similar smaller aspects running of the company, things that empower the employees and make them feel part of the company but at the end of the day nothing motivates people like money.

Introducing bonus schemes is a great way of getting more from your staff. Make it so that if they do well the company does well. If they let out 5 properties in month or bring in more landlords, reward them.

We have it so each portfolio manager is their own cost centre. They bring in an amount of revenue each per month per portfolio that they manage. If they bring in additional amounts we give them a percentage of that. We saw an immediate increase in overall management commissions when we introduced the bonus scheme despite being told they are working as hard as they possibly can before we introduced the scheme. Funny that when money is a motivator, people work harder.

You also have the pick of the bunch when it comes to choosing you staff. I am in the process of hiring for the Training and Development company I’ve just started and have put adverts in several papers. What has clearly come out was that the best candidates came when we advertised on target earnings (OTE) as double the original wage, even thought the OTE was purely commission based. Money motivates, simple as that

Can I Run a Lettings Agency Part Time?
I get asked this question all the time and of course you can. You can also train for the London marathon in a week, doesn’t mean you will do it justice. You have to ask yourself about the service you intend to give. If you are working full time and running a business part time, you CAN NOT give the part time business your full attention and you will not be giving your Landlords or tenants the best service.

What will be a major factor in deciding to go part time or full time is how much money you need to live whilst the business is growing. This question always puts people off as it is a huge risk especially when you have family. There is no easy answer and it depends on you as an individual and how risk averse you are. Because of the safe nature of most people, they want to run the Lettings business part time and still work full time because they have to support their family. They would only pack in their full time job once the business was producing good income for them. The only problem is that its extremely rarely you can make a success of a lettings agency part time. At some point you need to make the jump from part time business owner to full time business owner.

I was working 3 jobs when i started Castledene, mostly on evenings and weekends so it didn’t affect any viewings or rental valuation during the day. It was hard working 70 + hours a week, but nothing in life that’s worth having comes easy. This isn’t going to be handed to you on a plate, so you have to go and take it and there will be some hard decision to make.

HR and Health & Safety
Please stay awake for this bit as i can’t emphasise how important this is. At the beginning of this year we employed the services of a HR consultant who came in and went through all our contract policies etc and basically tore them apart. With legislation changing so rapidly you need to be up to date with employment law especially your contract of employment. I have learnt firsthand that if your contracts are not up to date and comprehensive enough, it will cost you in the long run. We have dozens of policies ranging from lone workers, to paternity, leave no stone unturned.

I also advise having a Staff handbook which details everything about the company, from dress code to how you expect your staff to behave when outside of work. It doesn’t have to be complicated. As you grow and more situations come up, you can add to the handbook so it eventually cover all eventualities your staff come across

This might not be first on your list to get done as opposed to getting landlords on your books, but as soon as you start to employ staff you really need to be giving it your attention. Start as you mean to go on, if you want to be professional in business and come across as such then these are the sorts of things you need to be doing correctly from the beginning

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John Paul






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