Trusting a New Business

We were recently approached by a potential client who wrote to us asking about our managing agents services. We love hearing from people and we were really interested as to why this particular client had contacted us and what their background and reasons were in searching out a new leasehold managing agent. We were really touched to receive a very detailed and considered explanation of the deliberation and thought process the directors had gone through in choosing Concordia Residential.  The client has very kindly given us permission to share this with you on our blog.

To Concordia,

We were becoming increasingly frustrated with our current managing agent, but none of us really approached the subject of changing as we all thought the fact they are well established and large, they must be OK. Each of us thought perhaps we were each being a bit fussy.  Indeed, I personally felt worry that, by changing to another large, well known outfit we would be jumping from the frying pan into the fire. However it was at an impromptu directors meeting in the garden where two of us had an honest discussion about the fact that it wasn’t working well anymore and neither of us were happy.  It was taking up so much of our time to chase our managing agent for things which should be automatically looked after.  We took our thoughts to a meeting with all directors and I was given the task of researching new agents.  Not a task I desired, but a needs must situation.  As part of researching a change I discovered yourselves who claimed to be a new and supposedly different type of agent. I am very aware that I may fall foul of clever marketing and heady promises, and I was nervous about leaping into the unknown.  A few of the questions we as directors asked ourselves were as follows:

  • How can we establish that the agent has the correct qualifications?
  • How do we know they will look after our money?
  • Do they have any experience in this this industry?
  • Will they be too busy trying to grow to pay any attention to us if I need advice?
  • Will they have disappeared this time next year?

One of the things we like about Concordia Residential is that it was easy to find the answers to our above questions.  Not only were the details on your website clear, but I could also research the RICS website about you (to find you are regulated by RICS), find you on LinkedIn (Abi your profile was informative as well as the Concordia page) and the IRPM website (to see that you were MIRPM qualified). We also liked the fact that you and your team were able to give us clarity about your company’s ethical ethos as we were unclear what it meant.  To know that your operation is focused on actually making things better for the residents and that you are not interested in taking lots of commissions as well as enabling us to use the contractors we want is refreshing and different.  Furthermore, you actually sent us the information about the bank you use, Metro, and information from Metro themselves (including details on interest rates etc).  This reassured us greatly.

It’s interesting, having spoken to Concordia, that I now realise a new business can mean passionate, experienced people.  People who are determined to put right all the wrongs, the negativity and the bad practice they have encountered, by starting afresh and doing things a new way, a right way, an ethical way.

We have decided to make the change. Change is good and we look forward to a much better, more resident focused approach from Concordia when we join you in September.

Pitfalls of Competitive Advantage for a Managing Agent

The management of leasehold developments is a hugely competitive market.  In what is an unregulated market, many leaseholders take their chances with one or another managing agent who can talk the talk. But how many of them can actually walk the walk? And how do the attitudes and behaviour of managing agents in the industry reflect on reputations and work ethics? 

Picture the scenario – you have decided you need a new managing agent and you want good service. So, you begin your search to find out who will serve your development the best. Perhaps you want the biggest managing agent as you feel peace of mind knowing that so many other leaseholders use them.  Or maybe you want a local managing agent, one who knows your area and perhaps your building already. Alternatively, you might want the agent who offers the cheapest rate, believing you are getting value for money.

You may want a recommended managing agent via an industry body (RICS or ARMA), or perhaps you had an introductory letter through your door. Some leaseholders use Google and others may have seen an advert on Facebook. Whichever way you find them, managing agents want your business and they will do what they can to get it. Once they get it, they of course, want to protect it. But surely the best form of protecting their business, is by giving the best service and keeping their promises? It seems that many agents unfortunately don’t do this.  Perhaps these competitors should turn their focus onto serving their customers in better ways. It is sadly, indicative of a wider problem in the industry. Concordia’s ethical stance is a threat to some, but we don’t apologise for that, the leaseholder is paramount to us and we will continue to try to affect change for them.

We recently attended the Institute of Residential Property Management’s Annual Conference in London, where it was clear that the industry has a certain culture. Comments from speakers such as “self-regulation won’t work” (Lord Best), “culture change is needed to focus on customer service and treating the leaseholder as the end user” (Mark Prisk MP), and “the number of complaints is rising” (Katrine Sporle), all indicate that something has been very wrong in the sector for some time. Many managing agents see the leaseholder as a commodity – a cash-cow that they can milk dry of all their hard-earned money. All the hidden charges add up – paying by standing order (up to £50.00 a year with some managing agents!), paying for permission to let (even when it is not the managing agents permission to give…), extortionate debt collection fees charged out as soon as possible (even if you paid, but forgot your exact reference), excessive insurance commissions (sometimes leaseholders will be paying up to 60%! Imagine that – of the £1,000 insurance charge per year, £600.00 of it goes to the managing agent). All these added extras, and more, go into the managing agent’s pocket. This is not making a fair living – it’s extortion in our opinion and it’s not morally right. It’s no wonder that managing agents don’t want to lose any clients and that they are fiercely competitive!

So, when a new agent, such as Concordia Residential, comes onto the market with their competitive edge of doing business ethically and without all the hidden extras, it is understandable that some managing agents may become twitchy and uncomfortable. Professional courtesy and healthy competition would radically change the culture of our industry for the better. Everyone in the leasehold management sector caters to different desires of the end user and surely, we should all be respectful and courteous of each other, supporting the different ways we can all help our leaseholders. 

Concordia Residential welcome with open arms the upcoming mandatory regulation in the industry to ensure that malpractice is filtered out. As Lord Best stated, ‘self-regulation doesn’t work’. The culture of the industry needs to change in order to benefit the end user – the leaseholders and tenants. And this is a huge part of Concordia’s mission and reason for existence.   

Emotional Intelligence

It’s the buzzword of the moment – Emotional Intelligence or EI as it is also known. The ability for the understanding of the self as well as others around you, and to use that intelligence to motivate, communicate and consider. We noted an article on the RICS website this week by Gary Williams which touched on the subject of emotional intelligence and how it can give businesses the edge over competitors

Concordia Residential are whole heartedly in agreement with Gary’s article. The subject of emotional intelligence, in our opinion, is utterly fascinating as well as totally relevant to business. Emotional intelligence was first highlighted to our founder, Abigail Teece, during her time at university.  It was a subject that was completely overwhelming to start with, but our founder soon became addicted to finding out more and more. Learning about what makes people tick, as well as finding out the reasons behind why people act and react the way they do was hugely interesting. During her time as an employee in the industry, Abi made a conscious effort to apply emotional intelligence wherever possible. To herself, to colleagues, to clients and customers.  It didn’t always work as well as intended and some people around Abi were adamant that she was “too soft” in her approach. They claimed she didn’t know how to “do business”.  There was even a “stupid woman” comment at one point (our eyes rolled at this too!). Many do not seem to realise that being understanding and showing consideration in business can benefit companies so much. Showing empathy and having understanding towards people makes for a better manager, a better colleague and a better person all round.

Our Core

As any astute business does, we keep an awareness of the market around us. We note that there are some competitors who are, as Gary notes, really focusing on “technological innovation, pricing structures, expertise and experience”.  And that’s great.  Indeed, Concordia Residential does have those factors in our eyeline. However our true core and the depth from which our mission statement is built gives utter kudos to emotional intelligence and its surrounding factors. We are big believers that business doesn’t have to be hard-headed, money grabbing or lack understanding.  It can show empathy, be generous and kind.  A good days work for a fair salary.  We must at this point, credit academics Carl Jung and Myers-Briggs for enlightening Abi’s journey through business with emotional intelligence. This has resulted in Concordia’s aim in that emotional intelligence within our company will spill over into providing the best customer service for clients and customers. Concordia Residential is here to make a difference.

Marketing & More

It’s been a busy few weeks since our first blog post. In that time Concordia Residential has been steadily developing as a business and starting that all-important marketing. The term ‘marketing’ fills some with dread. We have been spending some time reflecting on why those terms sometimes make people feel a little uncomfortable. Our conclusion is that it is down to confidence, previous marketing experiences (many of these could be negative – think cold calling) and whether marketing is an individual’s professional skill or not. Concordia Residential’s expertise is in property management, organisation and customer service. As such, marketing and sales are not our area of expertise but they are skills that we want to learn in order to ensure our message is effective.

One thing that Concordia firmly believes in, is the process of life learning. Education is so important as it brings wisdom, knowledge, skills and much more, which benefit each generation over and over. It’s how we evolve and it is the only way that Concordia will also evolve. Therefore its back to the drawing board for us in order to learn how to market and how to sell. We want to spread the message which will give the opportunity to ensure leaseholders get the best service.

External Leverage

Many may point out that Concordia Residential could utilise the skills of an external marketing company, and this indeed we could. However with the understanding of our industry being so niche and also with limited start up funds, we have decided the best marketing route for us at this time is to educate as opposed to leveraging out to external firms.

The Concordia Residential Marketing Journey

Our marketing journey began this week by simply thinking about how a leaseholder would find a new managing agent. This is a challenge, as there is no generically known category for managing agents. As a breed we are not estate agents, nor we are not letting agents (which seems to be the opinion of most). Indeed managing agents have a limited target market, that being flats and developments. So how would we ensure that the people who need to know about us, do so?

Not being experts in marketing, we have started with the most direct approach – a mailshot. The process of writing about the company has been fairly straight forward but does the content of the mailshot ‘sell’ the business? Speaking to one of Concordia Residential’s industry colleagues who kindly reviewed the mailshot, their observation was simple and effective. The service Concordia offers sells itself. Their view was that it didn’t need dressing up, it didn’t need a hard sell because the core services were the right thing. Honourable and truthful. This opinion was gratefully received and subsequently led to a boost in confidence.

Social Media

Furthermore, Concordia Residential have a huge awareness of the part that social media now plays in marketing. This again, is something that Concordia want to learn more about. Our Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn accounts are live now and we are sure these will develop over time as we learn more. We are confident that we are on the right road to learning how to market and sell. Here’s to more reading going forward. There’s lots to learn.