EA LIVE and The Estate Agency of the Year Awards – Summary by Nick Salmon, MD of Property Industry Eye

Nick Salmon

Over 700 delegates crowded the Lancaster Hotel conference facilities and enjoyed a morning seminar of first class speakers, excellent lunch, and a glittering Sunday Times and The Times awards ceremony during the afternoon. The main sponsor of the event was Zoopla and Property Industry Eye was Industry Media Partner.

Penny Smith was in fine form hosting the proceedings while international rugby star Matt Dawson MBE took centre stage to present the awards.

During the morning seminars the audience heard from Iain Kennedy, head of marketing at Rightmove, explaining the importance of standing out from the crowd; Nicky Stevenson talking about technical innovations and revealing some of the statistics from the Property Academy ‘Home Moving Trends Survey 2015’.

  • 5,420 vendors took part in the survey and the figures make for interesting reading.
  • Only 19% of the vendors were selling through the agent from whom they bought the property
  • 55% looked at agents’ websites before inviting them to give a valuation.
  • Only 18% chose the agent who offered the lowest fee.

David Smith, an HR professional who spent nine years as People Director at Asda, gave an insightful talk on how to encourage employees to give of their best and to grow within their roles. And he highlighted how giving people the freedom to have fun doing their jobs makes for happier staff and better customer service. The style of senior management is also fundamental to the success of the business and there is no longer any place for the bullying, dictatorial and prescriptive leadership of years gone by. As David said: ‘People don’t leave businesses, they leave leaders.’

Peter Knight held a Q&A session with Nathan Emerson, a partner in the award-winning agency Pygott & Crone and Nathan gave a candid assessment of what it takes to succeed in the business – a first class structure and absolute focus on the tasks in hand.

It was then time for Wendy Alexander to take the stage. Wendy is chief executive of Barfoot & Thompson, a real estate company of 90 years standing, in Auckland New Zealand – where their 67 branches and 2,500 staff have secured a 40% market share. Wendy’s presentation held the audience spellbound as she talked about the business practices employed by the company and the personal challenges that she has faced and overcome in recent years.

With many of the top sales staff earning well over NZ $1million a year (on an 80% commission share!) and a hugely diverse range of ethnicity and age groups within the staffing, management is in the ‘firm but fair’ style. Comply with the rules and all is well. Step outside the rules and you are out – even if you are one of the very top sales people.

The company provides high levels of care for their staff and in return are rewarded with loyalty and exceptional performances. It also has an enlightened policy about age, having no forced retirement so long as that person can perform the role. One of the top 25 sales people is 75 years old and neither she nor the company has any plans for her to stop working any time soon.

At the heart of everything that Wendy Alexander strives for in delivering results is an acronym: EBNE. ‘Excellent but never enough’. There are some companies over here that would do well to look closely at the Barfoot & Thompson model.

Rounding off the morning came Matt Dawson, capped 77 times for England and captaining the side nine times.

Matt’s engaging, self-deprecating and extremely humorous 40 minute presentation was really refreshingly different. Clearly it was a motivational speech but instead of a series of clichéd phrases and hackneyed expressions, Dawson took the audience on a journey through what was involved in turning the World Cup losing England side of 1999 into the triumphant winners of the 2003 tournament.

I doubt there was anyone in the room who didn’t get the messages that innovation, application, dedication, and sheer guts can bring results – and that it takes exceptional teamwork to reach the heights of success.

Both Matt Dawson and Wendy Alexander richly deserved the standing ovations that followed their presentations – the style and quality of the content being among the best that your correspondent has ever had the pleasure of listening to.

As always, the standard of catering throughout the day was first class, with coffee and pastries on arrival, Rightmove bacon butties mid-morning, and a delicious lunch to precede the Awards (with plenty of wine to ensure that the enthusiastic and noisy supporters of the winners were sufficiently well lubricated by the time their colleagues were heading for the stage.)

For more information about upcoming Property Academy events please click here.


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