I started Mr Green in September 2009 having never sold a house in my life; at 24; from my mum’s spare bedroom; with a tiny budget. I even used the house land-line to save money. Still the same number. 01202 387718. All I had was a lot of energy and an idea.
Looking back, the odds were well and truly against me to even get as far as I have (not very). The amount of negativity you get from people you thought were cool is unreal. “He’ll be bust in 6 months.” “It’s a joke. He hasn’t got a clue.” etc. etc.
That negativity will either break you or spur you on to work even harder to succeed. I’ll never ever say anything negative about someone that takes that step to start their own business. It takes a lot of effort for very little, if any, reward.
So anyway, the launch. It consisted of 10,000 leaflets sent throughout BH6 and an advert in the Daily Echo. I had one reply. A two-bedroom flat in Belle Vue Crescent. I did a valuation (ish). Somehow won it. With a lot of effort and my girlfriend’s camera, I put together some really shoddy details. Sole agency at a fee of 0.75%. The tough thing was that the lady wanted way too much money for it and I didn’t have much of a clue how to value a property. Funnily enough, I didn’t sell it. I did do a few viewings though. I think the lady may have actually told me what price to put it on the market at. Cringe.
I was genuinely ready to give up by about 15th December. Two months in. I only managed to get a few properties on the books. Had agreed zero sales and was starting to question what the hell I was doing. For some reason my mum had the utmost faith in me and bailed me out with some money. Whatever you do, do not start a brand new estate agency in September. Especially if you have 0 contacts and no experience.
That bit of faith made me determined to at the very worst go out swinging. I decided that to get the Mr Green name out there, I would sell property at a fixed price of £995 + vat. and networked my little heart out. Met a guy called Dave Black, for whom I give great credit to helping me. He passed me a valuation lead for a property in Moordown. A 3-bedroom detached place that I knew would sell quick. I again won the instruction, most likely helped by my incredibly low fee and agreed the sale within 24 hours, at full asking price. WOOHOO!
I got another property on in Branksome and sold that within a couple weeks. Palmer Snell had spent 16 weeks trying to sell that same flat and failed. At this point, I still had absolutely no idea what I was doing. I was just trying phenomenally hard and clearly some of it was working.
That flat was my first completion. And first money in the bank. A full 6 months since starting!
My confidence was building a bit. I got an office share with a local IFA on Southbourne high street. I changed my fees to £1500 and £2500 fixed fees. I took on a virtual PA as the phone was too busy for just me and I wanted people to think the business was bigger than it really was. The standard of marketing property was terrible, so standing out was pretty easy. This gave me a really good sales to take on ratio. Pretty much crucial in survival. I also went on a run of 5 months without losing a valuation. That may sound fantastic, but when you’re working on less than one a week, that’s essential! I think most agents would be unhappy with 3 valuations a day, let alone 3 a month!
Things were tight. Very tight. But I was getting by and doing deals. The amount you can learn when you are literally forced to do so is incredible. I was now 25 and consistently winning valuations from some seriously experienced people.
I eventually got a shot at a pretty mega house and it stirred my desire to take the marketing of property even farther. So I began using professional photography for all instructions. Not just nice pictures, but nice pictures with a purpose. This is still our main strength now. The detailed understanding of how to market and sell property more effectively than anybody else.
Things went a bit crazy for a while with some press stuff for a bungalow I put on the market. All helping with the profile and much needed free publicity. It’s hard to market when you have no money! http://www.thesun.co.uk/sol/homepage/features/3030859/What-happens-when-estates-agents-drop-the-jargon.html
It truly took 18 months before people started to take me, or Mr Green even remotely seriously. My confidence had grown a lot, but more importantly, my knowledge was now pretty high and I still had millions of ideas. I decided to invest what money I had in redoing the website, marketing material and sorting out a lot of the things I’d got wrong at the start. I was starting to believe I maybe, just maybe actually had a business. Word of mouth was growing, but I was still only working on about 4-6 valuations a month.
The most frustrating day was when someone targeted all our boards. Loads were taken and I just didn’t have the money to replace them. Imagine being an estate agent with no money to have for sale boards! Luckily, I was still selling near everything I came in to contact with.
Sales were going pretty well and I started to get a little bit of cash behind me. I had some new boards designed and printed! Thank you Gareth Coxon. I started getting business from Twitter. You can say hi to me on there if you like. https://twitter.com/#!/SimonHWWard
I then, last Novemeber, spent all my money on opening up a shop and starting a mortgage brokerage. As you do. 🙂
I’ve missed out masses of the story here. There was a fun part where I actually licensed my brand to someone else to start their own virtual Mr Green office. Which failed miserably. The sole reason it failed was that that person wasn’t willing to work hard enough. Sometimes I like to pretend to myself that I’m a bit of a genius, when really I’m just a determined guy that works stupidly hard.
Going up against Winkworth and Slades is really tough. No two ways about it. They have big budgets, a slick operation and have been around a long time. Is Mr Green better at selling houses? I honestly don’t think it would still be going today if it weren’t. Having no option but to make it happen leads you to find ways to make it happen.
I hope that Mr Green can become an established, well trusted brand in this incredibly tough market place. It’s definitely going in the right direction. The goals are big. But what fun is it doing something if it’s easy?