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The story of Rachel Ritson, the boss of Grisdales

Christopher Watkin is a renowned property journalist who guides, supports, mentors, consults, counsels, and partners with hundreds of UK Letting & Estate Agents in their quest to grow their lettings and estate agencies businesses. He invited our MD Rachel Ritson to his studio in Grantham for a series of video interviews all about the property industry.  This is the first in our video series:

The story of Rachel Ritson

Journey from single mum of 3 children under 5 years old and self employed book-keeper, to boss of Grisdales Property Services, award winning estate agency in West Cumbria

If you prefer to read than watch

Hi it’s Chris Watkin here, and I am joined by Rachel Ritson, who has her own agency Grisdales in the Lake District, and she has an absolutely fascinating story of how she went from an accounts clerk to running the estate agency. Basically, one of the best Estate Agents in the UK, according to Peter Knight of the Property Academy.  Thank you for joining me today.

(Rachel) Hello and good morning.
(Chris) What I’d like to do is ask you for your story, how you have come from a mum of 3, part time clerk, to running one of the best estate agency businesses in the UK. Tell me all of the trials and tribulations of that journey, so people can learn and be inspired. Is that okay?
(Rachel) Absolutely.

Not wanting to be an estate agent

(Chris) So, Rachel, did you grow up wanting to be an estate agent?

(Rachel) No, who does? It never entered my mind. I suppose I can remember as a little girl getting a typewriter, maybe about 7 or 8 years old, and I enjoyed pretending to run a hotel or writing records down and things like that. But in terms of being an estate agent, no it’s never crossed my mind. I really don’t know who’s career aspiration it actually is.

So when I left school I didn’t do particularly well, I didn’t have a particularly good time, so I never really felt I was clever enough to go to University. My brother was the clever one, he went to Uni, I was going to go to secretarial college and then I actually got a job as an office junior for a company in Leeds, a manufacturing company, working in the finance department.

(Chris) Is that where you are from, West Yorkshire?

(Rachel) Yes I am a Leeds girl.

(Chris) Okay, so how did that job go?

(Rachel) I was there for 10 years, I worked my way up from office junior, went into management accounts and gained more responsibility. I just worked really hard and actually realised that I did enjoy learning and I wanted to learn so I started taking my accounts exams. That’s what you did in that department but I think I realised that wasn’t really for me – I liked the facts and figures – but not the accounting side, it was a little bit dry.

Moving to the Lake District

(Chris) So that was the late 90s, you upped skittles and moved to the Lake District.

(Rachel) Yes, that was with husband number one, I’d had my first son at that stage and whilst on maternity leave with son number two, we moved up to the Lake District.

(Chris) Were you moving up for your husband’s job?

(Rachel) Yes that’s correct.

(Chris) So did you continue your accountancy?

(Rachel) Within a few months when I was still on maternity leave, I actually found out that I was pregnant again – which was not a good day, it’s not what I wanted, so really I just went into pregnancy number 3 and had my daughter nine months later, so at that point I wasn’t ‘working’ other than being a mum. Very quickly it bothered me that I didn’t have my own career and I wasn’t earning an income so I started doing work from home but it wasn’t accounts orientated.

Becoming an Estate Agent

(Chris) Ok, so when did you actually start as an estate agent?

(Rachel) It was late 2000, I applied for a job with the local estate agents, I think as the weekend receptionist, which I didn’t really feel was for me. It was front facing and I’d never been in a front-facing role apart from the Saturday job I had at 15. I didn’t enjoy the public interface!

(Chris) Now my understanding is that very soon after joining as a part-time employee in the estate agency, you got divorced?

(Rachel) Yes, so within a year I was a single mum of 3 children under 5 years old, which was challenging! I could have moved back down to Leeds but I didn’t as my eldest son had settled into school, so I decided to stay and tough it out on my own.

(Chris) Surely you must have had some fears?

(Rachel) Yes it was hard, absolutely. I ended up going self-employed at that time, to earn some more money.

(Chris) Hold on a second.. You divorced your husband, had three kids under the age of five, and you went self-employed?

Yes, I can remember at the time it was so daunting, what now seems so easy – just filling in a few forms – at that time it was a massive thing!

(Chris) It would have been easier just to go back to Leeds, wouldn’t it, where your family come from?

(Rachel) It would, yes.

(Chris) Did you think to yourself, well one of the pillars of my life has gone – your marriage – so you might as well get rid of another – your job – and go self-employed? Is that the type of person you are?

(Rachel) I think it was more of a needs / must situation. It was a case of bringing in more income so I was doing management accounts for some local businesses in and around the area where I lived, to give them some structure and in a way work was my salvation. It was a difficult time and work got me through it, kept me focused on what I needed to do.

(Chris) Weren’t you worried about the fact that you wouldn’t be bringing money in for your kids? Obviously their father would have also been responsible for some of the child maintenance but you still had to bring money in too. Were you scared?

(Rachel) Yes 100% scared but you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do, and the kids come first. I did what I needed to do.

(Chris) What lesson did you learn from that particular episode in your life?

(Rachel) That I was tougher than I thought I was. That when one door closes another always opens.

(Chris) There’s a lot of people out there who are considering making the move to a self-employed estate agency and I know that’s not what this is about, but what would your message be to them with what you’ve learned?

(Rachel) If you’ve got the desire to do it and you’ve got commitment, you’ve got focus, you can cope with the rough times, then give it a go.

(Chris) With hindsight, is there anything in this part of your life that you would have done differently?

(Rachel) Probably not to beat myself up so much about making mistakes. Accept that you’re going to be uncomfortable and be comfortable with being uncomfortable.

(Chris) Are you a bit of a perfectionist yourself?

(Rachel) I can be which is a bit of a downfall. I can overthink things at times. (Chris) Have you got over that perfectionism?

(Rachel) I probably haven’t. I know it’s there but I have done a lot of work on self-awareness so that I understand myself better and I know when some of those traits are kicking in. I did some brilliant work on understanding your dark-side, so when you are under stress, what elements come out. So I know now when things like that are happening and then I make a choice: is it appropriate or isn’t it? If it isn’t then I back off.

Lessons Learned

(Chris) So do you think that the biggest lesson you’ve learnt is self-awareness of your good and bad sides?

(Rachel) Yes I think that’s really important – we are the way we are so learn to temper it when you need to and pull on your strengths when you need to.

(Chris) So I am led to believe that you found husband number two in the Lakes a few years later.

(Rachel) I did, doing his accounts!

(Chris) And I know that he had 3 children and a dog, so how did that mix with your 3 kids? (Rachel) We were the classic blended family, they were all of a similar age, so now the kids are 23 – 30 years. So back then they were all school age, our values were very similar and our moral compass was very similar, so when we had challenges or issues we could pull together although we are very different people.

(Chris) By bringing 2 households together do you think you learnt something that helped you in your business?

(Rachel) I actually think having children and the compromise that you have to make and the negotiation that you have to do, and you don’t always get your own way, can totally be applied in the work situation.

(Chris) When you talk to a lot of bosses, they say that dealing with their staff is like dealing with their children, just that you can’t tell them off.

(Rachel) When you kids are little you can tell them what to do, it’s time for bed, eat your peas etc but as they get older you’ve got to listen to them if you want a good wholesome relationship with them, and you can’t tell them what to do.

(Chris) So thinking about this, 3 of them were your children, but for the other 3 you weren’t their mum, so there’s a slightly different relationship which, again, can help you in your work life.

 

Joining Grisdales Estate Agents

(Chris) In around 2010 you actually joined Grisdales full time.

(Rachel) I think it was about that time.

(Chris) What made you go full-time then?

(Rachel) I think I had reached a point where I was working at another business for quite a number of hours and it was also 50/50 between Grisdales and the other business. It was a time of having to choose which one I did want to commit to and Tim Grisdale was really good to me. He offered me lots of opportunities, I learned an awful lot from him, and I felt that we had very similar values, so I felt that was the right business.

(Chris) So what aspect of the business were you working in?

 

(Rachel) It was still behind the scenes, so very much business support, hr, finance, admin, kind of the infrastructure of the business, the facilities. I think that all of the behind the scenes stuff oils the wheels of a business. Sometimes it can be underestimated because I’ve done it and I know how important it is.

So I think I just had to stop trying to be perfect, it wasn’t going to happen! You know, if you have to chuck something quickly on the table for tea and it’s not absolutely what you would have wanted to cook, just go with it I. I think if I look back, sometimes I spent too much time trying to keep the house tidy, keeping on top of the washing, getting that last report finished. If I could have just chilled out a bit more, lowered my own standards I might have been able to spend a bit more time with the kids instead of trying to be everything to everybody. You just can’t keep up and it’s a bit scary, a bit daunting, a bit ‘what have I done?’ but actually, I had such determination, a fire in my belly to just make it blooming work!

Taking over the property business

(Chris) So I understand that a few years later Tim Grisdales decided to retire, so I assume that they offered it to the valuers and the senior people.

(Rachel) Yes, as far as I remember, it’s a long time ago and it wasn’t so much an announcement but a discussion. Time wanted to retire at 60 so this was probably a couple of years beforehand when he started to mention his exit strategy. I suppose naturally you would have thought it would have been the valuers within the business that would have wanted to take the business one, and I can’t recall exactly but nobody really wanted to take it forward.

(Chris) By that time you were working pretty closely together in terms of decisions on strategy and the direction of the business, so did he ask you or did you ask him?

(Rachel) I can’t remember to be honest, I think maybe the chats just evolved, it wasn’t like one day he came and said ”I’m retiring do you want the business?” It evolved over months, maybe even longer.

(Chris) So you wanted to take over the estate agency, but had you been out valuing? (Rachel) No, but I was very aware of that. I started to think that if if I was going to take on the estate agency, how could I manage people if I didn’t really know what they were doing? That’s when we made the decision between us to cut down on the work that I was doing, and learn to be a valuer. I didn’t know if I was going to like it or not, because, at the age of 15 I had been sacked from John Lewis because I couldn’t sell shoe polish, I thought I might be rubbish with people and I don’t do sales, I won’t be able to do it!

Learning the ropes

(Chris) Can you remember your first valuation?

(Rachel) No I can’t quite remember, it was probably the trauma.

(Chris) So how did you get on as a valuer?

(Rachel) I surprised myself, I loved the people interaction, the nuts and bolts of coming up with the comparables, you know that side was interesting, but I found when I was in people’s houses and I was listening to their stories, some of them very difficult, sometimes meeting vulnerable people, I felt as though I really empathised and I wanted to help them. I felt that I could do it.

(Chris) Do you think that you then realised you had always wanted to be an estate agent? Before this point you were a book-keeper, did the HR, then all of a sudden you went out fishing in a pond of estate agents. Did you like it straight away?

(Rachel) I loved going around the houses, who doesn’t like looking at a house?

(Chris) I worked out that when I was an estate agent in Grantham there were 15,000 bedrooms and my favourite bit was always looking in the airing cupboard – don’t ask me why – I just love looking in there! What do you think you’d learnt before that made you a better estate agent?

(Rachel) I think it maybe I did have the people skills, I think the behind the scenes stuff has helped me to run the business, I am not just focused on the front end but I am aware of the figures, the KPIs, the structure of the business, meeting rhythms, all of those things.

(Chris) Normally most estate agents come at it from being a bloody good valuer and they then learn the business side of things, or they have to learn them and most fail. That is quite a rare thing in estate agency, isn’t it?

(Rachel) Yes, I think so. Well I think it is in a lot of small businesses, you are the practitioner, you have the skill set for what the business is, not necessarily the more rounded approach.

The women in business angle

(Chris) Being a woman do you think that is an advantage for you because of your higher EQ (emotional intelligence) skills?

(Rachel) I hate that – men do this and women do that.

(Chris) I wouldn’t ask that question if you were a man but what I want to prove with these videos is that women out there are role models because most estate agent bosses are male. I genuinely do believe women make better estate agents!

(Rachel) Yes I agree with you, it is not banging the drum for women, although I am very proud of where I am and what I do, but we are naturally better listeners, we empathise better, agree with you on the higher EQ, and certainly for a client who wants to be listened to, building up the trust, going into people’s safe spaces and we privileged to be invited in, it’s not just a transaction.

(Chris) Do you think that as an industry we are too transactional?

(Rachel) We can be, I think that the better estate agents aren’t, online is more transactional and that is ok, but there’s a place for the fuller service agent, which is what we are, where people do want that relationship, they do want the trust, they do want to talk, they do want to offload to us, I mean sometimes I think we feel like therapist with what people share with us, what they entrust on us.

(Chris) Thank you, so coming back to you buying the business, do you think it helped that your husband was a business owner as well, so it wasn’t as scary? (Rachel) Yes and no, he had as many challenges as I did so I was supporting his business as well. Still, at that time, we reached a point where I just said “I can’t do anymore, let’s get an accountant in, we can’t keep spinning so many plates, so yes it probably did help to a degree.

The story of Rachel Ritson the owner of Grisdales Property Services in West Cumbria

Rachel & Neil Ritson with their family of six

(Chris) How old were your kids in 2015 when Tim eventually left the business? (Rachel) Mid-teens and upwards.

(Chris) Did you have any guilt for running a household and running a business? I am on a mission to talk about this subject so what guilt did you have?

(Rachel) You can never be 100% focussed in whichever role, whichever hat you are wearing – if you’re at work you have still got your mum hat on, if you’re at home you’ve still got your work hat on. I would settle when they were at school. I could forget about them and focus but the hardest times would be school holidays and the juggle you would have to go through, they were at football club, or you have a child minder for the day or as they got a little bit older one or two of them would be home, they are safe but are they stimulated, so you have to learn with being uncomfortable and knowing that you are just not always going to get it right.

(Chris) Did you feel the judgment of others? The fact that you were doing all of this work, that’s what comes across from talking to other mum bosses of estate agents. (Rachel) Judgment from whom?

(Chris) From your family, your friends, your work colleagues, from the proverbial mums that meet at the school gate.

(Rachel) Family have always been very supportive, the kids have always been very supportive and amazing, I look at the 6 of them and think we must have got something right. The judgment was probably on myself rather than from others.

(Chris) What advice would you give to fellow females running their own businesses in terms of actual day-to-day strategies and tactics on how to run things so you don’t feel guilty.

(Rachel) Stop trying to be perfect, it’s not going to happen. If you have to chuck something quickly on the table for tea and it’s not absolutely what you would have wanted to cook, just go with it. If I look back I spent too much time trying to keep the house tidy, trying to keep on top of the washing, getting that last report finished, there are times really if I could have chilled out a bit more I might have been able to spend a bit more time with the kids instead of trying to be everything to everybody.

(Chris) Moving forward to the business, can you remember the first day when it was all yours?
(Rachel) Yes I think I can.

(Chris) What was that like, what did it feel like?

(Rachel) A bit scary, a bit daunting, a bit ‘oh what have I done’? But actually such a determination and a fire in my belly to make it blooming work.

(Chris) You are now in control so everything is resting on your shoulders, was everything plain sailing in those first few years?

(Rachel) Oh God no! Tim officially retired at the end of 2015 and 2 months earlier the office had gone through its second floor. The town of Cockermouth had flooded again, so I just went straight into dealing with that. Actually the second time we turned the office around with the help of my husband Neil an awful lot quicker than we did the first time around. I think the town had already been through it so we knew what we were doing. So that was the first thing, then it was the general election so the property market wasn’t doing very much, then we went into the Brexit referendum, the tenant fee ban, all of these things were quite big challenges to have to go through.

Grisdales Estate Agents in Cockermouth flooded

Grisdales Estate Agents in Cockermouth flooded for the second time

(Chris) Which is the lowest point that you’ve been at?

(Rachel) Any type of staffing issues or people issues are the most challenging. I am not naturally a confrontational person and people’s issues are not black and white and I tend to go over them in my head. During lockdown I did close an office and had to make a team redundant which was very difficult for me on a personal level. So that in itself was a low point but I could cope with it because I knew I was making the right choice.

(Chris) So why did you have to close the third office?

(Rachel) It hadn’t been making money, it was always on my radar ‘what are you going to do about this Rachel?’ I think that I probably was too proud ‘ I can make this work’ or not brave enough for such a significant change for the business as it’s quite a close-knit company. But I think lockdown forced that decision right there in front of me.

(Chris) Do you think if we hadn’t had the COVID pandemic and all of the ramifications of that, you’d still have that third office?

(Rachel) Honest answer, yes probably.

(Chris) What would your message be to estate agents out there who have an underperforming office because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an awful lot of agents instead of spending more time at the sickly office, they tend to get sucked into actually spending more time at good offices.

(Rachel) Absolutely, I think the key is to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s a people issue or whatever it may be, really drill down, don’t let it off your radar, do try the things that you know – certain strategies – it might be the wrong person leading the office – so give it a go first but if it’s not working and in your heart of hearts you know it’s not right, you’ve got to take that brace step.

(Chris) You say pride, do you think a lot of agents let pride get in the way of how they run their business?

(Rachel) I know I have done at times with some of the decisions I’ve made. A bit of stubbornness in me, I’m quite competitive, so you know it isn’t working but I think I can blooming-well make it work. I’d also committed quite a lot of money, we’d done a big refurb on the office, it was going to be the office where we were centralising our property management, and I had to step back and go okay, I’ve spent that money but if I keep going in this direction how much more am I going to lose? So it was almost sort of accepting that and swallowing the fact that I would essentially lose on it short term, but I would have so much more to gain longer term.

(Chris) So it’s almost like a second hand car that you might change one aspect of it but how often do you keep repairing it and spending money on it. So making those people redundant, I have been there myself and it’s not a nice thing to do… (Rachel) Yes it’s the lowest thing I’ve ever had to do and because it was lockdown, essentially I had to do it on my own in an office over Zoom and via the telephone and that didn’t feel right either. (Chris) Were you worried the day before, or weeks before, about what people would think of you?

(Rachel) I was less bothered about me, because as hard as it was for me I wasn’t going to be on the receiving end of that difficult news. So probably for me it was more a bit of perception of failure but the fact I was impacting people’s lives in a negative way and that was a really hard thing to shoulder.

(Chris) How have you dealt with it since, in your head? Well we did take some people back on and they’ve gone to other offices, which was a positive, and for those who were made redundant I know of a number that have moved on and have found jobs, so that’s fine. You know I suppose that’s made me feel better. Moving on from it, it was for the greater good of the whole of the business.

(Chris) So you had to take out the cancerous part to safe the rest.

(Rachel) Yes

(Chris) How did the rest of your colleagues in the business react to the fact that some of their colleagues in an office would be gone?

(Rachel) It was a difficult time, we’d never been through anything like that before so it was a difficult time and a bit of a shock.

(Chris) What would you do differently if you had your time again in terms of the redundancy?

(Rachel) I am not sure I would have done anything differently. I feel I did it as well as I could at the time. I put a lot of thought into it, you know, I remember working during Easter lockdown and I worked right through that to make sure I did it as well as I felt I could.

(Chris) So you came out of lockdown and I know we are going to talk about that in more detail in another video, but what have been the issues – I think that selling houses has been quite easy – so what have been your main issues? Again, we’ll go into more detail in another video.

(Rachel) You are still in reactive mode, a lot of resource issues, towards the back end of the second lockdown when schools were closed, a lot of my team are working mums so coping with a lower level of staffing was very challenging.

(Chris) In the next video we’ll go into a lot more detail about that. So, Rachel, what does the future look like for your estate agency?

(Rachel) Lots more plans, we’ve just had a restructure, so learnt in lockdown from other agents and Preston Baker have a really good model – the hunter / farmer approach: lead generation team, client services team, property management team, so I’ve restructured the business during lockdown because I believe that totally makes sense and great for a progression route through estate agency. So lots more work on that. Then building up the property management team is the way I want to move forward so that we can offer refresh & refurb schemes not only for our landlords but alto to our sales clients, new landlords coming in, people selling where work needs doing, or if they buy a house and want to upgrade it, we can offer that and become a lot more than a traditional estate agency.

(Chris) So you have got that through working with Ian Preston of Preston Baker?

(Rachel) That’s one of the great things about Peter Knight’s Property Academy. Sometimes I see him like one of those switchboard ladies in the 1950s – plugging this in and plugging that in, he’s so good at connecting you with people when you have issues.

(Chris) We had SJ here from Preston Baker last week, and I have met Ian a number of times, a very clever chap. So why I like the Property Academy is I can go there with an issue and Peter will go “right, I know the guy for you to work with” such as Richard Palfreeman at Northfields Estates, Spencer Lawrence at Paramount, Ian Preston and what’s lovely is those people I feel like I take from them and I don’t give back, but it’s all done with such good will and I’ve learned from lots of different businesses along the way.

(Chris) But you are giving back because you’re here on the Watkin Sofa and you’re going to teach other agents what you’ve learned. If you could have your time again as an estate agent, your whole journey from moving up to the Lake District, being a part-time accountant in 2000 to now 2021, 21 years later (obviously you started as a wee lass) if there’s one thing you would change, what would it be?

(Rachel) Probably to have the courage of my convictions a little bit more, I’d love to have more confidence, if I got a good feel about something that I felt would be right, I would very often be holding back because I just didn’t have the confidence to do it, so to be braver.

(Chris) Thank you for your time today, and in the next few videos we will talk about your time in lockdown, so that we can help the other estate agents out there, and we can talk about the things that p** you off, things you really like about the industry and other aspects. So this wraps up our first video and I hope that people will learn a lot from it and I can say that what I consider, and what Peter Knight considers, to be one of the best estate agents out there.

Low points

(Chris) Which is the lowest point that you’ve been at?

(Rachel) Any type of staffing issues or people issues are the most challenging. I am not naturally a confrontational person and people’s issues are not black and white and I tend to go over them in my head. During lockdown I did close an office and had to make a team redundant which was very difficult for me on a personal level. So that in itself was a low point but I could cope with it because I knew I was making the right choice.

(Chris) So why did you have to close the third office?

(Rachel) It hadn’t been making money, it was always on my radar ‘what are you going to do about this Rachel?’ I think that I probably was too proud ‘ I can make this work’ or not brave enough for such a significant change for the business as it’s quite a close-knit company. But I think lockdown forced that decision right there in front of me.

(Chris) Do you think if we hadn’t had the COVID pandemic and all of the ramifications of that, you’d still have that third office?

(Rachel) Honest answer, yes probably.

Lessons Learned

(Chris) What would your message be to estate agents out there who have an underperforming office because, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen an awful lot of agents instead of spending more time at the sickly office, they tend to get sucked into actually spending more time at good offices.

(Rachel) Absolutely, I think the key is to get to the root of the issue, whether it’s a people issue or whatever it may be, really drill down, don’t let it off your radar, do try the things that you know – certain strategies – it might be the wrong person leading the office – so give it a go first but if it’s not working and in your heart of hearts you know it’s not right, you’ve got to take that brace step.

(Chris) You say pride, do you think a lot of agents let pride get in the way of how they run their business?

(Rachel) I know I have done at times with some of the decisions I’ve made. A bit of stubbornness in me, I’m quite competitive, so you know it isn’t working but I think I can blooming-well make it work. I’d also committed quite a lot of money, we’d done a big refurb on the office, it was going to be the office where we were centralising our property management, and I had to step back and go okay, I’ve spent that money but if I keep going in this direction how much more am I going to lose? So it was almost sort of accepting that and swallowing the fact that I would essentially lose on it short term, but I would have so much more to gain longer term.

(Chris) So it’s almost like a second hand car that you might change one aspect of it but how often do you keep repairing it and spending money on it. So making those people redundant, I have been there myself and it’s not a nice thing to do…

(Rachel) Yes it’s the lowest thing I’ve ever had to do and because it was lockdown, essentially I had to do it on my own in an office over Zoom and via the telephone and that didn’t feel right either.

(Chris) Were you worried the day before, or weeks before, about what people would think of you?

(Rachel) I was less bothered about me, because as hard as it was for me I wasn’t going to be on the receiving end of that difficult news. So probably for me it was more a bit of perception of failure but the fact I was impacting people’s lives in a negative way and that was a really hard thing to shoulder.

(Chris) How have you dealt with it since, in your head? Well we did take some people back on and they’ve gone to other offices, which was a positive, and for those who were made redundant I know of a number that have moved on and have found jobs, so that’s fine. You know I suppose that’s made me feel better. Moving on from it, it was for the greater good of the whole of the business.

(Chris) So you had to take out the cancerous part to safe the rest.

(Rachel) Yes

(Chris) How did the rest of your colleagues in the business react to the fact that some of their colleagues in an office would be gone?

(Rachel) It was a difficult time, we’d never been through anything like that before so it was a difficult time and a bit of a shock.

(Chris) What would you do differently if you had your time again in terms of the redundancy?

(Rachel) I am not sure I would have done anything differently. I feel I did it as well as I could at the time. I put a lot of thought into it, you know, I remember working during Easter lockdown and I worked right through that to make sure I did it as well as I felt I could.

Life after lockdown

(Chris) So you came out of lockdown and I know we are going to talk about that in more detail in another video, but what have been the issues – I think that selling houses has been quite easy – so what have been your main issues? Again, we’ll go into more detail in another video.

(Rachel) You are still in reactive mode, a lot of resource issues, towards the back end of the second lockdown when schools were closed, a lot of my team are working mums so coping with a lower level of staffing was very challenging.

(Chris) In the next video we’ll go into a lot more detail about that. So, Rachel, what does the future look like for your estate agency?

(Rachel) Lots more plans, we’ve just had a restructure, so learnt in lockdown from other agents and Preston Baker have a really good model – the hunter / farmer approach: lead generation team, client services team, property management team, so I’ve restructured the business during lockdown because I believe that totally makes sense and great for a progression route through estate agency. So lots more work on that. Then building up the property management team is the way I want to move forward so that we can offer refresh & refurb schemes not only for our landlords but alto to our sales clients, new landlords coming in, people selling where work needs doing, or if they buy a house and want to upgrade it, we can offer that and become a lot more than a traditional estate agency.

(Chris) So you have got that through working with Ian Preston of Preston Baker?

(Rachel) That’s one of the great things about Peter Knight’s Property Academy. Sometimes I see him like one of those switchboard ladies in the 1950s – plugging this in and plugging that in, he’s so good at connecting you with people when you have issues.

(Chris) We had SJ here from Preston Baker last week, and I have met Ian a number of times, a very clever chap. So why I like the Property Academy is I can go there with an issue and Peter will go “right, I know the guy for you to work with” such as Richard Palfreeman at Northfields Estates, Spencer Lawrence at Paramount, Ian Preston and what’s lovely is those people I feel like I take from them and I don’t give back, but it’s all done with such good will and I’ve learned from lots of different businesses along the way.

(Chris) But you are giving back because you’re here on the Watkin Sofa and you’re going to teach other agents what you’ve learned. If you could have your time again as an estate agent, your whole journey from moving up to the Lake District, being a part-time accountant in 2000 to now 2021, 21 years later (obviously you started as a wee lass) if there’s one thing you would change, what would it be?

(Rachel) Probably to have the courage of my convictions a little bit more, I’d love to have more confidence, if I got a good feel about something that I felt would be right, I would very often be holding back because I just didn’t have the confidence to do it, so to be braver.

(Chris) Thank you for your time today, and in the next few videos we will talk about your time in lockdown, so that we can help the other estate agents out there, and we can talk about the things that p** you off, things you really like about the industry and other aspects. So this wraps up our first video and I hope that people will learn a lot from it and I can say that what I consider, and what Peter Knight considers, to be one of the best estate agents out there.

Thinking about a career in Estate Agency?