My biggest problem in estate agency … me

Setting up your own business, be it an estate agency, be it a lettings agency or my case, a company that helps letting and estate agents get more landlords and vendors to use their agency (ie a freelance business generation), is hard work. When you were an employee, you had to listen to a ogre (your boss) tell you things that you thought were wrong, incorrect etc etc … let me tell you, being your own boss is just the same, you still have to listen to that ogre’s voice, it’s just that the ogre is the voice in your head!

I have been self employed now for just over a year and half and at the start it was hard work, really hard work. Now the business is starting to do well, the issues of wondering if there will be enough business walking through the proverbial door has been replaced with another problem/issue. A problem/issue which I believe many letting agents and in some respect, estate agents suffer from …. self discipline or as I like to call it, self-control. Whatever you call it, if you were to ask my lovely wife (aka Senior Management), she would agree at times in my personal and business life, is sadly misjudged. Let me tell you my thoughts about this and what I am doing to improve it.

I see self-control as the ability to keep the commitments you make to yourself.

Those commitments about ones thoughts, ones actions and behaviour .. in essence, the way you live your life. Its isn’t about denial, as much as it is about making restrain one’s own impulses, but the choices you make going forward. You can’t change what has happened, but you can change things going forward. Self-control is starts in one’s own decisions about what actions you take in the next minute, next hour, next day,, whether you want to or not, to get a future result.

Everyone wants to improve themselves, be it that promotion, a wage rise, being your own boss, having a better house, better holiday. Different people want different things. Just about anything you would like to improve about yourself starts with self-control . Self control will enable you to make the action(s) you need on an hour by hour, day by day basis and from that long term persistence, you will reach your goal.

What stops you from taking those actions?

It’s that that little voice in your head .. it’s your Diablo, your little devil, your mischievous imp, your personal ogre!

You see, I believe the thing that stops most people from developing to their full potential is the little ogre inside them. This ogre is our own inbuilt and well developed ability to justify and vindicate our own behaviour. I know with my ogre, it’s very persuasive when I am out with the lads and the choice of, “Shall we have an extra pint for the road”. It has a PhD in Mañana, the saying the Spanish have of putting things off until tomorrow. I often hear myself say things to myself like, ‘got loads of time to do that, I’ll do it tomorrow!’ .. then you know what happens tomorrow .. another big dose of Mañana!

When your ogre, your devil, your little voice says, ‘Let’s do it tomorrow, the punters will still be there to call’, what if you kept on that line of thought, you might end up never calling them.

Letting agents especially seem to fall into this trap because landlords don’t tend to swap agents regularly. You don’t gain much but you don’t lose much. It’s easy to sit on a portfolio of 200 managed properties, losing 10 a year because some landlords are selling up whilst you gain 10 a year from the odd recommendation and your existing landlords add the odd one or two properties to their existing portfolio. Sound familiar? Yes, because most letting agents are like that, and why wouldn’t you be? It’s an easy life, turning over between £200k to £300k a year (depending where you are in the UK), with costs of around £130k to £220k a year (again depending where you are in the UK) .. and you get to see a nice little profit of £60k/£70k/£80k a year .. nothing to sniff at. Why break into a sweat and try and get more landlords to use your agency .. no one is leaving you?

.. but that’s the point. You can start tomorrow, but what if you said that yesterday, last week, last month, last year, two years ago .. need I go on? The ill effects of Mañana are coming in the form of missed opportunities and poorer results than you would have had otherwise generated had you been regimented and self disciplined .. you know it is unavoidable.

Now, if you are happy with your lot, treading water, not growing, that’s fine. But before you switch off, let me ask you a few questions..

Firstly ….Why did you start your own lettings or estate agency? What did you hope to get out of setting up your own agency? How did you feel when you originally set it up? Was it exciting? What hopes did you have? What were your original intentions (eg nicer house, work less, decent pennies etc) What fears did you have? .. In fact, can I suggest you spend a couple of minutes writing the answers down.

Secondly, Do you ever wonder, now you are one year, two years, three years, five years, ten years into this project of being your own agent, of being your own boss, do you ever wonder if this is as good as it’s ever going to get?

I must ask you, what’s getting in your way? What’s slowing you down .. in fact, and this is quite harsh, what is stopping you getting yourself to your original intentions when you set up? (eg nicer house, work less, decent pennies etc).

Is it lack of time? Does it feel more like you are in Kindergarten than managing your staff? Is your life sucked away with property inspections and deposit disputes, when it should be trazzin’ around the countryside in your 65 plate Jag-waaaaaar?

Have you lost your mojo? Is it sill as exciting? Or have you joined all the other agents treading water to retirement?

To succeed in lettings and estate agency, you must be able to get yourself to take action. You (and only you) can do this …. not the wife or husband, not your staff, not your mum, you. That little voice, that little devil, the ogre will be siren like, falsely lulling you into the rocky shores of phony comfort that the essential actions you need to take today can be put off until sometime in the future.

Those important actions are almost always the actions that aren’t burning or critical but have the highest impact over time. For agents, these activities include things like prospecting for new clients.

As you might know, I advocate a system of prospecting for new clients by attracting landlords and vendors to your agency but writing articles about your local property market. By becoming the local property guru, landlords and vendors are attracted to your agency. Interestingly, I had lunch today with someone, and I told him that if he adopted the principles of the system (a system we call ‘vendor and landlord farming’ because just like a farmer, we are cultivating and growing landlords and vendors to use our agency), he would have a successful profitable agency within 18 months from a cold start.

I told him, even with my help in ghost writing the articles, he would have to work like a dog for six months with no return, not one piece of business, but then slowly he would start to reap the benefits of what he sown. “But Chris, I want it quicker than that, is there an easy option, is there an option where I throw money at it and it will come quicker”, to which I replied, “No”

I tell the agents WHO CHOOSE to grow their agency, that the most vital thing, is that they need persistence; and they need a tanker loads of patience in the first 6 to 12 months. They need to control their thoughts, being optimistic, never ever giving up. Thankfully, we have a self help group, where there are 130+ letting agents who come together in the ‘landlord farming club facebook group’. The group is letting and estate agents who adopt the landlord and vendor farming techniques. We all share ideas, help each other, support each other … it’s like being in a big club of letting agents where everyone helps each other. In the Summer we had a get together and in November, we will have the even bigger ‘Landlord Farming Summit’. The summit is a full day conference of speakers and learning, sharing ideas to get lots and lots of landlords and vendors for their agencies.

Having self control means keeping away from negative thoughts and actions. One of my weaknesses is social media.. I can waste hours on that, seeing who has liked my posts etc etc. Another one is constantly checking my emails every 10 minutes .. does anyone love me to email me? Let me check ….. 10 minutes I return typing this as one of clients asked me a question. Again, self control should have made me wait until later .. but I thought I would get back to them straight away .. not finish this blog post!

Do you want new landlords and vendors in the future?

Do you want a better life for you, your team, your family?

I can help you grow your lettings and estate agency, if you want that to happen. Start creating the kind of value for landlords and homeowners in your town that they will be confident in recommending to others.

Start reading books to improve yourself, watch videos …and if you do want to improve, if there is only one video I suggest you watch, watch this 18 minute video by Simon Sinek and if you have seen it before and not watched for a while, watch it again) … this is the most inspirational video on self improvement out there .. here it is

Look at all the best bosses you have ever had, all the great business leaders, and they all have one thing in common… exceptional self control.

My self control isn’t good, but I have improved my self control over the last nine months with the help of a mentor. I have a business coach but also I have asked for advice and opinion from people in the industry …. and all of them have kindly given their advice and opinion to help me. I am happy for you pick the phone up for a chat, if you want …. in fact most people like to be asked for their help .. try it you may be surprised!

Whether you have a mentor, a coach or even friends or not whatever the case maybe, self control sorts the men out from the boys, it allows the top agents to take the actions that others agents put off or never take. You don’t need to be a big agent, you don’t need to have a high street office, you don’t need a mega budget … but you do need oceans and oceans of self control, because it will be those agents, who have exceptional self control and desire to perform like a superstar agent that win, AND they will eventually beat those with greater skill but no discipline or self control.

Kind regards


PS If you want a chat about anything mentioned in this article, be it self control, be it landlord and vendor farming, be it courses in writing articles about your local property market or ghost writers that can write them on your behalf, drop me a line to or vist my website

Christopher Watkin

I teach, guide, support, mentor, consult, counsel, partner many hundreds of UK Estate and Letting Agents in their quest to grow their estate and lettings agencies business. Old school techniques of touting, landlords wanted leaflets, ring us for a free valuation, we have sold this in your street leaflets don't work anymore. There are too many competitor agents .. meaning cheap fees are epidemic, overvaluing is almost a norm to get the stock and don’t even mention about the online/hybrid threat. So a few years ago, I set about looking around the UK and spotted that certain agents (not many mind you) in certain towns were still seen as the ‘go to person on property’, the person the newspaper editor rang up every week for a comment and I looked at what they did and they were doing some thing quite remarkable…. Only one thing but they were doing it so well .. and reaping the reward in terms of decent listings and decent fees, happy staff, decent sales pipeline and exchange income, managed lettings portfolios in the many hundreds .. but more importantly, they really enjoyed the job… they enjoyed getting up in the morning and people looked up to them Over 400 agents around the UK are on a mission to change the way our Estate and Lettings agency profession is perceived and looked upon, doing it town by town, city by city. I guide these 400 agents, teach them, mentor them and support them to be seen in a different light, to be seen as the ‘go to person for property’, actually be the ‘local property expert’ and prove it. Christopher Watkin 07950 147 572

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