With a plunging share price and reportedly £200m of debt, the word “crisis” has been much in evidence lately by business journalists writing about the UK’s largest estate agency group Countrywide.
Furthermore, you know that you are in trouble as an organisation when you announce to the City that your un-inspirational “back to basic’s” recovery plan, consists of a) re-hiring ex-staff that you let go over the past 3 years, b) borrowing more money from shareholders, and c) Making mass redundancies at your corporate HQ (largely because you have tried everything else!). Yet your share price continues to plunge, and your Main Board wants to “Keep calm and carry on” when it is clear to everyone that major surgery is required.
You see I started my career in estate agency over 30 years ago with a firm called Taylors, which subsequently went on to be acquired by the then embryonic “Hambro Countrywide Group”. So, I must confess that I still retain a soft spot for CW today, as like many of you I am sure, they provided me with the initial training and experience that set me on my way with a career in UK estate agency.
Where do you start trying to fix an organisation as unwieldy as CW group? Well, in my humble view, the truth is that you don’t, as the last thing that is needed right now is more trying to fix the unfixable.
As many of you already know CW is made up of scores of different high street brands sited up and down the United Kingdom, some great, some good, some poor and some just downright terrible. So, the first thing that is required is an overall review of the brands that you have by someone who actually knows something about UK estate agency, as there is little actual “hands-on” estate agency experience amongst the current main board members. After which, the group needs to be dismantled in its current form with the successful/potentially successful brands retained and empowered by regional management, and the rest either reconfigured and reinvigorated where possible or simply let go.
It sounds easy, doesn’t it? Well, it would certainly be easier with a dynamic management team of regional estate agency professionals who understood the steps that are required, but don’t hold your breath, as I fear that we are likely to be still reading about CW groups woes for many months to come before someone finally realises that more of “Plan A” is simply not the answer…