After three decades in the corporate world, former Savills director Richard Winter took the plunge and started his own buying agency last year, covering the prime Surrey market. Here, he discusses his experiences of launching a new business in the middle of a pandemic, the decisions he’s taken so far, and what keeps him motivated…
What have been the main challenges you’ve faced starting and running a new business in a time of unprecedented economic and political uncertainty?
I am a people person. I love finding solutions for clients. The main challenges starting the new business have been to do with administration and technology.
I have been fortunate to have recruited Lucy Jones who looks after the company admin. We have a great firm of accountants and we used an excellent web and technical advisor.
Actually running the business of finding clients and houses has been the fun part. I have known most of my clients for many years and was completely humbled by the support I have had from my contacts in the business.
I have worked directly with clients for over 30 years and it comes naturally to me…I love it…and knowing I’m making a real difference to their lives is an absolute joy.
Have you adapted or changed your business model since launching? If so, how?
I have worked in a corporate world for over 30 years and I have been incredibly lucky to have had complete autonomy. Starting my own business has given me a new lease of life. Once again, I am making my own decisions and putting my action plans into place. I see the amazing benefits, immediately.
An example of this is my decision to bring Debbie Moriarty into the business after only three months of trading. I wasn’t going to recruit for six months but we became very busy very quickly and Surrey is a big county.
I was helping my clients buy homes in Surrey as well as London and the New Forest in Hampshire. I have known Deborah for many years and worked with her at my last company. She is one of the best agents I have ever met and has a brilliant way with people. She is calm and diligent, focused and efficient and knows her market forensically. She has worked the St George’s Hill and Burwood Park market for many years and was keen to join to help focus on these areas.
I made the decision to crack on immediately, and we are really excited to be working together again.
Has launching a business been what you expected it to be, and is there anything you would do differently with the benefit of hindsight?
I have always wanted to have my own business but I was having so much fun working with my last team, it never felt like the right time.
When I turned 50, I thought I had to do it now as there would never be a good time, and decided to give it a go. I didn’t plan to be launching in the middle of a pandemic but it helped focus my mind and my desire to succeed. I couldn’t believe how many encouraging messages from friends and contacts and I was delighted when old clients immediately signed up and wanted to work with me.
I am very energetic. I think they wanted my energy and combine this with 30+ years of knowledge in the Surrey market and the magic word “trust”, and they can feel confident.
What’s the most valuable piece of business advice that you have been given?
My father was a doctor and I see our role in property is very similar in many ways. We have clients coming to us with a problem or challenge and we have to find a solution.
Get up early and work hard and surround yourself with the very best.
Listen and be honest and transparent.
Trust is vital.
Which other businesses or entrepreneurs do you most admire?
My brother is a very successful businessman and he is able to communicate with a wide range of people. He is a chameleon.
Rocco Forte for his attention to detail and level of service. I love the concept of predictive service and being one step ahead.
Nick Jones from the Soho House chain. The tiniest detail is crucial. And look how huge his business has become.
Does your experience of the current market correspond with what you’ve been hearing/reading in the media?
I speak to colleagues in the business in London and the country every day. I am very lucky to know all the main research commentators and analysts. I also have several close mentors who have successful businesses. We speak all the time!
The media is reporting the market in real time but naturally with house purchases there is a delay as transactions can take a while to legally exchange and complete.
What headwinds are you facing, as a new businesses in the prime residential property sector?
If I leave my clients feeling on top of the world, I am sure the business will continue to look after me
Finding a solution for a client is the very best feeling. If I leave my clients feeling on top of the world, I am sure the business will continue to look after me.
What’s next for you and your business?
I’m so excited right now as I genuinely can see the immediate reward from the work I’m putting in. I want to make sure that Lucy and Debbie feel as excited and I’m really looking forward to working closely with them and all our clients.
One step at a time…but I would love to build a team around me again!