Major agent gives staff big basic pay rises, shorter hours, longer holidays, no bank holidays – and fewer Saturdays

Major regional group Arun Estates is giving its branch staff rises in basic salary of up to 20% together with a new 33-day minimum annual leave entitlement.

The changes were announced on Friday by group managing director David Lench, and will apply to office staff in all four of its brands – Douglas Allen in Essex, Ward & Partners in Kent, Cubitt & West in Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire, and Pittis on the Isle of Wight.

Lench says the changes reflect the ongoing industry-wide battle to recruit and retain top staff.

He has not referenced online agents, but other high street firms, including in the areas where Arun operates, have spoken to EYE about the challenges of keeping excellent negotiators and branch managers on board, when commission rates have dropped in a market where transactions have stayed stubbornly low – and where online firms seem to offer big rewards.

For example, Purplebricks has upped its recruitment of experienced Local Property Experts who typically earn £200 per listing – plus more for add-ons – with adverts stressing that many can earn in the region of £60,000 a year. EYE has seen invoices supporting this claim. The campaign clearly targets the best staff that high street agents have.

Arun, which is already one of the few estate agencies to pay sales staff annual leave commission to make up for sales opportunities lost while on holiday, will now also offer its people shorter hours and reduced Saturday working.

All branches will from now on be closed on Bank Holidays. Service levels to customers will be maintained via telephone access to the group’s central sales team, open 8am to 8pm seven days a week.

Lench said: “Despite the enormous changes that technology has brought to the industry, estate agency remains above all a people business, and in such a competitive environment, recruitment and retention of top quality staff is vitally important and uniquely challenging.

“For us, that not only means ensuring that Arun staff have all the training and support they need to achieve the best possible results for themselves and for the company, but in the process also enabling them to enjoy a better work/life balance.

“Through our recruitment partners we continually review what is happening in the marketplace in terms of salary and benefits, and we are confident that these latest changes keep us significantly ahead of the game as a preferred employer.”

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27 Comments

  1. nextchapter

    Lovely idea! But it just won’t work.  You will end up having average people working for you, and in an Estate Agency brand that is now average anyway, with under performing offices, it will just mean you’ll get worse.   Unfortunately, if you offer staff everything you mentioned above, in an environment that is still sales driven, the 2 just do not go hand in hand.  Everyone will be thinking more about their basic, and when they can next have time off and a holiday, instead of what they need to get sold.  And each member of staff will then only be earning average wages, but then I suppose they don’t care if they want to work for an average company. Lol. Good luck! In

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    1. waco79

      or ….

      employees are carefully selected,set KPIs, monitored, managed, coached and performance managed, and rewarded or moved on- so that it could work very easily in a sales environment.

      Strangely enough it works in pretty much every other industry- and every industry is “sales”.

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  2. PRman

    Move to the next chapter, nextchapter, if you are not already paying your staff commission with their holiday pay. The Employment Appeals Tribunal has ruled that employees must receive normal rates of pay during their four week’s statutory holiday – that includes regular overtime and commission. Maybe Arun Estates is more above average than you are if they’ve escaped your Victorian approach.

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    1. nextchapter

      Lol. Please. Is this the only thing you picked up on? We’re far from Victorian in our approach. In fact we’re extremely modern in everything we do, but offering ALL of the above in a sales driven environment just doesn’t work. We’ve already tried it! I’m not making this up, I’m talking from experience.  This stuff works in Countries like Sweden, or industries like Graphic Design, where maybe even a 4 day week is befinifical.  It just does not work for Estate Agency, where only the hardest working, member of the team is the one that earns the most amount of money.  It’s not a coincidence then, that people that take more holiday and clock off at 5pm, are average earners. The stuff mentioned in this article just doesn’t promote sales and in turn commission. Unless like Insaid, you want to be average. And who wants that?

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      1. smile please

        If you look after your staff they will work harder for you.

        Try the carrot approach nextchapter not the stick.

        They are talking 20% increase on some of the lowest wages in the industry.

        A BM earning 20k now getting 24k – hardly spoiling them.

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  3. smile please

    About time. Arun have been one of the worst at looking after their staff over the years.

    Interesting the story does not talk about branch closures.

    I believe they closed an entire brand just last Friday. Staff knew nothing about it until that day. Maybe they can improve their communication in future.

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    1. hodge

      The entire Brand is 1 office Rooneys in Horsham.

       

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  4. JAM01

    smile please – out of Ward and Partners, Cubitt and West, Douglas Allen, Pittis and Rooney and co, which of these closed?

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    1. smile please

      Rooney & Co I believe.

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      1. hodge

        This office was transferred to the new Ops Director from Surrey who wrote to the MD saying how poorly it had been managed by one of his counterparts, (such loyalty) He then had at least 6 managers in it over 3 or 4 months and only went there once or twice in 9 months.

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  5. Anthony Hesse

    Interesting. Such measures have been creeping in to our industry for a while now as it become increasingly evident that ‘work/life’ balance plays an increasing role in staff recruitment and retention. When I started out in estate agency recruitment nearly 30 years ago, it was all about the company car – the GTi badge was the clincher – now one Saturday in 3 rather than 2 seems to do the trick 😉

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    1. AgentV

      I have pretty much worked every Saturday (when there have been viewings) for the last five years…..but I guess I am the owner!

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  6. JAM01

    This is excellent, as it is about attracting and retaining the best talent.

    Cathy Engelbert, CEO of Deloitte’s has grown the business exponentially since 2015. She prioritises people over tasks. She introduced a paid family leave programme, allowing employees up to 16 weeks of fully paid family leave to support a range of life events impacting them and their families.

    She has been rewarded by outstanding employee performance and company results.

    Arun will also feel the benefit and staff have enthusiastically welcomed these changes.

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  7. gk1uk2001

    Our company has done similar with regards to weekend and bank holiday working – instead of working one Sunday in 4 we now only work one Sunday in 12 – easily done by alternating which branch opens and covers all calls etc for the other branches – and we don’t open on bank holidays any more. Have we seen a fall off in business? No. Have we seen an increase in morale and happiness amongst the excellent staff that we employ? Absolutely we have. It is so important to offer a good work/life balance in order to retain the best staff. As long as it doesn’t affect your business levels then I don’t see any issue with making your company a great place to work filled with happy staff – after all, happy staff will generally work harder and give you more than unhappy and unmotivated staff that don’t want to be there. About time this industry dragged itself into the 21st century with working hours etc.

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  8. Richard Copus

    “The hardest working member of the team is the one who earns the most money”.  Really?

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    1. JAM01

      I would say the smartest working person makes the most money, and it is then not about working hard and being busy. It is about being effective.

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  9. hodge

    As I understand from someone who has just left they have recently lost a number of managers from the Brighton area as a result of the New Ops Director who came from C/wide. Much of the angst was due to the fact that a new ops director role was created but not advertised internally.

    Staff turnover is due to bullying,   Over 50% As they say in the film, “you can get them to do anything it,s just a matter of voltage”

    The Ops directors are the main cause of the issue as one has run an area for 4 years from Australia by Skype another from Surrey goes home each day at 2.45 to pick up the kids allegedly and at least one other could not follow a plan if it slapped him in the face.

    However the cattle prod works just look at the profits

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    1. smile please

      Think you need to do your research on the position the director for Brighton had before joining Arun. You may also wish to see where he was before CW.

      In my humble opinion he is one of the best around. Demands a lot, tows the company line and a true agent at heart. The reason reason for managers leaving was not the reason he was employed. But a direct reason they left is because he was employed (i.e. they simply were not good enough).

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      1. hodge

        He was at wide originally MD of Freeman Foreman which didn’t do particularly well in subsidiary rankings. Before that he was at Arun.

        I know my facts.

         

        He may be a good guy thats not in question. But there are over 100 offices and no internal position was advertised so you can imagine that Managers who have sweat blood for years will feel a little miffed

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        1. smile please

          Close but no.

          He was M.D. of the South East, over 100 branches (Freeman Forman are part of that). Freeman Foreman is also an extremely profitable subsidiary.

          If i could have nabbed him to run my offices i would have. Sometimes the right person comes along and you make space for them.

           

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          1. hodge

            He was MD of freeman Foreman and then was gifted King and Chasemore and Mann Kent ,both were profitable way before he came along.

            When he had just F&F he did zip with them and i still have the accounts to show!

             

            But you may have missed the point, I,m sure he is a nice guy, but 100 branch managers were not invited to apply for a new role and that smarts if you have worked hard for recognition and promotion.

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            1. smile please

              It may smart Hodge.

              But when you have somebody who is better than the rest, why bother opening it up?

              FYI – He was not gifted, its because of the phenomenal work he did.

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              1. hodge

                Thats not what the accounts say.

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                1. smile please

                  No offense hodge,

                  Maybe that is why possibly you left or are still smarting along with others.

                  No idea what “Accounts” you have but the KPI’S & P&L’s are very different from Arun and CW as they are also with Sequence.

                  If you gave a prime CW office “Accounts” to a Sequence office they would have about three times the business as that have a very different set of “Accounts”

                  If you know anything of F&F you will also know they could not list properties over circa 600k as had a country homes department and the majority of the fees went through that “Branch”

                  This is not the case with, LSL, Sequence or Arun.

                  Despite the lack of ‘prime’ stock the majority of F&F offices show steady continued profit.

                  I can tell you he is a brilliant agent and a super multi branch manager who only took profits up during a very challenging period.

                  Arun are lucky to have him, i would take him in a heartbeat. CW screwed up letting him go.

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                  1. hodge

                    I left as i have retired,

                    Freeman and Foreman appeared at the bottom of the cw accounts P&L , they did,nt change much in all of the time he was there. I,m sure he is a nice guy and quite possibly a good agent as you say.

                    The point was and still is though that over 100 branch managers never got the chance to apply for the job. As a branch manager you should be encouraged to grow and be given the interview if you apply. Then you feedback on strengths and weakness,s .. Growing people is a primary role of any 1st or 2nd line manager

                     
                    It may smart Hodge.
                    But when you have somebody who is better than the rest, why bother opening it up?
                    This is not the way to go and hence a turnover of over 50% in Arun

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                    1. smile please

                      Think we have to agree to disagree.

                      As for not being given the opportunity, you are of course aware why he left Arun in the first place?

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                    2. JAM01

                      Branch managers working within Arun would not be invited to apply for an Ops Director role. They have a very detailed, proven, career path structure and only those one below in that structure would be invited to apply. So branch managers could not have left just because they didn’t get invited to apply for a position far above them in the career structure.

                      I too have worked for Keith Knight, at Countrywide, and he was brilliant. South Region was in a far better place profit wise than it is now, I can assure you!

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