Acquisitions are key to success for Martin & Co Sutton Coldfield
Having launched the Martin & Co Sutton Coldfield office as a cold-start business back in 2009, David Clinton has had a phenomenally successful decade, having just completed his fifth acquisition. So, how did it all start?
Prior to becoming a Martin & Co franchisee, I was a retail manager for over thirty years based in the West Midlands. It took me a whole three decades to realise it, but I looked at what I was doing and recognised that I was working really hard… but for someone else!
"And it was they who were reaping all of the rewards! It was then that I took the decision to go and do this for myself, and my business was subsequently born…"
From retail to property in one fell swoop… what was behind the move for David, and why Martin & Co?
“After much research into potential options across a number of industries and organisations, I identified that Martin & Co as a brand was a perfect fit with my own philosophy – the desire to deliver exceptional customer service at all times, the commitment to providing customers with up-to-date and insightful advice and guidance, and the offer of trustworthy management services to those with essentially no time to do it for themselves. As a territory, Sutton Coldfield was also the ideal place to launch my business. It was, and still is, a relatively affluent area with a thriving sales market, but it’s also close by to districts with a very high rental demand – so it really does offer the best of both worlds.”
It was not only David’s decision-making skills and strategic planning with regards to brand and location that have been vital in his journey to success, but the skills developed in his previous career have played a key role...
The training and support offered to me at launch-stage of my business was invaluable.
but you never really start to learn and develop properly until you actually get on the job. It’s not until you meet face-to-face with landlords on the ground and try to encourage them to come with you, that you really understand what this industry is all about. And, it is here that my retail background has well and truly shaped the way we operate, and which has seen great customer experience take priority in everything we do. Without great customer care you’ll never succeed in attracting, and most importantly, retaining customers on your books - they’ll simply go to the next agent who can offer them what they need.”
And it was this commitment to customer service that really made the difference to David’s business right back in the early days…
“With more than 100 competitor lettings agencies within the area at the time of our launch, we had to make sure that we stood out from the crowd. The vast majority of these agencies offered a poor service and we saw this as a fantastic opportunity to outshine the competition – and which is why we have, and always will, do everything in our power to deliver the highest quality service to our customers at all times.”
Building a business is great, but at the end of the day it’s all about the people.
David strongly believes it’s the nurturing of his own team that ensures they’re able to deliver this quality of service.
“As a team we’re passionate about the quality of customer service that we deliver, which is one of the reasons why we always recruit new members of staff from outside the industry. Taking someone on with no estate agency experience means we can train them to do things the way we do them and to ensure that everyone operates at the very highest level. Your people are your most important asset; they are the ones who represent you, who live and breathe your values and ethos. Putting your time and effort into training and supporting our staff means that our clients experience absolute consistency – no matter which member of the team they’re dealing with.”
Onto the acquisitions… is it really five in eight years?
“When we started, we did what most businesses across the network do – we grew quickly, but then we plateaued, and I recognised that the only way to really grow was to acquire other businesses. We purchased our second business in 2012 with the acquisition of a further independent agent just six months later. Having brought these businesses into our existing operation, we gave them a couple of years to bed in, and in 2015 we purchased another two agencies - both within a couple of months of each other.
In 2017, I acquired a substantial local agency which saw me complete my fifth acquisition. We now have just short of 600 managed properties within our portfolio and over 900 tenant-find properties, so a successful journey so far!
So, are acquisitions the key to success?
“I believe so, and in my case – they absolutely have been. Many franchisees think it’s difficult to make an acquisition and are actually fearful of it – they don’t believe that the banks will lend them the money to do so. But in reality, it’s easy. Acquisitions are profitable and there is a substantial income to be made from them. And, as such – providing you develop a solid business case – the banks will fund you. Four out of the five acquisitions I’ve made have been funded through the bank, all of which have been rebranded as Martin & Co Sutton Coldfield and operations integrated.”
And the full integration of the acquired businesses wouldn’t have been possible without the right systems and processes that David has ensured are in place.
“Since opening the doors to our business nearly a decade ago, we’ve developed some really slick and streamlined processes, which has enabled us to undertake acquisitions easily and ensure that the transition post-completion for both staff and customers is as smooth and seamless as possible. This is the big challenge that many agents undertaking an acquisition face, but it’s absolutely possible. We acquired one of our businesses on the 8th May 2015 and had fully integrated all of the software and systems just 9 days later!”
The final words from David sum up what he believes makes a successful franchisee…
“Certainly from our own experiences, being able to relate to other people is absolutely crucial – and this is where great customer care comes in. Whether you’re engaging with a landlord or a tenant, every individual will have his or her own specific needs. For example, there are landlords who literally want to hand you the keys to their property and let you get on with it, and then there are those who want to be more involved in the process and want to know all the ins and outs. You need to be able to identify these and adapt your service accordingly – to make for happy customers, happy staff, and a healthy business.”