Not every boardroom or senior property industry executive wants to or can stay at the top for good.
The pressures of internal politics, ambitious targets and a volatile housing market persuade many to look for job satisfaction away from the hurly burly of corporate life.
But where to? The most recent example is Graham Lock, the former managing director of estate agency giant The Property Franchise Group (TPFG), who revealed last week that he was establishing a trade body.
Called the Federation of Independent Agents (FIA) it is the latest attempt to offer SME agents a separate voice to the Propertymark family of trade bodies including ARLA and the NAEA.
Whether the FIA succeeds remains to be seen, but Lock’s background gives it a greater likelihood of success.
“What struck me [at TPFG}] was the support that the franchisees were craving and indeed paying for via their monthly service fee to the franchisor,” he says.
“I quickly realised the value of being part of a larger network, dealing with the over-crowded suppliers marketplace and emergence of ‘proptech’, the large networking meetings of non-competing agents, training and of course favourable commercial deals from approved suppliers.
“I left TPFG to begin research into the independent agency marketplace, to see how it had changed since the early 2000s.
“I was unsurprised to learn that there was still a huge gap in the market for a large network group of non-competing agents to help them with everything I’d seen in the online agency world and the franchise business.
Lock says he set up the FIA to give selected independent agents the opportunity to gain a competitive advantage, a point of difference to their local peers and to go head to head with the corporates and franchised networks.
“The idea is to be part of something bigger, to have access to corporate rate deals and franchise-grade support so that they can feel part of a group of like-minded business people in a non-competing way,” he says.
But Lock is not the only executive to plough a more singular furrow and leaving a big corporation. Here we track down some of the other key players who once worked for the UK’s big estate agency brands to find out what path they followed.
Formerly: Board member at Connells for 12 years.
Now: Runs his own estate agency consultancy called Integra Property Services and is also a non-exec director at lettings platform teclet.
Mike says the biggest difference between being part of a big business and going it alone is not having ‘anyone around you’ and that if the new venture fails it’s your fault.
“It’s not for everybody and there’s plenty of people who have stepped out of big companies whether they’ve been asked to or chosen to, and then struggled,” he says.
“I think they then realise it’s a lonely place – it may be brutal around a boardroom sometimes but at least there’s half a dozen other people there who are a sounding board.”
Mike says it’s also not about lifestyle. He works as hard now as he did when on the board at Connells, but likes being in total control of his diary.
“If I don’t want to do something, I don’t do it, although of course it has a financial impact. I am on 100% performance related pay,” he says.
One other aspect of quitting the corporate life is the importance of networking. Mike claims that if someone hasn’t been working hard at cultivating a wide range of contacts, going it alone can difficult to reach your target audience whether it’s backers, clients or supporters.
Formerly: Chief Commercial Officer at ZPG
Now: CEO of alternative rental deposit platform Zero Deposit.
“While my contacts and experience at Zoopla gave me a great head start with Zero Deposit, it’s been a steep learning curve going from an established business with top of the range infrastructure in place to starting from scratch on my own business with a constant careful eye on every penny spent.
“But the exhilaration of building my own business, choosing the direction and seeing growth as a result is second to none.
“I would say I wish I’d done it sooner, but I wouldn’t be in this position if I hadn’t had the big business experience first.
“Zero Deposit is a big help for tenants who appreciate an option that reduces the upfront cost of renting.
“There are a number of benefits for landlords including a faster rental process, more demand for their properties and more protection than a cash deposit – after 1st June they get six weeks’ protection from Zero Deposit but only a maximum of 5 weeks with a cash deposit.
“Agents benefit from all of the above plus they can earn a referral commission for introducing their customers.”
Formerly: Senior Area Director, Connells
Now: Recruitment Director, Rayner Black Consultancy
Formerly: Commercial Director, Countrywide
Now: Running Nick Dunning Associates, parent company to Townends and Stirling Ackroyd.
Formerly: Commercial Operations Director, Rightmove
Now: Director of Sales, Goodlord
Formerly: Director of PRS at LSL
Now: UK Sales Director at IdealFlatmate
Formerly: Head of Lettings, Rightmove CEO, Housesimple
Now: CEO, Housesimple
Formerly: Executive Director, LSL
Now: Investor in Ask Porter, BriefYourMarket, Your Move & Reed Rains franchise owner.
Formerly: Managing Director of Countrywide’s Estate Agency Division
Now: Managing Director of Callwell, a tech company that enables agents to monitor, chase and control leads via its state-of-the-art telephony system.
Formerly: Director at Connells
Now: CEO of Purplebricks Australia
Formerly: Managing Director of John D Wood
Now: CEO & Regional Operating Partner at Keller Williams