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Phil Argent: Right, James. It’s Wednesday. It’s Tenancy Stream episode four…

James Thorn: Episode four, wow.

Phil Argent: Of building this tech startup.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Now, today, what I think we’ve been doing, and I thought it would be worthwhile sharing, is we’ve been spending a good few hours of today doing business planning, or business thinking, or understanding how we’re going to monetise the platform.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Right, okay. So, tell me, what have you heard today that you think is going to be useful to share?

James Thorn: Well, I think, you know, this morning, we were with estate agents and managing agents. And a real kind of good insight of, you know, especially on our side, we really need to understand what’s happening in the markets. And it’s clear that estate agents have been busy. You know, estate agents seem busy at the moment. Whether that’s just the initial bubble of people being on hold, not being able to do anything for so long; they’re kind of back into it, looking. And then there’s talks of what’s going to happen with the market later on in the year. You know, is the sales market going to slow down once everybody comes off furlough? Are they going to be in a position to be able to buy? Is that going to have a negative effect?

And the one thing that we’ve taken away from it is that the letting side of the industry is going to remain strong. I know it’s you know, not a nice thing to say, but if the sales market slows down, fortunately more people will be still in rented. They’ll stay renting, as they can’t get onto the property market. So, I do think towards the end of the year, quarter to four, early part of 2021, scary to say, I believe there will be more and more demand on the lettings side.

Phil Argent: Okay, so… Okay, so in context – sorry – so in context to what we’re doing, is obviously we believe that the market’s on a turn at the moment?

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: That there’s almost, we heard from an agent down in London, down in south London, today, that she believes that the market is on a pivot, and she’s been in the industry for about 17 years, runs a pretty successful agency down there. So let’s say she, she’s definitely sensing something.

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: Now, the question, we’ve had a little bit of feedback from a couple of managing agents that we’ve heard, which is fantastic for us to hear, in terms of, they’re looking to slightly change how they are running the business. Now, what we’re trying to do is also contribute to the success of a slightly different way of managing the business, the property management, real estate management business.

Now, what have you heard today that you think is going to carry on through? What are they strategically thinking about, some of these agencies, in terms of [their 0:03:15] resources?

James Thorn: Yes. I think the main thing with the agencies is looking at their businesses and firstly refining their processes, you know, whether they have got their staff back in the office, you know, refining their processes as much as possible to still be able to deal with the same volume of enquiries, transactions as they did previously. But also, it’s looking about, you know, what a few of them have said is, “What can we do differently now to be able to increase our, our fees, or be able to provide a higher level of service, to be able to get more clients at this time?” 

You know, is their way of working to increase our fees, and, with the less business that’s about.

Phil Argent: I guess that’s been useful for us to hear, because obviously what, yes, what we’re trying to do is make sure that we are building a product into the future, the future of the property industry. I mean obviously, that’s a three- to five-year sort of business plan that we’re working on. And obviously, what we’re already hearing, and already sensing, is that the market’s starting to move into that position of understanding how it can be more productive, how it can change its service levels, how it can…

James Thorn: Its service levels with potentially less people in the office.

Phil Argent: But less people in the office doesn’t mean… But that doesn’t mean, what we’ve heard is that doesn’t mean less people in the business. What it’s saying is that remote working, and the benefits and the upsides of that that have happened in the last hundred days; there are quite a few management agencies that we’re hearing that are in effect just more confident that that’s a good way of doing things.

Okay, so…

James Thorn: Yes, definitely.

Phil Argent: Okay, so that’s interesting. Now, the other thing that’s kind of coming up in our business planning, and understanding some of the other sectors that we’re looking at, is one of the other sectors we’re looking at is obviously the management of commercial properties, okay? Now, the thing that interests me most about commercial property management, okay, is this term that I’ve heard is kind of circulating around… Is it Knight Frank? 

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: The big property agency company? Yes. I always get that wrong, whether it’s Frank Knight or Knight Frank. 

James Thorn: You always call it Fright Nank, Frank Knight, for some reason. I think, “What the hell is he on about?”

Phil Argent: Well, look, they’re incredibly good. I think they are a leading force in doing things new and being very positive about the future.

James Thorn: Definitely, leading the way. And their documents and research they put together is incredible, about…

Phil Argent: Yes, we are paying very, very close attention to…

James Thorn: We’re reading it, Knight Frank. We’re reading it. 

Phil Argent: Yes…

James Thorn: We’re learning, we are learning from it.

Phil Argent: We’re listening to every single word of your narrative.

Now, the thing is that what we’re looking at, which is also something that’s sort of interesting for the future of our platform, is this term of dedensification. Now, what does that mean to you, and what do you think that means to the commercial property markets from, say, our perspective, as opposed to its perspective? Have you got any…?

James Thorn: Yes. Well, we’ll probably get back to the point we made with the residential site. That, you know, potentially, especially with the, you know, the commercial side of things, there are going to be a lot of changes. A lot of changes in that space. You know, with offices, with retail units. There’s going to be so many different changes. And it’s looking at the levels of stock potentially on the market, the potential units, spaces on the markets. 

Phil Argent: Are we going to see the same, the same narratives, do you think? Sorry, are we going to find the same narrative in the commercial sector that we’re finding in lettings and residential? Which is the dedensification is basically also a favouring term for remote working. 

James Thorn: Yes.

Phil Argent: And remote working is requiring intelligent cloud-based technology systems that allow everyone in. So do you think that commercial property management organisations have enough understanding of the technology they should be using, or the way they’re using it?

James Thorn: I would say no.

Phil Argent: Right.

James Thorn: I would say no.

Phil Argent: Do you think that the tenant is going to expect the commercial property manager, the real estate manager, to basically be doing something different?

James Thorn: I think what it will probably boil down to is, you know, any tenants in that sector potentially will be, you know, be under pressure. Whether it’s, you know, due to the drop in sales, or due to the levels of income. And for them, they’re going to be looking at, you know, the level of service they then get from their agents. And also, is there any way for the agent to save money?

Phil Argent: Right, okay.

James Thorn: [ ___ 0:08:28] to make their service more efficient?

Phil Argent: Okay, so look, we’re going to have to wrap it up there. Now, we’ve got this little stopwatch, which is, unfortunately LinkedIn only give you ten minutes to share a conversation, and we’re eight minutes…

James Thorn: Lucky for some, you’ll probably say. (Laughter)

Phil Argent: Lucky for some. Okay, so what we’re doing is, the summary is that we’re currently trying to revise our business planning, particularly we’re looking at residential lettings as a category. We’re looking at agency management as a category. And we’re also looking at commercial property management as a category of growth. So yes, so let’s wrap it up there. Thank you, James.

James Thorn: Thank you Phil, as always.

Phil Argent: Episode four. That’s a wrap.

James Thorn: That’s a wrap.