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TONY BEALES - VISION STILL CLEAR AFTER 20 YEARS IN BUSINESS
It was 20 years ago this week that Tony Beales took over the well established estate agency business of Millbank Estate Agents, then situated on the corner of Connaught Plain, Attleborough and set about running his own business for the first time, Tony now takes up the story of the last 20 years and his visions for the future.
Firstly I cannot believe how quickly the last 20 years have passed by and secondly when I look back over the last 20 years, its incredible to see how the business has transformed and moved on during this time.
When I took over in 1994 estate agency was a lot different to how it is today, the home buying process is still the same but the marketing and presentation has completely changed including how buyers now source their home purchase. Back in the day when I rebranded the business I wanted a logo which was eye catching, wouldn't date and would stand the test of time, similar to the likes of Cadbury, Coca Cola and other companies who's logos look no different to what they did 20 or 30 years ago, which is why our distinctive diamond logo is so recognisable 20 years on.
When starting out, money is always tight and it was particularly so during the first 3 years, my staffing levels were small, it was myself, a part-time secretary and a Saturday receptionist, my advertising was small consisting of quarter of a page black and white advert, the sales brochures were prepared on a pc which was on a windows 3.1 operating system and sales brochures themselves were black and white although I did produce colour brochures for larger properties where I was looking to enhance the presentation. All the pictures were stick-on colour mini prints and the window display pictures were 7 x 5 colour prints which were stuck on with the good old fashioned prit stick. All the photographs then were taken on 35mm film which
were collected by the courier and returned the next day, it is so different today with the use of digital cameras where I can take loads of images then select the best ones to use.
As the business grew in the early years the profits were re-invested back into the company to add additional benefits to our marketing including the installation of our touch screen TV which was positioned in our front window with a console in the office, this was interactive and allowed homebuyers to source properties even when we were closed, we also introduced an out of hours service so clients and homebuyers could contact me out of hours to arrange viewings and submit offers, this was very useful and proved to be a huge success.
As time moved on so did the business and so did technology, during the late 90's came the advent of the internet and the introduction of e-mail, little did we know at the time, but this was going to change our industry for good. Millbank Estate Agents were the first estate agency business in the town to have its own website and introduce e-mail, these are now the mainstays of the business today. Around this time there were also many property based websites all seeking to have a slice of the pie and vie to become the number 1 website for homebuyers to look at property on the internet. Today there are 2 main property websites which homebuyers look at, but in January 2015 there will be a third and the intention is to make "On The Market. com" the biggest property website in the country. The launch of this new site will be 26th January 2015 and all Millbank Estate Agents properties will be featured on this exciting new property portal.
The internet also levelled the playing field with our corporate competitors, we could now advertise our properties across the UK and across the world, it didn't matter that hadn't got an office
wherever, the internet changed that and as a result Millbank Estate Agents grew stronger and stronger increasing market share, yet still providing a quality professional service.
In late 2007 at the height of the last property boom, the market was beginning to run out of steam, I'd seen this happen before in 1989 when I was working for another company. I decided to set up Millbank Letting Agents in the January of 2008 as a means of generating additional revenue to overcome a possible downturn in fee income should the market crash. Later that year when the banks crashed so did the property market, values tumbled, it was difficult to sell property and more and more homeowners turned to renting out their properties as sellers were unable to sell their properties at the prices they wanted and so decided instead to rent their homes out.
The last 20 years haven't all been plain sailing, during new year 1995/96 we had a flood and the whole front and side of the office had to be re-built as it became structurally unsound, this did cause a massive upheaval but we coped and worked round the situation, it was very much a case of "business as usual". In 2009 we had a fire which thankfully wasn't as bad as it could have been and thanks to local support and kindness we were able to continue running the business whilst the offices were being cleaned, repaired and redecorated.
In 2012 with the property market showing early signs of recovery and the rental market extremely buoyant the existing premises on Connaught Plain were proving to be inadequate for the number of staff it now employed, so I took the decision to move from the site which David Millbank had established in 1979 and relocate into a 2 storey double fronted office with car parking. This has proved to be a master stroke as it has enabled us to further expand, take on new staff and this year celebrate my
20th year of running the company by enjoying the company's best ever year with more properties sold and rented than in any other previous year.
So what have we to look forward to in 2015? Well we are launching our new website which will interact with our new Web based TV Channel which will show property videos and video-etts, we will also launch a new mobile website which is specifically aimed at mobile phone and tablet users as this section of the market has seen a bigger growth than any other recently. Our e-mail based e-zine which is a magazine with a page turner has recently been launched with great success this allows homebuyers the opportunity to browse our available properties in a magazine format, click a picture/home they like the look of which then takes them straight through to the full details on our website.
With the recent changes in Stamp Duty and last week's opening of the new dualled section of A11 between Thetford and Barton Mills we are anticipating a very busy start to 2015, demand is really encouraging and Millbank Estate Agents would be delighted to talk anyone seeking a move in the new year or indeed any landlord who maybe considering renting out a property.
It really has been a privilege and an honour to run this company for the last 20 years serving the people of Attleborough and meeting some wonderful people along the way, I'd also like to pay tribute to all my staff, both current and past without whom, none of the success would have been possible and I am extremely grateful, thank you.
I'd like to finish by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a prosperous new year.