We were very grateful to Andrew Burnett for speaking at our meeting on 2nd September 2014 and answering questions in the discussion that followed. He told us about how he learnt the business of being an estate agent working in another agency and then took over the branch in the High Street to create his own business – Burnetts – and the lessons he has learnt along the way.
For most of us, who do not operate retail businesses, there were some interesting new insights as well as plenty of business lessons relevant to all of us whatever type of product or service we offer. Two points in particular stood out for me.
Firstly, Andrew re-iterated the importance of word of mouth for building his business. He has become very well-known in the village and is heavily involved in many local activities and this helps cement his business’s reputation for local knowledge and expertise. I had expected estate agency boards, placed on houses for sale as well as elsewhere to advertise events, to be a major driver of business since they are so visible. But Andrew said that he could happily survive without them. All this confirms the adage that “people buy from people” and nearly all of us need to go out (or go online), meet people, make and retain contacts and promote our businesses ourselves.
Secondly, Andrew revealed how over the last few years he had needed to replace most of his systems (e.g. IT and window displays) several times. As his business grew he needed better and more functional systems and the cheaper purchases turned out to only have a limited usefulness. It is a difficult balancing act for all of us to work out what support systems we can afford. While not suggesting we should spend money carelessly, I think we often tend to make do with a basic system or service that will work without thinking carefully about what features will really help us save time to concentrate on more important tasks (making, selling and collecting money) or will help us really stand out against our competition.
We wish Andrew well as he builds up his business locally.
Over the next few months we will aim to organise some more meetings soon with personal stories like Andrew’s since they are such good ways to bring key aspects of business to life.