You can meet some extraordinary people on Twitter. I crossed paths with Chris from Property Plunge recently and he offered me a Q & A to post on his website. Take the time to read his story whilst you are on his website, he is a very interesting young man. Or look him up on Twitter @PropertyPlunge.
Today should have been the day I launched my business. Things haven’t exactly gone to plan, the world seems to have had other ideas.
Instead of pitching to agents, I’m using my time to upskill, I haven’t been able to talk to landlords, but I have been attending online versions of the courses that were cancelled a couple of months ago. I have experienced my first webinar, and several since!
I will have more to offer when restrictions are lifted. Now is the time to stay safe, not to look for loopholes in the government guidelines. I will do all the learning I can from home during lockdown and be ready and eager to jump in the deep end at the lifting of the COVID-19 restrictions.
… at least for now. Some elements will have changed forever, but mostly we will return to normal, maybe with a heightened sense of hygiene and a greater appreciation of those who are key workers.
Government advice about COVID-19 is updated every day, the rate of change has been rapid, and for good reason. A lot of every day life is on hold for the foreseeable future with no definite end date in sight. People are worried for themselves or for vulnerable loved ones.
The intended launch of MB Inventories in mid May is in doubt. I’m not kidding myself. A lot of the preparation prior to starting up has been disrupted and delayed. Staffing levels of outside agencies have been impacted and gatherings of more than two people have been banned, so face to face meetings and training courses are all on hold for now.
Strangely, it is almost exciting having to rise to these new challenges. No one knows for sure what the future will look like, how we will work, or what new measures will stay in place.
There is still a lot to do behind the scenes to get MB Inventories ready to trade, but I will hit the ground running when the time is right.
The Penny Drops
Starting a brand new business from scratch was never going to be easy, I was under no illusion, but of course, I was not prepared for how much there was to do before even launching.
I was working part-time and had acquired a skill. It slowly dawned on me that this new string to my bow could open an opportunity, a chance I had to grab. I had a long, hard think, sought opinions from friends and family and made my decision. The first of many.
This is my first solo venture, and I’m finding it liberating. I have to make choices, and I will make mistakes, but they are mine to make. The buck stops here. No “Can I refer you to my manager?”, that is me.
I needed a name. I would pick one, and try it out for a few days, roll it around, write it down and then discard it. Do I want my location, my name, some identifier? I wanted to stay under the radar until I was almost ready to launch, so strangely, I needed a degree of anonymity. I finally settled on an obscure reference to my daughter – MB. I am now MB Inventories.
With a name, I could buy a website name and set up an email account.
Then I considered logos and colours. The colours had to mean something, I had to be able to explain my choices. White (background) for clarity, grey (writing) for impartiality, blue for truth and purple for honesty. I knew I wanted an image of a house surrounded by a protective ring and with my husband’s computer skills, was able to produce exactly what I had in mind.
The font was going to be slick, simple, clear, no serifs, no faff.
My public image is important. I will wear a version of a uniform. When I am face to face with clients, letting agents, landlords, or tenants, I will wear grey trousers and a smart white shirt. On site, practicality suggests cargo trousers and a white polo shirt, grey fleece or coat, with the tops bearing the company logo.
Once I had a logo and corporate colours, I could start branding template documents, a website, social media pages and clothing. I had template letters, invoices, a business plan, a selection of business card mock-ups and a head full of ideas.
I had to work out a pricing structure. I looked at other inventory clerks nationally and locally. Living and working in a rural county, there is a lot of travelling, incurring extra cost, but luckily I am central to the county. I have kept my prices on the low end to begin, I can review them in the future.
The business plan was daunting. I had never seen one, and the examples I downloaded were the equivalent to War and Peace! I did not need funding, so this document was not intended to sell my idea to any investor. I finally found a basic template (thank you Pinterest) and was able to break it down into bite size pieces.
I decided to focus on just a couple of social media platforms instead of trying to cover them all. I have Facebook and Twitter pages and I am exploring LinkedIn. I post pictures, little fun bits and repost articles that I feel are relevant.
I will reach out to private landlords and tenants on Facebook, and connect with other businesses on Twitter.
It is very convenient having a retired business consultant in the family. Cousin Ian is always on the end of an email, ready with advice and happy to point me in the right direction.
I happened across a free Business Drop-In Clinic locally. I met Darren Thomas, a business adviser from Business Wales (a company I follow on social media) and Colin Evans, an associate from Business Doctors.
Darren signed me up to a day’s training course. I showed him my progress so far, and I seem to be on the right course.
Colin focussed more on marketing and sales. This is new territory for me and I will accept all the help I can get. I need to learn how to sell. I mean, what on earth is an Elevator Pitch? Time for more research.
I came away from the clinic with a lot of advice, a to-do list, a date for a training course and a follow up appointment with Colin to monitor my progress so far.
Registering with Official Bodies
I have registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and paid the £40.00 fee. I wanted to do this well ahead of my launch so not all the annual renewals will occur at the same time.
I have to consider insurance. I will need Professional Indemnity and Public Liability, and possibly other cover. I will put this in place just before I launch, I do not want to be paying monthly premiums without any income. I have business class insurance on my car, so that box is already ticked.
Whilst I am still working part time for a letting agent, I cannot be accredited with Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) because I am not considered independent, even though there will be no crossover.
GDPR is a big new consideration. It might be easier for me, I have to have everything in place before I start and not have to worry about changing practices that might have been in place for years.
Getting Ready for Launch
Time is getting close to announce a start date. I have decided on May 2020. Probably Monday 18th, but kick off on the social media pages over the weekend of the 16th and 17th. How big do I want to go? Do I contact the local radio or newspapers to cover my launch? I’m all for free publicity, but mine is such a niche market it would not be prudent to spend much on general advertising.
Have a lot to learn before I start, and I will keep learning as I go. I am hopeful, nervous and determined.
Most tenancies run smoothly, only the horror stories make the headlines. Landlords and agents have responsibilities to ensure properties are safe and fit homes, but tenants also have to keep their end of the bargain. This guide published by Rent Smart Wales answers a lot of questions that tenants may have.
If there is a dispute at the end of your tenancy, you will need to produce evidence to support your claim.
This is a useful guide from the Deposit Protection Service (DPS) for claims for different items or issues. An accurate inventory is essential evidence to prove the differences between the start and the end of a tenancy.
This is another very good reason to update your inventory, even if only one tenant leaves and the others remain in your property. Read through this case study.
Here is everything you need to know about the Renting Homes (Fees Etc.) (Wales) Act 2019, otherwise known as the Tenant Fee Ban. It comes into force today, 1st September 2019 and has implications for Landlords, Agents and Tenants.
Launching 2020! Keep checking in for news and updates.