One-on-one interview: Dominic Agace of WInkworth
Winkworth has been busy reviewing its network to ensure that franchisees are fit for purpose. Here, Dominic Agace, Winkworth's chief executive officer, explains that purpose to Clare Bettelley.
You've been busy scrutinising franchisees' performance. Why? We're trying to make sure that we're as strong as we can be, and that franchisees are one of the top two agents in every market. So where we feel that people aren't fulfilling that, we speak to them about whether they're connected to the business and whether it's the right thing for them to be doing. Our businesses sell quite well, so people can always go in another direction. We're not addressing all the weak ones, but we're trying, where they aren't performing, to have a conversation and giving them options.
What are these options? We'll help back franchisees if they want to do up their office interior, or change sites, or look at taking on new marketing campaigns. In the last few years, we've been happy to support them by investing in them, which might have been by providing them with finance, because they've not been able to get that from the banks.
And how do you define underperforming - what's your criteria?
There isn't a set target. There are so many things that affect performance. It's about realising the potential of the people and individuals in the network. We want our offices to be competitive and for everyone to have the ambition to be a top-two operator. It's more about us having a shared vision.
What's your vision for the future of Winkworth?
We've spent the last few years going out there and saying that we're a London company and that we want to be a national company, and in country markets where we can bring our London buyer down and add value. We went to independent agents and invited them to join us and plug into our database and London buyers in return for help to grow their market share. We've done a lot of that now, and with that footprint established, we're no longer purely London and it's really just about us now maximising the network we've got.
So more office openings? This year we're almost slowing down our office openings, because we want to look at taking more of the market, as the market improves, by relocating and upgrading our offices.
What will the office upgrade involve? Our brand strategy includes an office design that creates a more friendly and connected environment - not intimidating or austere in any way - so the introduction of kitchen tables and warmer colours and warmer lights, which is hopefully welcoming. Ultimately, our brand strategy is about doing things differently, which is to reflect who we are. We are a bit of a different agency in terms of having proprietor-led businesses, where people are deeply invested in their businesses, because clearly they're the life blood, so we're pushing that as our point of difference.
Your full-year results for 2013 are out next month. What can we expect?I'm a bit hamstrung about what I can say, obviously, but hopefully it's been a good year. We're comfortable with our expectations for 2013 and how we've performed.