One-on-one interview: Ken McEwan of McEwan Fraser Legal
Ken McEwan has overcome a heart attack and epilepsy diagnoses to build an award winning, £5m estate agency network in the last four years. Here, he talks to Clare Bettelley about the secrets of his success, including his late office opening hours, which he insists aren't a gimmick.
What is your turnover and pre-tax profit for your last financial year? The figures aren't finalized, but we're going to be looking at around about the £5m+ mark and about £1.5m profit for the 12 months to April 20 2014.
What is your biggest profit driver? The fact that we hold fast on our fee structure of 2%, whereas in most agencies in Scotland, they seem to be charging around about the 0.75% mark. We do charge a premium for what we do, but people are responding well to that because they see the value of our proposition.
What do clients most value? It's a combination of factors, such as being open until midnight, the quality of our software to be able to get client feedback and the quality of our salespeople. Our valuers carry binoculars, a compass and damp metres, so they look different from someone just out to get a listing.
What is on the agenda for the business in 2014? We've just acquired an office from The Scottish Property Centre, a franchise-type operation across Scotland. The managing director of the franchise operation in the Inverness area has transferred to us. We'll market property through the franchise andinherit about six to 10 sales people off the back of that.
How do you keep staff motivated?We make them part of the business. We have our senior people in a partnership-type arrangement, so they get a share in the profits of the business.We've also launched a very successful awards ceremony for staff.
What is your pay policy? Rather than increase people's salary, we pay them fixed monthly bonuses, which we pay until we feel that their performance is not up to scratch or if sales come down. So we're not straddled with high costs if the business takes a dip because we reserve the right to reduce these bonuses or if a particular member of staff isn't pulling their weight. But the bonuses are linked to business not individual performance. They're 10% of salary for fixed salary staff.
What is the secret of your success?I looked at what other people in the industry weren't doing and basically went about to change that. The biggest problem in Scotland is being contactable, which is why we're open seven days a week and until midnight during the week.
What would you say to critics who dismiss this as a gimmick? It's not a gimmick. We've got high quality people coming in for these shifts - university graduates and working mothers, which creates good opportunities when talking to clients. We're not phoning people until midnight; we use the time to catch up. The production of brochures, for example, doesn't have to be in customer-focused time. My long-term vision for the business is to be a 24-hour operation.
What top tip would you share with fellow business owners? Look at what your competitors are doing, do it differently and do it better.