John Knight: are you winning ugly?

The market may have boomed in recent years but behind the scenes many real estate businesses are struggling with their systems, culture and staff taking a hit. John Knight examines what you can do to stop 'winning ugly' and set a new north star for your business.

Talking to a good friend of mine recently, she was sharing the story of how her business was getting some amazing results, but deep down (in her gut), she knew things were not great.

She said, “We are winning, but it’s ugly!”

It was a comment that resonated with me because it’s a familiar feeling many business owners feel right now – especially in the real estate industry. 

In the real estate industry in the past couple of years, I dare say some businesses have had amazing success that is not directly the result of something special they’ve done themselves.

It is more down to being in the right place at the right time.

Pretty much everyone with a real estate business is getting great financial results.

But behind the scenes, it’s not pretty – systems, culture and the humans may be broken.

Are you ‘winning ugly’?

Here are some of the areas we have been working on with our clients in real estate to help them fix the backend of their businesses.


The leaders of a business can burn out, and lately, I’m seeing the leaders of real estate businesses exhausted and, to be honest, a little lost.

So invest in yourself, shout yourself a break and revisit the foundations of your business and why you are doing what you are doing.

A great place to start is with a bit of self-awareness.

We use the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) for personality profiling and find it helps individuals, not just leaders, become aware of how their behaviours and actions may appear to others.


Everyone scraps in during a crisis to do whatever they have to do.

Now that you can, hopefully, take a breath, it’s time to ask yourself a few key questions including:

  • Am I the right person to do this task? 
  • Is someone else better to do this?
  • Where do I provide the most value?

Revisit roles and responsibilities in your business, or maybe even use some of the spare cash you have around the place to invest in new roles that would transform and improve your business for the long term.


Teams are not the well-oiled machines they once were pre-Covid.

When a culture breaks down, tolerating a deviation from the business’s values can cause the most harm.

Your values are core to your business and should be non-negotiable.

But, we all tolerate a few more things than usual when we are under stress or pressure.

Revisit your values with the team by workshopping what they mean to the individuals in your business or openly reward those adhering to the values.

Systems and processes

We have all heard a lot about things never going back to ‘normal’, and instead, we should be focusing on finding our ‘next normal’.

Likewise, some businesses made big leaps with their systems and processes during the peak of Covid, but now need to think about what the ‘next level’ of progress looks like.

Whether embracing more tech or just refining processes to remove waste and inefficiency, permit yourself to spend some time with your team to find where the next level improvements will be made.

Revision and replanning

Many have found a need in their business to set a new vision or put plans in place for the next growth phase.

Maybe you’ve achieved the goals you previously set?

Perhaps you are just not energised by the old targets anymore.

Setting a new north star for your business will provide clarity of focus and effort and is a great way to get the team energised and motivated again.

You may have noticed that I haven’t talked about the financial position of your business.

That is because with most real estate businesses ‘winning’ from a financial perspective, that is not the major problem they are going through right now. 

There’s a real opportunity here to use the equity you have created and reinvest it, so you avoid the ‘ugly’ while making your business stronger forever and a day.

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John Knight

John Knight is the Managing Director of businessDEPOT, a team of energetic accountants and advisors.