Nick Brown: The show must go on

When Nick Brown was struck down with a rare disease that required a long hospital stay and rehabilitation, he knew he didn't have to worry about work. Since establishing Edge Property Agents, Nick put in place systems and procedures to ensure his business could successfully run without him. Here, he reveals what plans he put in place and the things you should consider to ensure your business can survive without you.

I have always tried to have Edge Property Agents evolve so that any team member can do any role in the business.

The plan isn’t perfect, but it has worked so far for the long weekends I try and get away and escape the rat race.

Recently I was unfortunately admitted to hospital with a rare disease that could potentially shut my body down to the point of needing to be in ICU on a ventilator.

This was a scary thought for someone who’s never been admitted to hospital, especially when I thought what was happening was no more than a pinched nerve preventing me from walking properly.

Fast forward through five weeks of treatment and rehabilitation, learning to walk, type, sit, stand and be ‘normal’ again, and I am now home and working part-time.

If that wasn’t enough, to top it off, I contracted Covid on day one of my hospital visit.

While personal health and wellbeing are more important than anything else in business, I knew I was in good hands with my team.

Not only did they step up to the plate, they went above and beyond to ensure I didn’t have to worry about what was happening in my business so I could focus on my health.

Sure, laptops and mobiles make working remotely easy but, to be honest, there were a couple of weeks that I just couldn’t even turn the computer on, let alone type an email or concentrate on a real estate matter. 

When I launched Edge, I had two key goals in mind.

One was to create flexibility in my life.

To do that, I needed to ensure that whatever I did ‘in’ the business could be done by someone else.

That has always been important to me, and if you have read any of my other Elite Agent articles, you will know I am very focused on having a team supporting me and know my role is to support my team.

My business doesn’t exist without each person embracing their role and supporting the rest of the team. 

My general all-around team support person works part-time, and I am very grateful that she was able to jump in and work full-time (and still is) for me at short notice.

That is something I am so very blessed to have, as not all businesses have that kind of resource.

With that said, the way our business is set up, we can work 100 per cent remotely without our customers realising something is going on behind the scenes.

Our business is far from perfect, but we strive to ensure our clients and customers feel minimal impact if there is a hurdle we need to jump.

If we need to tell them something, we do so clearly and at the earliest practical opportunity.

We aren’t afraid to tell them we might need a little extra time as someone is unwell, and we aren’t scared to tell them that we need to check with another team member.

We don’t use it as an excuse, we use that method to show the clients and customers we are human, and we want to make sure we get it right for them instead of providing incorrect advice.

Over the past five or so years, I have noticed more and more agencies become small, home-based setups.

Another trend that has taken place from an affordability and budget perspective is the use of offshore staffing and resources.

I have seen the offshore support work well, but I believe you still need ‘feet on the ground’ for the ‘hit by a bus’ scenario.

My personal experience has proven my thoughts correct.

If I relied more on offshore solutions to save some dollars, I wouldn’t have had a business to return to after five weeks in hospital. 

A little checklist I created some time ago for these unforeseen moments helped ensure my business strategy was as foolproof as possible. It included:

  • As a sole director of the business, who can sign, authorise and be legally empowered to handle situations if I am incapacitated? My solicitor helped me realise this quite a few years ago, and I have the relevant paperwork in place to help cover me with this situation.
  • Can my team handle the trust accounting transactions and duties in my absence and what “checkpoints” do I have to make sure the potential risk is minimised? My team can process receipts, create payments, and handle anything I can. I need to know the team can do this for our clients.
  • Who can I call in in a time of need? Not only did I have my team step up (as I expected), but my family was an integral part of the business’s behind-the-scenes during my illness. Friends and industry colleagues even helped when I needed someone with experience to assist the team.
  • What do I need to relay to clients (if required) about the situation? We never want to have a client think we can’t perform our duties, but I believe in being transparent about situations when needed. 
  • What legalities do I need to ensure are covered if I cannot oversee and operate the business (licensing, staffing, operational etc)?
  • Financially, an unexpected illness can be crippling for a small business. Not being able to generate income if you are absent, additional resourcing costs, and potentially having the wrong insurance covers can all be challenges. As business owners, we pay a fortune for those rainy-day scenarios but is the cover what we need and how long until it kicks in? 

As my health improved, I was able to have a remote meeting each morning with my team to ensure that anything I did need to be aware of was discussed.

It also allowed me to see my team could do it without me if needed.

That’s not a bad thing – it means what I set out to establish worked.

Not only could I focus on my health when needed, it empowered my team to see they have grown, evolved, and become an integral part of Team Edge.

I’ve still got a way to go, but I know that both personally and professionally, I have this covered.

Without my team and the plan we have in place, it would be difficult, so I’m glad we have the team and set-up we do!

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Nick Brown

With over 20 years’ wide-ranging experience in real estate, Nick Brown is the founder of Edge Property and runs his own Training and Advisory Service to educate agencies and their teams.