Nick Brown: What I’d do differently if I started my business again

Seven years ago Nick Brown started building Edge Property from the ground up. It was hard work but he's now built a business that generates solid organic growth with a solid reputation. Here he explains some of his wins and losses and what he'd do differently if he had his time over.

Almost seven years ago, I decided to open an agency and work for myself, after having worked for numerous smaller and larger agencies throughout my career, some independent, some franchise.

One thing I knew back then was that I wanted to create a brand that, both internally and externally, looked like its number one focus was people, not property.

Don’t get me wrong, I love property, probably more than most, but our industry and career are about working with people – the property is just the link between us all.

You can be a big or small business and still focus on people and not have clients think they are just a number in the system.

But it takes tenacity, strength, and patience to continue that mindset as the years go by because business can be tough at times.

I love the brand I created and my reputation within my client base and amongst my industry peers.

Would I do things differently if I was starting over again? Of course, I would.

Would it give me a different result to what I have as a business now? Maybe not.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing, and we would all be able to look back and say, “If I did things a little differently at the start, I’d be….”.

But the truth is you can’t turn back time, and you can’t change things that have already happened.

What you can do though, as cliché as it sounds, is learn from your past decisions and results and move forward into the next chapter of your business with a somewhat different mindset.

The facts

I started my business with just one property under management and very minimal capital behind me.

I was fortunate enough to be earning an income elsewhere, so I wasn’t dependant on the brand kicking off with a large turnover from the outset.

As time went on, I transitioned from focusing on my other income source to making Edge Property more financially viable.

This was tough to balance some weeks and months and saw me doing 80-plus hours a week at times and wondering if it was all worth it.

I wanted to ensure, no matter how quickly or slowly the business evolved, that it did so organically and kept the focus on the people, not the property (or the dollars).

I am not a direct, money-driven person.

Don’t get me wrong, we all need it to get by, but anyone in business solely focused on filling their back pockets will not build a brand that has longevity, client support and retention.

Nor will they have a business that ticks along well even in the tougher times we face.

Today I manage a small portfolio of rentals, and growth is based on reputation, referral and support of my friends, family, and existing clients.

Edge Property still manages the first property that kicked things off almost seven years ago.

I have built my brand to be one that people talk about, so half of the job is done when it comes to people wanting to come on board with team Edge – a fact I smile about each day.

Would I do it differently if I had my time again?

Hindsight is great, but I am proud of the decisions I have made, even those that didn’t work out well.

Those decisions made me understand and learn what can negatively impact my business (and me personally).

If I had my time over:

  • I’d study a business management or operations course. I know a lot about real estate, but I learnt the hard way about finances, budgets and all the ‘behind the scenes’ work involved in working on a business.
  • I’d create a marketing plan (mini and major) for the business and keep some consistency in getting my brand out there. It’s so easy to get side-tracked from working ‘on’ the business when you are building it from the ground up and working ‘in’ it more than ‘on’ it.
  • I’d roster downtime, no matter how busy or hectic life feels. It took me nearly four years to have a proper break away from the business, and even then, I was still doing the trust accounting remotely. I learnt that you are not good to the business or clients when you are burnt out. Taking some time to remember to be Nick, and not Nick the real estate agent, was a tough thing to insert into my day-to-day. I looked back and said to myself, ‘What’s the point of working so hard and creating a business if Nick doesn’t get to have some downtime and enjoy his life’? 
  • Don’t compare yourself to others. Sure, you can use other business models as gauges and gather ideas of what you would like to be and how you would like to be seen, but don’t get angry if you aren’t identical.

To me, the key has and always will be to build the brand you want.

Build it your way, and build it in a way you are proud of.

Don’t be upset if things don’t go according to plan – use those crossroad moments to review what’s working and what isn’t.

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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.