The right moves
There is potentially another great year ahead for everyone working in property and construction. There are "boom-time" conditions in almost every market, with the exception of retailing, but there is plenty of movement there too, and a changing-market means lots of transactions.
So, if we perform at the same levels as last year, we are almost guaranteed another strong outcome.
But shouldn't we all be looking to improve our performance every year?
However, with the numbers of transactions probably remaining similar, and with clients unlikely to come to us offering to increase our fees, we will have to do something different if we want to better the market average.
I'd start with a plan...
The beginning of the year is the time to reflect, and set new targets.
But we need to get "up and running" quickly, as the time will disappear fast.
Can I remind you that if you don't intend working on weekends and bank holidays, and if you have 20 or so days holidays to take, there are just 216 working days until you next sit down to Christmas dinner!
That's not a whole lot of time for devising and implementing your strategies to change the world!
We can earn more fees by "working smarter" and being more effective and more organised.
You should have a plan for what you are going to do this year for both your personal and business lives. If you don't have a plan, you are not in control and you are just drifting.
I'm a believer in setting just one or two new goals. What are the "game-changers" for you this year? A promotion? A take-over? Winning a particular new client? A career change?
Now write down the things that you are going to have to do differently each day to achieve that and stick to it.
Remember that the most effective things you do will probably be new actions for you. You will not achieve new goals by repeating your usual behaviours.
The more out of your comfort zone you feel this year, the better because that's when you're making big progress.
It's vital to work flat-out in the first quarter, and establish the foundation for a great year. I always found that worked for me.
It's tough, the days are cold and dark and the traffic's terrible.
But if you don't get your target number of deals done in the first quarter, they become agreed in the second quarter, and suddenly their completion and invoicing is due in June/July, and may slip into quarter three. It can be hard to catch up.
Probably the most effective way of improving your turnover is to increase your fee levels.
The last recession caused downwards pressure on fees, as professionals competed harder to win less work, at lower values just to stay in business.
However, now that markets have recovered, it can be hard to get the fee levels back up and certainly not in line with increasing salaries.
I'd suggest having a thorough review of the fees you are charging, and consider increasing your fees this year.
If you are successfully developing strong personal relationships with your key clients, as you should be, making clients feel special and cleverly providing some 'added value', I don't think you will get much resistance to a 10-20pc increase in agency fees, at least, and that goes straight to the bottom line.
Another big opportunity, which I don't think agents do enough of, is to suggest a bonus fee structure, where you earn substantial extra fees for achieving prices or rents ahead of expectations.
Clients usually like these and are delighted to pay them where you produce great results.
So rather than your usual percentage applying to the whole deal, you will have higher bands of fees for increasing prices.
One or two bonanza deals, which can happen in these markets, will see you set new records for fee income.
I wish everyone the best of luck. Write your plan, be brave and work smarter.