Cut her down the middle (not that we ever would), and we all know Emma would have Essex written through her like a stick of Margate rock. So she was over the moon to chat to Nick Cheshire, creator of multi-award-winning estate agency Nest in Essex, recently, when she asked him to answer our 24 fingers questions.
24 Fingers: Hello Nick, good day so far?
Nick: Yeah, it’s been okay, it’s been interesting. Lots of touching base with clients and reassuring at the moment. So it’s certainly interesting, but it’s been a good day.
24 fingers: We were talking earlier and it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster the last five weeks. But it’s good to hear that you’re still able to communicate with your clients. I’m going to kick off, if that’s all right, with what’s your favourite word?
Nick: It’s going to sound a bit of a cliche but I like the word “collaborate”. For a mixture of reasons but mainly because my job involves collaborating with a lot of individuals and it works better when you do that. But I think it’s a word that’s not used enough and particularly in business, I think people shy away from collaborating together.
24 fingers: That’s a really good point. I think sometimes when people want to collaborate, they only see what’s in it for them whereas actually a true collaboration is where both parties win.
Nick: Exactly, exactly. It’s good because there’s gonna be things that the other party can bring to the table the same as you can bring to the table. So kind of working together, it does make sense.
24 fingers: Very good, I like it. So what gets you up in the morning?
Nick: Normally my alarm clock but really it’s the kids. I’ve got triplet boys who are now eight and I’ve got a one year old daughter as well. Just making sure that they’ve got a nice comfortable life is really what gets me up.
24 fingers: It’s a driver, yeah. As a parent I’d 100% agree with that. So, what do you truly, honestly think of social media?
Nick: It’s a minefield. I think it’s one of those things that if you can get it right, then it’s really, really good. But also, if you get it wrong, it can go the other way. I think it’s far, far more complicated than I initially thought and I think the same as many businesses think it’s just as simple as posting something and it will take care of itself. I like it, I spent too much time on it. But I think it’s a major part of businesses now.
24 fingers: If anybody also is sitting there thinking, “actually, I find it a minefield too”, come along to one of our workshops. I did an email workshop this morning, and took nine business owners through how to email more effectively. We do one platform a week, and next week we’ve got reviews and testimonials, the following week we’ve got creative apps. If anybody’s thinking, “Actually, do you know what? I’m trying social media and it’s not really doing it for me, I’m not getting what I want out of it”, come to the workshop. They’re two hours, they cost between £20 and £25, are really accessible and there’s the chance to ask us individual questions as well. So, thank you, Nick.
24 fingers: Kindles or books?
Nick: Neither. I’m not a book reader. I listen to audiobooks on my phone when I walk the dog.
24 fingers: You’ve got a third option. So you’re in property and real estate, what do you think is the biggest challenge to your industry right now?
Nick: Education of the general public because I think estate agents have got a bad reputation, which was gained over many, many years, mostly during the 1980s and 1990s.
24 fingers: Shiny suit syndrome.
Nick: Exactly. I think the problem is the industry’s moved on massively, particularly in the last, I’d say, five to 10 years. But I think the general public have an issue of they’re not quite educated about what is an acceptable level for an estate agent, what they should accept from their agent, and also what is not acceptable. That balance isn’t there, and I think if the public – it’s not their fault because estate agents are secretive creatures that don’t like to give much away – I think if the public are educated about that, it’s going to improve the standard of the industry.
It’s an amazing industry, it really is brilliant, and you get to meet some really remarkable characters, particularly with their own story and their own background. So it’s so, so interesting. But unfortunately, if you’re a really good agent surrounded by a bad bunch, you just get grouped in that bunch, unfortunately.
24 fingers: I think it’s especially important if somebody’s an accidental landlord as well or just considering doing buy to let, you can make some huge mistakes by not choosing the right agent, can’t you?
Nick: Yes, and the problem with agents as well is that a lot of the time an estate agent is appointed based on that valuation meeting that they have. That pitch that they deliver at that point is so polished and so well-practised that it’s going to be perfect. But it’s the “after” bit that kind of takes that effect and I think people jump into that decision far too quickly and then they live to regret it, but they’re stuck in a contract so they can’t do anything about it, and it falls back to that education thing.
I think if they’re asking the right questions, they’re going really find out who they’re dealing with. But it’s certainly an interesting industry.
24 fingers: It’s a good point. I think also in terms of valuation, is that things can be so varied, can’t they? You know, one valuation up here, one valuation down there, so that’s a really good point. So, did you want to be an estate agent when you were growing up?
Nick: No, I didn’t.
24 fingers: What did you want to be?
Nick: I didn’t really have an aim, I was a little bit lost. Up until about 20, 21, I was just a little bit lost. I mean, as a small, small kid, I wanted to be a policeman. That was my thing when I was a kid. But growing up in my teens, I was just a little bit lost, I didn’t quite know where I wanted to be, where I’d fit in. I quite enjoyed art, but I didn’t really have any aims. Then something twigged when I was 21 and I just kind of fell into it. More because I was encouraged by somebody who said that I wouldn’t get the job, so that I went in determined.
24 fingers: It was a bit of a wager.
Nick: Yeah. That’s kind of how it started. But yeah, certainly if you’d have gone back to 12-year-old Nick and said to him, “Would you be in this position when you’re 30?” I probably would’ve laughed.
24 fingers: You’ve answered my next question, so I’m gonna move on. Your favourite word was “collaborate”, can you use it in a sentence?
Nick: I think businesses need to collaborate more.
24 fingers: Okay, now can you make it rhyme?
Nick: Oh, you got me there, you got me there. I’ve picked a hard word, haven’t I? I can’t think of a rhyme for that one.
24 fingers: It could be, “There’s nothing better than when I collaborate with my mate”?
Nick: Perfect, we’ll go with that.
24 fingers: So what advice would you give to 12-year-old Nick?
Nick: Don’t take life too seriously. I think growing up, going through school, where it’s ingrained in us that we need to be serious and everything is important and really, it’s not.
24 fingers: Don’t tell my 18 year old that.
Nick: I think just enjoy things more because even down to school grades and growing up and that bit, I just think it’s so ingrained in us that it’s so serious, when nothing towards my schooling kinda led to what I’m doing now. So I think just don’t take things so seriously and enjoy yourself.
24 fingers: I’m putting my hands over his ears but yeah, I know what you mean. What’s the best thing anyone’s ever done for you?
Nick: It was a gentleman, I won’t mention his name, but before I started my business, I was in a pretty bad position and my luck was down a little bit and he kind of pulled me aside and had a chat, and it was a chat that wasn’t expected and I mean, we worked together, we got on fine, but it was a chat that I do think changed the entire course where my life went from that point. Because he pulled me aside and he felt so strongly like he had to say it, that transformed a lot.
24 fingers: Amazing, I can relate to that. Tell me, what’s been your career-defining moment? You might not have had it so far yet, it might be to come.
Nick: I think it’s the transformation of my business because it has been two different things. When I first started, we went on the low-cost kind of agency model, then about two years ago, we changed what we were doing and how we were doing it and became one of the most expensive locally. When I started getting feedback from that particular type of service and when naturally fees start coming in, there was a bit of a moment where it felt right. Then out of nowhere, we won five awards in the space of three months.
24 fingers: Go, Nick.
Nick: Thank you. It was that sort of period of time that I think was my career-defining moment.
24 fingers: Love that, very inspiring. So if you want to give awards of some kind, who would you thank?
Nick: This is gonna sound cliche and corny…
24 fingers: Do it, do it.
Nick: My grandad.
24 fingers: Oh, lovely.
Nick: He was a big character growing up and he’s someone that I’ve always had a lot of respect for and unfortunately he passed away when I was quite young, well, in my mid teens, but it’s someone that I’ve kind of always felt is gonna be proud of everything I’m doing.
24 fingers: Love that. So can you give us a time saver of the day? Is there anything that you do that you can share, to save a few minutes?
Nick: I think automation. I think putting automation into your business, and whether it’s things like email, certain advertising platforms, ways to deal with enquiries, just that automation can save so much time and that time can be used elsewhere and most importantly, family time. Having some evenings back and having that time back. So yeah, I think automation is definitely the best thing.
24 fingers: You’re 100% right. So like I said, we had the email workshop this morning, we were talking about email automation, the difference it’s made in our business, and yeah, 100% agree, if you can automate it, do it.
But then I’ve only got one child, you’ve got four, so you definitely need it. Where do you see the property industry in 24 months?
Nick: There’s a big change going on at the moment, particularly the way the portals have got a bit of a dominance. So with things like Rightmove, they’ve got quite a dominance in the industry. I foresee agencies going, and what I mean by that is I mean estate agencies as a company, they’re going to become less important and I think the individuals who work in them are going to become more important. So when you look at some external property industries like the Australian model and the American model, it’s a lot on the real estate agents as individuals.
24 fingers: It’s more about individual relationships, isn’t it?
Nick: Exactly, exactly, and they work under an umbrella of some form and I think the UK’s gonna start adopting that model and we’re gonna see estate agents reviewed and audited individually as well. So people know they’re dealing with Nest in Essex, but it’s Nick they’re dealing with from there. I think that’s going to be where this industry is going over the next couple of years.
24 fingers: I think that would probably lend itself to being more of a sourcing agent as well than purely going to a shop window.
Nick: Yeah, I think with the likes of Rightmove, Zoopla, Prime Location, there are a few others as well and there’s a new one being launched this month, being able to find that property is fairly easy but having an agent to negotiate on your purchase is gonna be a regular thing. So not all agents offer that at the moment. They all do it on the sale but nobody seems to do it on the purchase. I think a point in an agent to negotiate the price on your purchase, that’s also gonna become a mainstream thing.
24 fingers: Interesting. We’ll all be Kirsty and Phils. So where were you 24 months ago?
Nick: I was in a bit of a position where I was debating on whether I wanted to carry on doing this. I’d had three tough years trying to get the business up and running on that low fee model. I had a bit of inspiration and it was really a turning point, that I needed to decide do I want continue this and give it my all? Or knock it on the head and go and find a secured employed role? So I was a little bit lost and I was kid of looking for a bit of clarity, which did come very quickly after.
24 fingers: Otherwise we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing today. Can you tell us an interesting fact about your company?
Nick: It started from my spare bedroom with a budget of £55.
24 fingers: And look at you now. If you could have a 24-minute Skype chat with anyone, living or dead, who would it be?
Nick: I’m inclined to say, and again, it’s slightly corny, but I would like to say again with my grandad. To have that moment just to talk to him and touch base. I think that’d be nice. If we’re talking business-wise, I mean, there’s loads of names. I’m quite a fan of James Sinclair, who runs Marsh Farm, I quite like the way that he portrays himself. So yeah, if it was business-wise, I think it’d be him.
24 fingers: Okay, we’ll name-check James later. What’s one word you’d like people to describe you with?
Nick: Fair in everything I do, hopefully.
24 fingers: Very nice. So would you mind taking a selfie? First we’re gonna take a screen-grab, so smile, Nick.
Nick: Cool, hang on.
24 fingers: Have you got something? Yeah, he’s got a prop.
Nick: No, I just picked up my phone.
24 fingers: Oh okay, that’s all right. I thought you were gonna pull up a roller banner or something. What’s your favourite Twitter handle or social media campaign?
Nick: I don’t really use Twitter. It’s one of those things that I’ve not really got involved with.
24 fingers: Is there any social media that you like?
Nick: Yes, I’ve become a fan of LinkedIn. I wasn’t at first, I’ve become a fan of LinkedIn and there’s a particular couple of guys on there that I find quite amusing. So there’s a guy called Mike Winnet, I think I pronounced his name right, and I find some of his videos quite funny.
24 fingers: Go follow Mike. And what’s one quote that defines your work ethic?
Nick: I think it was a Gandhi quote but it was something along the lines of, “If you’re talking, you’re talking about something you already know, but if you listen, you may learn something new”. It’s not those exact words but it’s very close to it.
24 fingers: I like that, very good, we’ll use that. What’s been the best part of your day?
Nick: So far? Speaking to clients. I do really enjoy that because it’s not all business-related. You can sit there and have a chat with them and there’s so many different characters there and they all understand that the times we’re in are really odd and there’s not really much that I can suggest with them. So it’s a lot of just chatting and seeing how each other is.
24 fingers: That’s nice, we all need that right now, don’t we?
24 fingers: Finally, anything to plug?
Nick: I think, well, of course, my estate agency, to start with, which is Nest in Essex. I’ve also just recently started my own podcast, called A Different Way, which is discussing business and tips that small business owners, so I’m kinda aiming at one-man-band or small start-ups, lots of tips that they can start implementing in their business today to help them out.
24 fingers: Brilliant. How can people find you?
Nick: So you can just search me on LinkedIn or Facebook, just search Nick Cheshire. I’ll be on there, it’s pretty easy to find. Or head over to our website.
24 fingers: Brilliant. Thank you very much Nick for your time. As always, take care, stay safe.