• Simon Deen

Looking stupid

If you pay attention, you can learn a lot from children. They seem to be born with an innate curiosity for new things. Like eating mud, just to find out for themselves if it tastes good.


When children are young, they will babble incomprehensibly at you, hoping you might understand something they’re saying. All the while looking to you for signs of encouragement.


My eight year old daughter is currently trying her hand at swimming, ballet, gymnastics, ceramics and playing the piano.


Any attempt to convince her to miss one of these weekly events (say for example, because you want to watch your football team play) will be met with an insistence that a grandparent is called upon to assist with chauffeuring services.


For her, these activities are fun, exciting and an opportunity to experience something for the first time.


You start to realise that kids are born without the fear of looking stupid. Or more specifically, of what someone else might think if they’re not good at something.


When they’re young, they seem to understand what adults have forgotten, that no one is much good at anything when they first start. Which jars a little with modern culture, because nowadays if you can’t show off about it online, is it even worth doing?


Children will happily try, fail and repeat the process until they get better, without much of the anxiety that adults face.


As they’re taught to say these days, “practice makes progress”.


A friend's daughter, who is four years old, is yet to start reading. Her school has decided that it’s a problem. Although, I'm not sure for who. As a parent, these kinds of conversations are a natural cause for worry.


The school, of course, has other concerns. Potential new parents, or as we should probably call them, customers. Customers who care about how successful you are at generating desired outcomes.


In business too, we are constantly navigating the fine line between finding new customers and providing existing ones with an acceptable level of service. Or more specifically, a level of service which is good enough that they won’t take their custom elsewhere.


And good enough rarely includes trying new things which by their very nature, might not work. Tried and tested is better here. But tried and tested stifles innovation, and if there’s one place where innovation doesn’t need any more stifling, it’s estate agency.


Because it’s been a long time since anything bordering on interesting happened. Probably not since a 28 year old Jon Hunt drove his green Mini Cooper right over the establishment.

And love them or loathe them, Foxtons brought Hunt an unrivalled level of success, and later, wealth. He sold the business for £375m, just before the onset of the 2007 financial crisis.


At the time, no one had much good to say about them. A “sausage factory” was how one former colleague described them, and you can kind of see his point. Unsociable working hours, a boiler room mentality and top down pressure on every imaginable metric that staff could be judged by.


In 2021, they would have been widely ostracised for some of those practices. It probably wasn’t great for a lot of people's mental health. On the flip side, some of their alumni now hold the top jobs at precisely the establishments their former boss set out to challenge.


That challenge started with a desire to do things differently. To ignore what had gone before, to be brave and of course, risk looking stupid in the process.


And it’s a lesson I think we could all learn from when engaging in our work.


“A child has no trouble believing the unbelievable, nor does the genius or the madman. It’s only you and I, with our big brains and our tiny hearts, who doubt and overthink and hesitate.” - Steven Pressfield
 

Property News


A new weekly feature (thanks M) just to remind everyone that I’m actually an estate agent, not a full time blogger.


  • Zoopla has revealed Britains most expensive streets, and as you can imagine, Mr Hunt lives on the one which has been ranked top for the past 13 years

  • According to data from Knight Frank, ‘boomerang buyers’ who moved to the countryside during the pandemic, are now back in the market and looking for London “lock up and leave” apartments. By complete coincidence, I’m marketing one which is perfect if you have a second home in the Cotswolds.

 

Things I’ve been inspired by this week


AA Gill is one of my heroes. I grew up reading his restaurant reviews in the Sunday Times Magazine.


His ability to make people absolutely furious, or to laugh, or to cry makes me wonder how someone so severely dyslexic, who never actually wrote anything (all dictated) learned such an incredible command of the English language.


His review for Vanity Fair of fabled Parisian restaurant L'ami Louis is for me, simply laugh out loud funny, whether you agree with it or not.


You can read it here.


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