Welcome to SELECTED, my regular interview featuring the very best entrepreneurs and business leaders Somerset has to offer. Today I’m absolutely delighted to be interviewing one half of a dynamic new property agency, Sue Macey from Lodestone Property.
Today I’m interview a leading professional estate agency in Somerset run by innovative and motivated women. Lodestone Property is the baby of Cathy Morris-Adams BSc(Hons) and Sue Macey. Cathy (above left), originally came to Somerset from Liverpool as a nuclear physicist at Hinckley Point. She went on to train and practise as a homeopathist and from there became an Estate Agent in the area working for national as well as local agents over a period of time. Sue (above right) was a TV executive for over 30 years and brings her business, property and media skills to the business.
How they started…
After a chance meet up at a talk given by the Guardian journalist Zoe Williams at The Wells Festival of Literature, feeling inspired, they decided to join forces and launch Lodestone, a fresh and exciting new take on residential sales and lettings. Combining traditional practices with their knowledge of the area and innovative hybrid approach, they have created a new type of estate agency that responds to today’s market and modern lifestyles.
Q1. Tell us about you and how you came to start Lodestone?
That’s when we started talking about creating something different. I could see what was needed from a business and consumer perspective and Cathy’s vision was to select all that is good about agency and combine it with new initiatives which would enable us to be not only a dynamic but also provide our clients and applicants with a high quality, bespoke service.
Q2. What do you feel are your best achievements?
We have access to statistics which demonstrates that we have a large number of regular engagements with our properties on website portals as well as our website. This is an achievement that we like to share with potential clients because it demonstrates that through our traditional, as well as digital marketing and social media marketing, we are tapping into a wide and diverse audience.
We have also exceeded our business plan projections so I am very satisfied with that!
We’ve clearly created something that there is a demand for. The number of properties we have on our books since launching just 7 months ago shows that we must be doing something right. A client said to us last week, ‘you guys are really dynamic’. We’re now getting great feedback so we are beginning to feel that all the hard work that went into the lead up to our launch and since then has been worthwhile.
Q3. What have you learnt running your own business?
That sleep is interrupted (keep a notebook by the bed!) and that you don’t get much time to yourself! We always knew a start-up was going to be hard.
It is said that the more preparation you put into setting up the business the more successful it is likely to be. We made sure we weren’t in a hurry. We invested a lot of time in our branding and name as that was always going to be key in a competitive and crowded market.
Once we had launched, it was, and still is, essential to be adaptable. Maybe some things work, and some don’t. This is a journey and it is important that we learn from our experiences as we progress.
Q4. What advice would you give to a budding entrepreneur
Invest as much time as possible before launching and be flexible. Always be willing to adapt to your market and your environment.
Q5. What are your goals for 2017?
2017 – I think we build on what we’ve done already. Next step is to get an office to accommodate our growing team!
Before we launched we won a contract to sell some fantastic contemporary houses just outside Bruton (the Cubis development). The developers appointed us before we launched because they could see our vision, so we are really excited about selling these very different houses later this year – already there is a lot of interest.
I’d really like to think that by the end of 2017 we are flying, having laid strong foundations and supported by a strong committed team.
Then I’d like to think that when we break up for Christmas in at the end of the year, we can sit back, put our feet up and have a large glass of bubbly and reflect on a successful year.
Q6. What is your mission statement and why?
We haven’t really had time to sit down and think about a mission statement but if you are pinning me down, communication and quality of service are at the core of what we do.
Q7. Tell us how you named your business?
I did a branding project for a television company about 15 years ago. One of the names under consideration was Lodestone.
Lodestone is a naturally magnetized mineral which in ancient times acted as a compass to help people find the way. We felt that this meaning had a strong connection with the business we were creating. It’s a strong, solid name.
Q8. Why Somerset?
Home is Somerset and Somerset is what we know best and love. Between us we have lived here for over 50 years and we have brought up our families in this lovely county. Our local knowledge is part of our unique selling point.
Q9. Who influences you?
Principally my father who ran his own business.
I could name various female role models but one particular day I was listening to Desert Island Discs and it was Carolyn McCall, Chief Executive of EasyJet. She is building a very successful business at the same time as bringing up a young family and is doing a lot of work around increasing the number of women pilots. Her initiative has already exceeded it’s target in Year One. She’s sounds an inspirational and very cool lady to work for.
Q10. What or who is the driving force behind your business?
It is the two of us and we keep each other propped up.
Q11. What makes you stand out from other businesses in your niche?
I think what makes us stand out is that we give an incredibly personal service. It’s all about quality, communication and listening to what people want. Interestingly, women instantly buy into us because they can see the value we bring to the business.
We have a carefully selected viewing team from around Somerset so that when viewing houses, the applicant has the best possible experience. Yes, it’s about the house but it is also about the lifestyle and what is around you. Our ladies who are always local to the house will be able to tell you about the nearest shops, pubs and local schools, transport etc.
Our clients are busy people who very often don’t have much time for calling their agents. So we make sure we are there for them when they need us. We are not 9-5er’s. We are always at the end of emails, texts and the phone. It’s not unusual to get calls and emails at the end of the working day.
Cathy keeps every Friday afternoon Cathy clear in her diary to phone every client to tell them to update them on what has been happening with the sale of their property during the week. This is the service our clients expect and pay for.
Q12. What is important to you?
That we enjoy it!
Q13. What drives you?
Lodestone is our baby and we want to see it grow up and flourish. We want to be to be the ‘go-to’ agency in Somerset. That is going to take a lot of hard work and commitment but we feel we are on course.
Q14. What does success look like for you?
Balance. Build an established business with a strong reputation backed up with a committed team of people that will allow us to achieve a good work/life balance.
Q15. Tell us about your latest project?
There are masses of projects and ideas in the pipeline but we don’t have time to do any of those at the moment. Establishing the business is the priority – we cannot afford to be distracted. When the time is right we will look bringing some of our ideas to fruition. Fraid we are not sharing them with you at the moment!
Q16. What do you love most about Somerset?
The people. It’s a beautiful county that has so much to offer and is full of talented people. I quite like the fact Somerset isn’t manicured and it’s a bit rough around the edges – there are a lot of people who want to live here!
Find Lodestone online
Images courtesy of Clare Garrod Photography
*Sponsored post. This interview was written in collaboration with Lodestone Property.