Foxtons was founded by entrepreneur Jon Hunt in 1981 as a two-person estate agency in Nothing Hill Gate. An initial objective was to be unique from competitors and to be known within the real estate sector for doing things differently.
With revolutionary offers of 0% commission alongside longer opening hours 9am to 9pm, lead to the successful opening of other offices in the following years to expand to London’s biggest estate agent today. Today Foxtons owns 28 offices across London, Surrey and Middlesex.
“Foxtons believe in embracing change and challenging traditional views with the desire to improve the way industry operates.”
1995 saw the production of the Foxtons lettings magazine to promote the vast range of properties available both for sale and to let within an area together with in depth and informative details relating to market data within the real estate sector.
Their pioneering presence on the high street derives from the idea to create a different style of offices than that of competitors to be more eye-catching, current and trendy as a strategy to entice customers and attract a greater level of business. Creation of cafe-style offices in 2002 revolutionised the traditional estate agent presence on the high street.
Better services are provided to customers to enhance the property search experience. In addition, Foxtons has also introduced “Foxtons Fresh”, which is a unique way to launch properties onto the market with the new properties that can only be previewed by making a reservation with “Foxtons Fresh”.
Foxtons minis were introduced in 2003 to become moving billboards across the streets of London; using staff as chauffeurs to drive customers around and show properties. Their modern and stylish design accompanies the whole ethos behind the Foxtons business strategy. Each year Foxtons comes up with the latest design for their minis which have now become iconic in London’s culture.
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1.2 AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
Over the years Foxtons have established themselves as a highly innovative business; challenging the tradition of today’s property markets. 2009 is the year when Foxtons once again proved its innovative objectives, creating a 3D property search which lets customers “fly” between properties, with other features including the addition of Google Street View to the properties. This lead to gaining 3 industry awards for recognition of innovation and information available on the Foxtons website.
Alongside Foxtons’ many accolades, Minis, market presence, creative office space and innovative services, the company is also known for its somewhat aggressive and unethical approach when it comes to sales, according to recent press.
“The chain has also found itself in trouble for fly-boarding, putting boards up in streets irrespective of whether they have an instruction to sell and even pulling down rivals “for sale” boards and replacing them with its own; it was fined in 2003. The most famous occasion of fly-boarding was when Alastair Campbell woke to find a Foxtons “For Sale” sign outside his house.”(David Teather)
Foxtons claims that they don’t “fly-board” anymore. However in 2006 BBC featured undercover documentary about Foxtons unethical business practices which included faking signature on documents and staff misleading clients. “Founder Jon Hunt admits that company made mistakes and has been judged for the ruthless sales techniques.”
In 2006 Foxtons prepared themselves for the market listings with an estimated worth of approximately £300m – £400m. Mr Hunt received unprecedented interest from buyers and sold the company for £390m to BC Partners in May 2007, reportedly earning him around £300m from the sale that took place few weeks before the credit crunch.
Foxtons continue to operate under BC Partners management today; as London’s leading Estate agent and independent mortgage broker with a turnover of £100m on acquisition.
My reasoning behind the decision to use Foxtons is largely based on my keen interest in property development and the real estate sector as a whole. Foxtons is a company that practices creativity and innovation to pursue its objectives and to challenge the conventional ideas in the way we approach the property market. I found the company both interesting and though provoking. With specific reference to the companies’ meteoric rise to become market leaders; alongside the ongoing controversy in to the way in which Foxtons conducts its activities. Moreover, I was particularly interested to learn that the company’s founder started the company with £30,000 and turned it into a multimillion company and the biggest on the market today. I believe I can learn a lot from this project and understand that a combination of both technology and innovation can aid business to reach higher levels. The additional knowledge gained from this project with hopefully help me in perusing my career development.
1.4 ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURE
Foxtons was the privately owned company of founder Jon Hunt until sold to private equity firm BC Partners with Michael Brown as a Chef Executive. I believe Foxtons operate flat structure with the strong accent on team work and strong sales culture. Their motto is “work hard, play hard”. In addition, I have recognized operations of Scientific Management Model with one best way of doing things, as well as highlighting the importance of teaching and training of new employees. They believe that creating a high energy and dynamic environment will bring the best out in people. Besides training and development, rewards and incentives are available to the best performance employees. The management team also believes that the success of the company depends on finding the right people for the right roles.
Below I have conducted a chart to present current organisational structure:
2.1 PEST ANALYSIS
A review of the external environment conducted below, shows different factors affecting Foxtons. Exposed to the effect of government policies and The OFT (Office of Fair Trading) as well as socio-economical and technological factors, Foxtons still strives to be innovative and recognised for its creative processes and actions.
Estate agents need to meet the terms of the Estate Agent Act 1979 and Property Misdescriptions Act 1991
The Office of Fair Trading can ban persons from acting as estate agents if considered to be unfit to carry out estate agents duties
Trading Standards Department takes care of customer complaints
OFT constantly improves home buying process
From 2011 formal record keeping requirements will be introduced
Market report publications
Prices at the lowest due to property market slump
Changes to VAT and stamp duty
Low demand/High supply
A decline in the first time buyers
Welfare budgets cuts
Depressed levels of activity in the housing market
Increase in ethnic minorities
A growing interest in living in communities
Growing number of people who own more than one house including properties abroad
Cutting edge technology includes email subscription, SMS property alerts
Use of Google Earth to find the latest properties
Continuous development of new IT softwares including Iphone applications
Using the fastest internet services to speed up the process
Ability to leave feedbacks
2.2 VALUE CHAIN ANALYSIS
Below is the diagram showing Foxtons internal resources and activities:
Foxtons is a multi-million company sold by its founder Jon Hunt to private equity firm BC Partners in May 2007 to become joint company with the Alexandra Hall mortgage brokers.
They place a high amount of time into training and development of their staff as they are the ones generating all the profits through hard sales and work culture.
Foxtons embrace technology development and use their award winning website as an advertising and sales tool.
Revolutionary 0% commission and longer opening hours made Foxtons a multi-million firm.
Foxtons offer most competitive sales techniques to the home owners, generating a large numbers of suppliers over the years
They are known in media for forced sales, determined agents working hard on advertising the properties and selling them to the high profile market.
Using Internet technology to generate business
Using creative marketing and sales techniques
It promises property management to customers and delivers information about properties throughout the year
FIRM INFRASTRUCTRURE: Foxtons Ltd. Owned by Private Equity Firm BC Partners plus Alexandra Hall leading mortgage brokers.
Property management 24/7
MARKETING AND SALES
Concentrating on corporate and high markets, using Foxtons Minis as moving billboards with the accent on hard sales
Award winning website featuring all sales and lettings available at the highest speed
Property owned by suppliers
PROCUREMENT: 0% commission and longer opening hours
TECHNOLOGY DEV: Award winning website plus continuous improvement in IT department developing new technologies.
HRM: Continuous training for employees followed by incentives for best performers.
3. MEASURING SUCCESS
Foxtons won the award of The Lettings Agency of The Year 2010, even after negative press and allegations on their forceful sales tactics; they are yet to set the expansion campaign to open another 20 branches in the next three years. After a buyout of Foxtons from its founder Jon Hunt, BC Partners had a downturn in profits and saw its banks take a majority stake during the housing market crash. However, Michael Brown (CEO) predicts a good financial year and plans out the expansion campaign.
Foxtons last accounts showed profits of £16.7m compared with the loss of 980.000 the previous year, as the group turnover rose from 75m to 85m.
They continue to invest in to their marketing campaigns and using the latest technology to generate business through their website and new technological gadgets, not forgetting Foxtons Minis, used by its staff as a moving billboards.
To conclude, Foxtons may have used unethical business strategies and mistreated some tenants, but remain to be the leading estate agents within the market. The founder of Foxtons, Jon Hunt former army officer set the ideology behind the company that it’s still followed by its new owners, made the company successful during the last 30 years.
I believe that Foxtons will continue to grow from strength to strength with the emergence of units across the UK. The company USP has allowed the company to stand out from the crowd and will continue to do so in the future.
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