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Saturday, 19th September 2020
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Dealing with the highest bidder Back  
Philip Sherry describes how he deals with the challenges of running a countrywide franchise
Alarm goes off at 6.50am in our room but only wakes me.

My wife Mary, an independent marketing consultant, has to be shaken as do my three children, Richard 13, Anthony 9 and Niamh 63/4 - the 3/4 is very important.

Mary works from home but during the week, gets up at the same time as I do to help get the boys ready to leave with me at 7.30am. They are almost first into Willow Park because I cannot bear the heavy traffic on the Rock Road - they don't mind because they can play football or do the homework they said they had done the previous evening.

I buy a large white coffee in O'Briens in Lower Pembroke Street (real coffee) and make it to my desk around 8.10am. Quick read of the papers and then down to work.

My job changed about a year and a half ago within the company and I am now Managing Director of Sherry FitzGerald Countrywide - a very different job to what I was trained to do but I am enjoying the challenge.

9.00am - Most mornings when my team members are not travelling, we meet for an hour or so to plan the next three to four weeks. The emphasis of the meetings is on giving the best service to our clients (the members of Sherry FitzGerald Countrywide) while at the same time keeping an eye on the cost of giving this service. We have our targets to meet every month like everyone else and like every other section in Sherry FitzGerald, Sherry FitzGerald Countrywide has a contribution to make to the financial performance of the Group. While I do have a B.Comm from UCD (1975) there are things in life that I understand better than debits and credits!

10.00am - While my main job is running the Countrywide subsidiary, I have held many positions in the company since 1982 when my father (Anthony Sherry) and myself amalgamated our firm Sherry & Sons with FitzGerald & Partners. There was a famous English footballer called Martin Peters who played in every position for England during his international career with the exception of goalkeeper - I have even played in goals for Sherry FitzGerald.

But back to business, our Marketing Director, knocks on my door, which by the way, is always open. He has Triona Gorman, Sherry FitzGerald Countrywide's Marketing and Training Co-ordinator with him. Neither of them are happy with the way our logo is being advertised in regional media. It is agreed to send the offending advertisements to our designer with an instruction to prepare a template specifying the size of photographs, fonts, number of words, etc. I seize the opportunity to get an update on how our web site is being adjusted to cater for the network of countrywide agents. Progress is being made and we should be up and running in the near future.

11.30am I receive a phone call from an old friend. His mother is thinking of selling her house in Dun Laoghaire and would like our advice. I am due to travel to an opening of one of our franchisee's offices the following day so I suggest calling to see the lady on my way home this evening. I diary the inspection for 5.30pm subject to one of my colleagues in the Dun Laoghaire office being available to accompany me. One of the main reasons we opened branch offices was to enhance our knowledge of property in the various parts of Dublin. Values vary from area to area and we find that local knowledge, coupled with a wider perspective and the research information provided by our in-house economists, greatly enhances our chances of giving accurate advice to our clients. Having confirmed the appointment with my colleagues in Dun Laoghaire, it's time to touch base with some of our members.



12.00 - 12.45pm Most of our 11 members are in the throws of rebranding which involves upgrading their premises, installing our Estate Agency Computer System and adapting those of our other systems which they consider appropriate to developing their businesses. We now have members in Clare, Kerry, West Cork, Wexford, Meath, Westmeath, Louth and Donegal and each of the members has changed their names to incorporate Sherry FitzGerald, for example Sherry FitzGerald McMahon in Ennis and Shannon and Sherry FitzGerald O'Neill in Clonakilty and Skibbereen.

I am anxious that the rebranding process is as painless as possible and believe that regular contact is vital. During our discussions, one of the members tells me that he is having minor problems with our computer software and I refer him to Miriam Walsh, Sherry FitzGerald Countrywide's I.T. Co-ordinator. Miriam sorts out the problem in less than a minute. Support is what this business is all about.

Another member requires some advice about a commercial property in their local town and I refer them to my colleagues in the commercial arm of our business, DTZ Sherry FitzGerald.

1.15pm I have been asked by one of my colleagues in the Merrion Row branch to auction a house for them which I had introduced some time ago. Before doing so, I think I should see the house again to refresh my memory. The house is in Dublin 4. Beautifully presented inside and outside, there appears to be serious interest from a number of parties. Just time to grab a sandwich before meeting the vendor at 2.30pm in our boardroom beside the auction room in Hume Street.

2.30pm The vendors arrive right on time in the company of their solicitor. While the auction is not scheduled to start until 3.00pm, which really means 3.05pm, we need to talk about the all important matter of the reserve i.e. the price at which I have their permission to sell at or above. This conversation proves to be a little difficult, in that during the course of the campaign, we have had over 200 viewers and some offers prior to auction. Naturally enough, the owners price expectations have increased since we originally advised on the value.

3.05p.m. Having agreed on a reserve, its time to run with the auction. The reserve is £450,000 and I get an opening bid of £350,000. The bidding goes very quickly in £10,000 bids to £400,000 and suddenly stops. As is standard procedure, I inform the audience that if I have to withdraw, I will do so and deal with the highest bidder while he or she remains on the premises. Just before having to do so, a bid of £405,000 comes from a new bidder. The bidding goes quickly in £5000's to £425,000 and again stops. This time, it stops for good and I am forced to withdraw. All is not lost, however, and I do have an opportunity to enter into negotiations with the highest bidder.

3.20 - 4pm. Negotiations take place in a private office between the highest bidder and myself and business is done at a satisfactory figure. While the vendors did not quite achieve what they had optimistically hoped for, I think they were happy with the result and invite me and my colleague, who had shown the house so many times during the 3 week campaign, for a drink in The Shelbourne. Unfortunately I had to decline because it was time to tidy the desk, something I do religiously every evening but also return an ever increasing lengthy list of calls before heading into the traffic.

4.45 - 5.30pm. In the car listening to 5 to 7 Live.

5.30pm On the dot, I arrive at my friend's mothers house - a period house in one of Dunlaoghaire's residential squares. My colleague from our Dunlaoghaire office arrives just a minute later and we meet the lady in good time. She remembers me in short trousers - so do I - but her son, my friend, now lives abroad. This house has to be sold by auction in my view and my colleague is equally convinced. While there is a logical value it is difficult to put an upper figure on the house in what is likely to be a very competitive auction room. If there are two or more strong parties chasing it at the end of the day, a strong price will be achieved which is the beauty of a good auction. Having discussed the proposed campaign and what it will involve in terms of advertising, brochures, viewings, costs, dates etc. the owner is happy to proceed - the job is ours.

6.55pm. Back home it's dinner time but my wife is away for a few days and I offer the children the choice of my cooking or Mc Donalds or Eddie Rockets in Blackrock - no contest thank God!

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