Michael Groves, Founding Director of Thornley Groves, is one of AMAGAZINE’s 10 Most Influential Mancunians. Here he talks about his career journey and the future of our city.
“I strongly believe that all businesses should have a social conscience and if they can do something, they should.”
How has the working world changed from when you started your career compared to today?
While the tools that we use to find buyers and tenants and match them to the homes we are selling and renting have changed dramatically over the years, with the use of technology and data collection, estate agency is still very much a business built around personal contact. Unlike travel agents and many other businesses, we are not an online-only business and I don’t see us becoming extinct on the high street. We do compete with the faceless cut price online-only agents that have surfaced in recent years, but we find that many of our clients and customers prefer to get to know an agent, for that agent to understand what they want and help them find it. Buyers and tenants don’t want, and often don’t have the time, to go searching for it themselves. Our landlords and home owners want to be able to easily access and contact their agent in branch and face to face.
The biggest change is that we no longer have to look through lever arch files with manual records of buyers and tenants requirements to try and match a person with a home. We can perform property matches using our database within seconds. The industry has become more efficient and transaction times have speeded up. We market everything online; we send emails not letters, and buyers don’t have to request a brochure – everything is online. However, they will always want to meet an agent and go and look at the property before they make a decision.
What makes Manchester a great place to live and work in 2018?
Manchester has an unbeatable mix of leisure, retail, housing, quality office space, entertainment, music, sport, food, drink, employment, education and transport. In my view, no other city in the UK has a better balance. Compare Manchester to any other UK city and its hard to come up with a city that has a better combination of the things that we all love.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve overcome in your career?
Without wanting to sound too dramatic, it was actually the financial crisis of 2008. The business was strong, had been established 16 years earlier and was financially stable. We had nine branches and 125 employees, but we had been agreeing up to 40 sales a week and saw that fall to less than 10 during the crash. We saw the slow down start in September 2007 (a full year before Lehman brothers in September 2008 which its often used as the marker of the crisis) – by February 2008 we had shrunk our work force and cut costs wherever we could. We managed to survive without closing a single branch, largely due to the fact we had a strong property management business with a recurring income. It helped the business weather the storm and we became much leaner.
What industries do you think will be booming in Manchester over the next 5 years?
Referencing tenants who rent through us and talking to buyers moving into the area we see three booming sectors. Digital, tech and creative industries that are tied to the media and marketing sector seem to be growing fast with no signs of slowing. Continued growth in the financial sector is apparent, with Manchester’s financial sector already the largest outside London. The third industry is the property and construction sector: this includes design, project management and architecture, as well as many skilled jobs needed to enable the construction sector to deliver the dozens of commercial and residential projects in the city.
Why do you think so many businesses have chosen Manchester as their central hub?
Manchester has some of the best office space in the UK. From grade A modern offices to trendy converted mills, it has access to a huge work force – almost 3 million people live in the Greater Manchester conurbation making it the UK’s most populous city outside of London. Add to these factors the city’s hugely improved transport and infrastructure, national and international transport links by rail, road and air, and there is compelling argument for businesses to base themselves here.
What do you think Manchester needs to raise its profile on the international scene?
I think we are incredibly well known and respected around the world already. We are the birth place of the industrial revolution and today Manchester is contributing hugely to the next industrial revolution, as it is a breeding ground in the science and technology sector and has the largest digital and creative economy outside of London. Sport, education, entertainment and innovation, has already made us famous. The city and its key influencers are doing a great job. Modern media has enabled us to get the word out of who we are, what we have to offer and what we are achieving more effectively than ever before, and that message is fuelling our growth.
What does Manchester need in terms of new talent coming through?
In some ways, I think we need to blow our own trumpet more to the rest of the UK. We need to showcase what the city and the conurbation has to offer to people who currently live in other parts of the country. In the meantime, employers have a great opportunity to attract the very talent they are looking for. The next generation of talent is already studying here in the city and I know that many businesses are working hard to persuade graduates to stay in in the city after they have completed their studies.
What are the essential qualities that people must have to be a part of your business?
For our sales and lettings consultants, our people need to have enthusiasm, energy, great communications skills and a keenness to really understand what people looking for a place to buy or rent really want from the home. We are fortunate to have some really great people working at Thornley Groves so any new starters must have a similar attitude and work ethic.
What would you say to people who feel they haven’t ‘made it’ yet?
If by “made it” the definition is making money, then don’t focus on the money that you want to earn, focus on being the best at what you do – if you get even close to that, the money will follow. Making it doesn’t have to be about money – success is doing what you enjoy and you should certainly never stop trying to achieve that. It’s never too late to make the change and do something you enjoy.
In what ways would you like to see Manchester businesses giving back to their city and community?
I strong believe that all businesses should have a social conscience and if they can do something, they should. I like the idea of businesses aligning their business to a social need. Our IT firm provide free or greatly discounted services to certain charities to support them. I personally support a couple of homeless charities and when our customers move house we encourage them to donate their unwanted appliances, furniture, clothes and household items to two Manchester Homeless charities Barnabus Manchester and Mustard Tree.
‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’ sees some of Manchester’s most inspiring professionals talk about the future of our city and share their career journeys. If you’d like to get involved with 2019’s ‘10 Most Influential Mancunians’, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.