How starting a business with a family changed me

By Andrew Sanderson 1 year ago . 8 minute read

I’ve often heard people say that having children made them a lot more motivated and driven in their careers, as the responsibility of needing to provide for them pushed them forward. It’s an interesting point and the reverse can also be true, material things previously aspired to become less important after having children. Playing an active part in their lives means a 24/7 focus on business isn’t necessarily sustainable. I’ve experienced both sides having started my London Estate Agency when I didn’t have any children and my Derby Estate Agency as a dad to two children under 3!

When I opened up my agency in London I was married but pretty much responsibility free and could spend as much time in the office as I wanted really. I always prided myself on being able to compete with anyone, taking the view that if someone was naturally more talented I would just make sure that I worked harder! I found myself judging effectiveness by hours worked and spent 4 years working 80 hours + weeks before selling the business and relocating to Derby after the birth of our first son, Jack.

Looking back now I can understand that many of the hours I put in were not particularly productive and that being all-consumed by the business meant I often found it difficult to see the bigger picture and the other opportunities for growth that were around me. Frankly, the reasons for me starting the business were also inherently selfish and mostly focussed around the success and material things that I thought it could bring me.

My outlook when I took the scary step of launching AKS Residential in September 2016 was very different in two main ways. I was really surprised by the difference in estate agency from the London market to Derby and felt that there was a lot of complacencies and no drive to really get the best possible outcome for the customer. It seemed to me that for the most part agents were happy just to agree a sale whereas to me the skill and value added by an estate agent is to ensure that the very best possible price has been negotiated. To achieve this a marketing strategy has to be followed and there is more work involved but the end result to the customer is thousands of pounds more in their pocket. I believed that if we could put our own interests to one side and only focus on what is best for the customer that the rewards would eventually follow. At the time of writing, we are 18 months in and this has really starting to pay dividends as we are already at the point where 90% of our business comes through recommendation!

Having a 3-month-old and a 2-year-old also meant that I couldn’t get away with working all hours under the sun if I wanted to still be able to see them so I was forced to look at my own productivity. It’s also fair to say that my wife Kathryn although incredibly supportive wouldn’t have been too happy with me working anywhere near the hours that I used to! I actually think working more sensible hours has been beneficial as I now make more considered decisions rather than just charging in and have a much better overview of the business. I think the maturity of fatherhood has also been good for me in making me far more aware of just how many things I don’t know and I now spend a lot of my time learning from the best in the industry to improve and grow myself.

The added pressure of having a family to provide for has definitely made launching a business this time round scarier but I have never been the type of person to lie awake worrying anyway! There have been many times where I have wished I could pretty much live in the office for 6 months to help push things forward and equally there have been plenty of occasions where my eldest Jack has asked if I can be home more which has made it very difficult to tear myself away and head to the office. It’s definitely been a bit of a juggling act to try and be the best businessman and father I can be.

Overall though becoming a dad has definitely changed me for the better and made me far more effective in my work. The proof is in the results as well as whilst we still have a long way to go to get to where we want to be we have got to our current point about a year quicker than we did when I was in London. Thanks for reading and I’d love to connect and trade stories with any other dads with young families that took the step of launching their own business.

About Andrew Sanderson

Director, AKS Residential

Andrew is originally from Essex and set up his first estate agency in East London which he sold in 2014 to relocate to Derby for family reasons. After experiencing the difference in culture and approach from local agents Andrew felt that customers weren’t getting the service they deserved; poor marketing, people doing their own viewings, tied into long contracts and with the emphasis being to sell rather than sell at the best price. AKS Residential was launched in September 2016 and achieved an average of 99.78% of asking price for all properties sold in 2017 quickly building a loyal customer base which has meant the majority of their new business comes from recommendation.

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