Responsible business begins at home
Responsible business – like charity – begins at home for all of us at Umega Lettings. Of course, we are supportive of our local community, we have charities that we support, and we actively encourage our staff to engage in volunteering. But for us, being a truly responsible business pretty much means what it says on the tin – a business that conducts its day to day dealings in the right way. And in our view, that has to start with our staff. We have believed from the start that making our business a fantastic place to work would help us attract, develop and retain the best people. And in turn, that will – of course – help our business grow and become more successful. If our team are happy, developing and fulfilled and love what they do, our customers will love what they do.
So we’ve worked hard on that front, and we like to think the initiatives we have engaged in show that we’re on the right track. There’s the ‘easy’ stuff like having fruit and treats in the office, giving our team a gym membership and having plenty fun away days and social evenings; our culture is so important to us as we’re a service business; it’s all about our people! There’s also the stuff that was a little more work! We are accredited by Investors in People, and by Investors in Young People, for the work we do in developing our team.
We are also a “B Corporation.” That’s possibly a new one for many of you; Essentially B Corps are businesses which have a purpose higher than simply making money; businesses that want to make a difference or to make change. Today, there is a growing community of more than 1,000 Certified B Corps from 33 countries and over 60 industries working together toward 1 unifying goal: to redefine success in business. Going through the rigorous B Corp accreditation process helped us to focus on what we do and how we do it in a really helpful and positive way. It gave us a framework to work from in order to ‘do the right thing’. We also operate ‘Open Book’ management where we share all financial information with our team (individual salaries aside…that would be dangerous!) so that our team have the whole picture to help them make business decisions and to give them a business education.
The final piece of the jigsaw for us is giving our team a financial stake in the long term success of our business. So, we set up the Umega Staff Property Fund. We’re now committed to ring fencing 20% of all profits and investing them in residential property which is 100% owned by our team. On top of giving them a financial stake in our business (now there’s an incentive to grow the business and to keep costs down; the more we make the more goes into THEIR property fund) it also gets them thinking like landlords; with this they get a taste of the types of decisions our landlords face which is fantastic for their development and therefore fantastic for our customers. Also we hope it means we can attract and retain the best people in our sector and make them even better! We’re on course to make our first purchase in the staff property fund in June/July and all work involving sourcing, financing, refurbishing, furnishing, letting and managing this property will be dealt with by our fantastic team.
Why do we believe in all of this so passionately? Our mission is to redefine the way letting agents are viewed. Standards of service are way below where they should be, and we want to play our part in driving up standards across the sector. The Private Rented Sector is currently about 370,000 tenancies a year and this is set to grow further over the next decade. Standards have to improve and we intend to lead by example.