It is 9am on Monday and I have been working towards this moment for seven months. It is the official opening of the new Notting Hill office of Strutt & Parker, an office which I shall be running, having worked in the Kensington office for the past 13 years.
As I cut the ribbon in front of my colleagues, I resist the temptation to give a Churchillian speech. The team retreats into our very smart office amid a blur of camera flashes, back slapping and warm wishes. Finally we are in our new home in Westbourne Grove and I’m already feeling the pressure to succeed. We are a team of seven and we all feel equally passionate about being in Notting Hill.
It should be the calm after the storm but day two in the office starts with serious excitement when a lovely American lady comes in and asks us to value her house next week. She says that having watched workmen coming and going from our office for so long she wanted to see what the finished job looked like. By the afternoon our computers are up and running, and for a while they spring into life, only to fail soon afterwards. We have a crisis meeting and decide we must go “back to basics” — it’s time to forget computers and get on the phones.
The builders are back, working through the list of problems, and the office is a building site once again. I escape the din by moving to the pavement outside to call a French client, only to find myself struggling with his pidgin English above the traffic noise. As I am talking, I see through the window a sales colleague shrieking and dancing around her desk. I pray this isn’t going to be the first entry in the office accident book. However, it turns about to be much more exciting — it’s our first offer on a property.
Unusually for the lettings profession, we have an all-male team, which is run by an American guy. His Californian drawl adds another dimension to the team and his energy is infectious. We have taken on five lettings instructions this week and I’m praying we can keep pace on the sales side.
We start the day with a valuation of a fantastic flat with access to a beautiful garden square. The meeting seems to be going well until the owner, a strident 70-year-old English lady, goes into a very alarming coughing fit as her lapsang souchong goes down the wrong way. She takes a large gulp of water and thankfully recovers. But, looking puce and exhausted, she is no longer in the mood for small talk on the sofa. We bid our farewell.
Our new office marketing campaign involves five students handing out apples with stickers on them announcing our arrival. As we return to the office, there is a message for me from an Italian lady, asking us for a valuation of her house. I telephone her back immediately and ask her why she is choosing us. She says she has just eaten one of our delicious apples and it prompted her to give us a call. We arrange to meet tomorrow.
The day starts with some particularly good news. The coughing client calls me first thing to say we’ve won her business and beaten other long-standing W11 agents to the job. She says she was bowled over by our ‘sheer enthusiasm’. An office meeting reveals more good news. The rental team has 11 instructions with three offers brewing and we are hopeful of agreeing terms on the sale of a flat nearby.
In the afternoon we arrive at the apple-eating lady’s property and although she is delightful, her children are not. She apologises profusely as her son flicks a rubber band in my eye from behind the armchair. The pain is excruciating and it takes me a while before I can focus again. I’m thrilled not to be blinded, but eager to avoid another attack, so I shorten the sales pitch and beat a hasty retreat. As I get into my car I can see the child spying on me from the bedroom window. It is probably an error, but I stick out my tongue at him — I just can’t resist it.
Miles Meacock is the head of sales at Strutt & Parker's Notting Hill office (020 7221 1111)