Each month, we take 5 minutes to ask a property industry expert 5 things. This month we are talking to Simon Shinerock; chairman of Choices. Choices is one of the UK’s most successful estate agencies; famously ranking in the top 100 estate agents out of over 20,000 in a large scale research project; as well as winning the prestigious ‘Best Agent’ award for three years consequetively. Choices lets and manages over 2500 properties; as well as securing millions of pounds in property sales every week.
In this latest interview, Simon reflects upon his career; retrospectively offering his best advice to other agents – as well as sharing his views on the current state of the system, his ‘controversial reputation’, ‘the law of attraction’, ‘human psyche and the housing market’ – and the potential future of the estate agency model…
You have been described as one of the most opinionated, enigmatic and forthright characters within U.K estate agency. Looking back on your openly voiced distaste for OnTheMarket, your dislike of the RightMove strategy, your willingness to discuss politics, the cryptic hidden messages in your Tweets – and the fact that you hired a private investigator to expose your local paper and competitors for attempting to ban you when you first started Choices; it’s really not hard to see why! I’m interested to find out though whether or not you actually consider yourself controversial?
I guess it’s flattering to be called ‘enigmatic’; whereas ‘opinionated’ doesn’t sound so good. In my mind, one doesn’t go with the other. To me; being opinionated sounds unattractive. So to be both would create a paradox. I would say that I have always had the gift of insight; especially when it comes to human nature and its effect on everything we create, everything we say – and everything we do. Understanding things though is only one side of the coin. The other side is being able to clearly communicate what you understand in such a way that the people you are aiming at will accept it.
The trouble is that people are very partisan. They tend to work to a two-rule system and find it hard to be objective and unbiased. The truth therefore often hurts. To make things worse; if the establishment does things in a particular way; the majority will accept that way as right, even when it’s wrong. There is of course strength in numbers. But you need to know who is on your side – and who is merely using your support to achieve their goals. I try to look through things and try to see what they really are at the core; even where on the surface it may not support my methods. You can change methods; but the truth is the truth.
This means looking at the established system and reducing it to its most basic parts… exposing the relationship it creates – and any inherent flaws that twist and distort that relationship. Once I’ve made up my mind there is a better way; I’m not afraid of saying so and explaining why. As a result; I’m seen as anti-establishment. But I’d rather be called ‘pro-truth’, ‘pro-evolution’ or ‘pro-improvement’. I’m prepared to call out the establishment. And because I’ve built a platform to do so effectively; I’m seen as controversial. But I prefer the term ‘thought provoking’.
Of course, some things (like the wheel) don’t need reinventing – and I accept that. But when it comes to estate agency; it’s a big mess. Like so many things in society these days; it’s made to be over complicated. It’s not joined up – and there are many conflicts contained within it. In a way; the mess is what has kept me in the business – as it’s a challenge to tidy things up… and a great opportunity to show how things can be done better.
I recently heard you talking about how the housing market is pivotal to people’s psyche. Could you elaborate?
Maslow’s hierarchy of human needs aptly answers this question. He takes human motivation from the very basics. Food, drink, rest, safety, security, relationships, esteem and recognition… all the way to what he describes as ‘self actualisation’.
Where you live has a massive effect on all of these things. Your home is pivotal not only to how you see yourself; but to how others see you – and is central to everything that happens in your life.
Moving home is often as a result of life changing moments, good and bad; like getting married, having kids, moving job, – or less positive; getting old – or getting sick. A highly motivated energetic and ambitious person will aspire to a certain type of home. Equally, someone else may be happy to settle for much less. Don’t get me wrong, there is no ‘right’ way to be when it comes to life goals, the important thing is to be true to yourself and to set goals that you really want to achieve.
The mistake many people make is doing things because other people want them to, not because of what they want. Things aren’t black and white though… because the expectations of others can be a positive and powerful thing; but the most powerful of all is positive self-expectancy; where you set a goal that you truly believe in – and expect to achieve it. I believe if you live your life in an authentic, genuine and real way; you will be happy wherever you lay your hat. In my case; I’m lucky to own several lovely homes – but I’m just as happy in my 1965 Airstream!
Back in April 2020, you wrote an article called ‘why working at home isn’t all it’s cracked up to be’ – which you ended with the statement: “in estate agency, it’s my belief the high street is still the best way”. Do you still agree?
Broadly, yes. With time; I can see how the likes of EXP, KW – and the host of copycats that have risen up alongside them have created a sort of crèche for new businesses. As I have said before; there are massive differences between the UK, North American and European markets. Notably the commission levels in the UK are too low for this model to really succeed.
Instead, these companies are providing an unintended stepping-stone to the high street for the small number of exceptional agents that join them. In the longer run; the industry will continue to change – and it may look very different in a few years time. But while the fundamentals remain as they are; I don’t think these companies will achieve much success.
I was interested to find out that you believe in the law of attraction. What was it that started/inspired this belief; and is there one incident of this that stands out most in your mind?
We are all energy and everything we ever want is also pure energy. The realisation of this fact may lie at the heart of understanding ‘The secret beneath the secret’, the one alluded to by Dale Carnegie and his Protege Napoleon Hill – as well as William Walker Atkinson and other members of ‘New thought’.
‘The Secret’ is famously cited as a variation of ‘the law of attraction’. Positive attracts positive etcetera; or ‘we become what we think about the most’ (the idea is that if you totally desire something, the universe will deliver it to you good or bad).
But really this is a bit of a dead end for most people, because it does not explain how to get yourself into the mind state of total desire, the state that lies at the heart of its effectiveness. This fact explains why so many cynics don’t buy into the concept. They are wrong. The commercialism of the concept may be hype but the concept itself is 100% valid. I know this from personal experience.
When I was a child; I discovered a formula by observation, that can in effect, synchronise your desire; or even more – your essence (with the essence of the object of your desire). This synchronisation process turns you into a magnet for the thing you want. And if that thing exists; it will be pulled inexorably towards you. And if it does not exist; the Universe will simply create it for you. I have literally imagined things into existence.
This process would appear to work both positively and negatively and to work for events like weather and politics; as well as for people, lovers, friends… and of course; money and power.
As a child; I turned the process of obtaining this incredible mind state into a formula. I remember it seemed quite long; so I created a short code to remind me of the steps. Back then, I didn’t fully realise it’s significance, think to write it down – or imagine I could forget it. But of course, I did.
Years later, I heard about ‘The Secret’ – and realised that it hinted at my childhood discovery. But I also knew it to be incomplete. I have spent years thinking about what my child-self noticed without being shown. I have tried many times to recreate the formula without success.
In my own life though; it appears I still have the innate ability to use the forgotten formula. Mainly on trivial things; like glasses – or favourite sandals. But more significantly… on homes, property and my career. What I have not been able to do however is focus on anything like a Super-yacht for example and know unequivocally that I will have it in a certain timescale.
So in summary; ‘The Secret’ – that ‘you become what you think about the most’, though true; is ineffective and frustrating because it leaves out an essential step. The essential step is how to get into the correct mind state to make it work. This is the revelation I have had today.
What I still do not have is the exact formula to give you. The formula that will allow you, at will, to convert yourself through a set, reliable, repeatable process of thought, into the irresistible force that will give you anything you want – or make people do anything you want, on demand.
However, I feel that I’m on the right track. And instinctively, I feel that although the formula seemed long and complicated to my childish self; it is probably a fairly simple series of steps.
The challenge is whether as an adult; I, and more generally, we; can accept the power of the steps to believe in them enough to make the transition necessary to make them work and truly ‘become what we think about the most’.
What is the biggest mistake you have ever made in your career and the single best piece of advice you could give to agents?
The biggest mistake I have made in my career was underestimating how difficult estate agency is to do well. I guess this is because estate agency is simple. But of course, the word simple doesn’t mean easy. I’ve made loads of mistakes along the way though.
In the early years of the business for example; I overspent on marketing – and I over-rewarded people without getting anything back. It’s taken many years to get the balance right. And in hindsight; I could have learned the lesson much more quickly.
The most important thing in business and in life is balance. However, mistakes precede learning – and you could argue that every successful person has to make a fair number of mistakes.
Mine probably came mostly from over optimism, gullibility and lack of experience. But then the optimism made me take risks, the gullibility taught me to be discerning; and the three combined gave me the experience that’s got me to where I am today.
The biggest piece of advice I could give to estate agents would be to be brilliant at the basics. Stay focused – and let your results do the talking. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. Making mistakes is the best way to learn. The only way to avoid them is to do nothing.
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