September saw the 12 month anniversary of Ben Davidson taking up the position of Simply’s new Managing Director. Our Marketing Manager Caroline Adams, spoke to Ben about the highs and lows of the past 12 months and what exciting plans he has for Simply over the next year.
CA: Tell me how you started at Simply. Where did Ben at Simply begin?
BD: Originally I was an estate agent and a financial adviser. My first interaction with Simply was to refer work through to them and then I decided to have a career move. I joined Simply and became a BDM (a Business Development Manager) so my job was to travel up and down the country to introduce our services to estate agents, as a panel manager originally, and now we have moved on to become a law firm in our own right. So that’s quite a long career history – I think I have been involved with Simply in one way or another for the last 20 years.
CA: Wow! Right from the very beginning! And we were a much smaller business then than what we are now?
BD: Yes and a very different business now – we have the same name but when I first joined, there must have been a team of about 6 people. So we have definitely grown and are a very different organisation to the one that we were back then.
CA: And I believe we have some other colleagues here that started working at Simply back then too?
BD: Yes, our Financial Director and our Head of Legal Services – we have all been here a very long time. Our organisation is not just about the professional, it’s about the personal and you do build lifelong friends so it is as much as working with each other as a colleague than it is being mates as well.
CA: So, how has your first year as our leader been for you? It’s been a bit of a weird year but how has it been?
BD: It’s been interesting. I don’t know if it feels like it has been 12 months or not really. In some ways it feels like it has been longer, in other way it feels like it was yesterday. Before I was promoted to MD, most of my time was taken up with running Simply anyway – so it wasn’t like I wasn’t MD and then suddenly I was, all be it though, it has been a challenging year trying to work out what we should do and when we should do it. But I have enjoyed it in a weird kind of way. Every adversity creates opportunity and it’s all about working out where that opportunity is.
CA: I don’t think we quite imagined in September of 2019 quite what 2020 was going to bring for us.
BD: No! No one knew that was going to happen…but it did, and we dealt with it. And I hope we dealt with it in a good way. The feedback, overwhelmingly from our colleagues, is that we did a good job in looking after everybody, that we are continuing to do a good job at looking after everyone which is probably one of the most important things about my role – looking after our people.
CA: What has been your proudest moment this year?
BD: 2 or three days before Boris Johnson went on the television and told us that the country was going in to a national lockdown situation, I was down in the London office and decided that there and then, we should up sticks and leave. We were prepared – we had been preparing for about 3 to 4 weeks before the announcement. We had all the kit and equipment and on that day, I decided we were shutting the London office, we then closed Milton Keynes afterwards and then Daventry on the day of the announcement. So all offices empty, every colleague mobilised and sent home. I was just so proud that everyone changed and adapted so quickly. There was such a can do attitude and no hesitation – it was about pulling together and making it happen by all departments and all colleagues. Everyone pulling together in a time of need and supporting one another to make it all happen so all credit to our people for doing such an exceptional job. And it didn’t just stop there. The challenges from working from home include a lot of isolation, communication becomes more difficult – but every challenge was embraced and overcome. So I am incredibly proud of what we did during lockdown but most of that is down to our colleagues rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done so all credit to them for that.
CA: It really was an exceptional day in many many ways– I don’t think any of us quite expected when we went in to work, for the day to end the way that it did. And like you say, it was so incredible how everyone just pulled together and just did what needed to be done. We were settled pretty much straight away because we had so much in place…
BD: The most important thing was that we had no interruption to business service. We have an awful lot of responsibility to our clients, they are investing huge sums of money in to an emotional purchase and we are dealing with stressful situations at the best of times, and then when this lockdown came, that increased. We had to ensure that phone systems worked and that all IT systems worked. We had an unfair advantage in that our IT infrastructure is so sound anyway that you can literally unplug a phone in the office, plug it in to your home router and it will work.
Mobilising the troops wasn’t tough as far as tech was concerned. But I think it is important to look after our colleagues and when you are in an office environment, you have colleagues to bounce off of; social interaction with colleagues to speak to. So our next challenge was to ensure that everyone knew that they are part and parcel of us – they are were still part of our organisation and the support would always be there; regardless of whether they are in the office or working from home. The challenge after that was, because 99% of our work comes from estate agent referrals, we have a responsibility not just to our clients but also to our agents, so we needed to create that communication channel; making sure that information was clear, concise and supportive. So it was a lot of work to do in a relatively short period of time.
CA: The past 12 months have challenging but also really rewarding. So what is happening over the next 12 months? What are your next challenges? What excites you?
BD: I really think we are at an exciting juncture in our corporate history. If you think about the market place as it is at the moment. We have been through a lockdown scenario where no one can move to suddenly this huge influx of work where we had a high demand and the stamp duty holiday which really acted as a catalyst for people wanting to move. Then we have the race to Christmas and the stamp duty holiday ending in March next year – as far as the company is concerned, it’s all about capacity management. We cannot overload people with too much work and therefore we have recently undertaken a significant recruitment campaign and have recruited around 16 lawyers as well as support staff in other departments. So we are dealing with the capacity well and we need to try and forecast what the market is going to do next.
One of the strengths at Simply Conveyancing is to adapt and change quickly meaning that we can align ourselves to any opportunity in the market place. That is what we will be doing going forward. In a rapidly changing environment, there is always going to be opportunity, it’s just a question of finding that opportunity and adapting to take advantage of it. Of which we will do – I am therefore very excited about the next 12 months. We have clear vision about what we are going to achieve in the next 12 months and indeed the following 12 months thereafter. There is absolutely no reason why we won’t achieve that vision.
CA: We will have people watching this who are thinking of joining Simply and people who are already at Simply. For those who are in a leadership role currently or for our aspiring leaders, what advice would you give to them?
BD: Everyone is very different and there are an awful lot of text books out there on leadership, management and management skills. They all have merits and they all have different views but I think you have got to be yourself. If you move in to any type of management role, I would suggest that it is very important to stay grounded. I have never been one for a hierarchy or a title – I don’t believe there is much in a title. Respect is hard one and you don’t just get given respect for what you are so you have to be grounded with your team and listen to them. I genuinely go around the office and make tea because I want to sit down with people and listen to them. I think that if you manage any people, the best managers will listen more than they talk and ask more than they tell. The short answer to that question is – make tea!
CA: For those who don’t currently work at Simply and are thinking about applying, why should they join and become one of us?
BD: The reality is that Simply Conveyancing represents and incredible opportunity for the right people. Would it be realistic for a company to say – “we are fantastic, we are the right fit for you…come and see us”. That is not real world. We are a fast moving organisation. We embrace technology to enhance our service, not to replace it. We have a very clear vision and we have a very clear purpose. So every colleague has to buy in to that purpose to deliver the best in class service that we aspire to deliver. We have a charter which clearly defines what we promise to our clients but also, what we are going to provide to our colleagues as well – the definition of “one of us”. That means much more to us that the outside world so to be “one of us” is special.
If you are an individual who understands that there is always a better way of doing something and can adapt and change quickly, taking it forward whole heartedly. Who can work with colleagues to be able to work towards a single purpose, to stand up and be willing to be heard when there is a solution, then this is absolutely the right organisation for you.
If you are thinking about joining us at Simply Conveyancing and you think you can become one of us, then absolutely send your CV in, we would be delighted to talk to you. If you are unsure about Simply – sometimes we can be described as a call centre or a volume conveyancer – well rest assured that Simply Conveyancing couldn’t be further from that. We also have set quotas and targets to reach for promotion from within so if you’re looking for the next steps in your career, Simply is the place for you.
CA: And the evidence of that is that some of our top and long standing lawyers actually started in our support roles
BD: Absolute – home grown lawyers. It comes down to “one of us”. If you buy in to our vision then you will get along at Simply. We always aspire to promote from within, no matter whether you are office based or a home worker, we need you to be a Simply person and one of us.
CA: So what can a new starter expect from their first few weeks at Simply?
BD: As part of the induction, new starters are invited to sit down with me and in a face to face environment, I make them a cup of tea! Today, it’s over zoom but it is important to me to get to know new colleagues, from a professional point of view but also, personally. We spend an awful long time with each other at work so it is important we know each other on a personal level and that all colleagues feel comfortable talking to me and asking me questions as well as the rest of the board. So what do I ask them? How has their first week gone…