Twenty years in and thriving, we take a look at Wolfs story from a team of two in Harborne to 20-plus staff managing thousands of properties across the city
Over the past two decades property has had its winners and losers with markets fluctuating wildly at times. And often, unfairly, estate agents’ reputations have taken a battering too. To get some balance and perspective we caught up with a local estate agent who has spent the last 20 years challenging those perceptions while building a solid reputable business.
Rad Vuckovic launched Wolfs in Harborne in 1996 having worked for a well-established property management company for 10 years. “I learned a huge amount about the industry but I realised as a family run business the potential to become a full equity partner was limited,” he said. So, aged just 30, Rad launched Wolfs from office space at Weekin Works in Parkhill Road, initially focusing solely on lettings. Together with colleague Jo Doherty, Rad wanted to build a business that had a different, fresh approach with a commitment to the highest possible standards of service while embracing technology and the business began to quickly flourish.
At the time there were only two dedicated lettings agents in Harborne and Wolfs gained a strong reputation for looking after the mid to high-end lettings. The timing was great as the boom in city centre living was about to really start. “The city centre was set up for business but not for living. When Symphony Court was built in the mid-Nineties it was the first scheme of its kind in the city centre. We rented about half of the houses and apartments and it just snowballed from there,” said Rad. In some buildings Wolfs were soon managing a large chunk of units, so to capitalise they introduced a residential block management division. Today they manage more than 1,500 properties in 20 different blocks in a way that’s refreshingly attentive. “We manage blocks as though we live in them, so we walk the sites regularly enabling us to deal with a problem before the tenants have even noticed” said Deb Murphy who heads up the team. Surprisingly, residential lettings isn’t subjected to a huge swathe of regulation. Recognising that this is potentially to the detriment of customers, Wolfs commit to a high degree of self-regulation with ARLA and ARMA accreditations.
They also aim to be as transparent as possible with their customers. “Ultimately we’re running a business so it’s important to make a profit but I think it’s important to offer value,” said Rad. “We took over a block two years ago where the managing agent had been charging 65 per cent commission on insurance which is nigh on criminal in our opinion. We choose to be upfront, transparent and give people the option. Customers really value this approach.”
This policy has helped Wolfs enjoy steady growth over the last two decades, including the opening of a second city centre based office in 2004 and the launch of a sales department five years ago. “Previously if a customer was looking to sell a property that we were managing, we were referring landlords to other agents. Now we can offer an all-encompassing, in-house service and it’s a real win-win situation.’ Despite the expansion Rad still personally interviews every member of staff – where people are the most important asset it’s vital that everyone buys into the company culture. The result is a highly motivated and stable team with many members of staff chalking up more than 10 years of service.
This continuity and a collective desire to give every client a positive experience are some of the key reasons for Wolfs successes. “Of course new business is important, but retaining existing business and doing it well is vital,” said Rad. “When you do a good job people talk about you. And if occasionally things aren’t perfect we think it’s equally important to hold your hands up and ask ‘How can we make things better’. Quite simply we just care about our clients.” So after a successful first 20 years in business what does the future hold? Clearly further expansion is on the cards and although the growth to date has been organic, Rad certainly hasn’t ruled out an acquisitive strategy. But lettings will remain at the core of the business and Rad explained why: “What I’ve realised about lettings is that there hasn’t been a slump in all the time I’ve been involved. When times are good rentals do well and when times are bad rentals do well.”