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A man with the personal touch; Andrew Grant tells Jon Perks the secrets of his success in a property business that has withstood the test of time.

Byline: Jon Perks

To sustain any business for 40 years, through three recessions, is no mean feat, but when it is one operating in the fickle, fluctuating world of property, that makes it a particularly noteworthy achievement.

From the humblest of beginnings in April, 1971 - his first office in Pierpoint Street, Worcester had two chairs, bare floorboards and a roll of second hand carpet - Andrew Grant now oversees an estate agency empire with nine residential offices, its own Country Homes brand, a lettings arm, commercial property section, fine art business and a London office.

His philosophy, in a world so dominated by technology, can be summed up in three words - the personal touch.

"Be personable, presentable, an attention to detail, a high level of customer service and anticipation of a client's needs," said Mr Grant, 66.

"I've been through three or four recessions and you just have to keep hammering away, be available to people; it is a people business and being available to them all the time and being able to listen are key."

He added: "You can never be complacent, because you the day you do is the day you die.

"At some of our meetings (he holds daily staff meetings every morning at 8.15am) I say 'for god's sake, don't keep sending emails - please ring them, talk to them, become a person'; it's easy to send emails, but that's not the criteria."

Spending his school holidays at the furniture sales in Kidderminster, the 16-year-old Andrew Grant worked for agricultural auctioneers Arthur J Griffiths, before studying and working across the Midlands in Bromsgrove, Kidderminster and Birmingham. "Agents considered selling houses slightly infra dig," he said. "They were used to selling farms and nice houses in the country, so it was left to the juniors to deal with it and that's where I came in." Mr Grant, the son of a Kidderminster banker, qualified as a chartered surveyor, and armed with a list of good contacts decided to go it alone aged 26.

"Psychologically, I found it difficult working for other people," he said.

Ideas and inspiration he took into his own business came from many of the agents he worked for, such as Michael J Davis (who he later bought out).

"He was a great success in his time - not the most pleasant person, but he woke estate agency up and that's probably where I got more information on marketing than anywhere," he recalled.

"In Worcester I noticed agents weren't advertising like Michael Davis was; he revolutionised the advertising [aspect], and I had a good run for a year before they all cottoned on round here."

Mr Grant has adopted that thirst and desire to always innovate - he was one of the first agents in the region to recognise the value of the internet, the first to use full colour advertising, the first to open seven days a week, the first to use email alerts and to use QR codes on advertisements.

From his first trio of three-bedroom semis he sold for Colin Morris in Stourport - each for the then princely sum of pounds 3,550 each - Mr Grant now runs a business marketing properties that sell for millions of pounds.

Moving to their current Foregate Street offices in 1974 (the two halves previously a tobacconist and Chinese restaurant), Andrew Grant now employs nearly 150 staff across its many departments.

"It's a very complex business and it does help to have grown with it," said Mr Grant, a former High Sheriff of Herefordshire and Worcestershire and currently Deputy Lieutenant of Worcestershire.

He is also a husband and father of two, a landowner who farms some 600 acres - and charity fundraiser who has raised millions of pounds for many local causes, including St Richard's Hospice, of which he is a patron.

Two key events in Andrew Grant's 40th anniversary celebrations are a recent golf day and cricket match in September in aid of the charity.

As with the other elements in Andrew Grant's life, it is sure to be a success.

CAPTION(S):

Andrew Grant Tournament in 2009 are Luke Grant, Andrew Grant, Bob Grant, Michael Timmis; at a Clay Pigeon shoot
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Jun 2, 2011
Words:694
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