Starting a business is daunting for anyone, especially in what is currently considered a hostile market here in the North-east. Yet for some, it has provided the opportunity to seek out a new business venture.
Vince Spangenberg, managing director of Pebble Mountain Properties, a bright new residential letting agency based in the heart of Aberdeen, decided to break ground and start up his bespoke residential property lettings and management company.
With more than 25 years’ sales experience, latterly working for a coffee and vending company, Vince had long yearned for this moment. Having served a chunk of his career in this sales-based role and with no prospects or room for further challenges, he knew it was the right time to take a leap of faith. Although Vince hadn’t yet decided on the details of his new career, one thing he was certain about was that he wanted to make a difference, and that entrepreneurs are far more successful in doing so when they work in an industry that they feel very passionate about.
He said: “A good sale occurs when the sales person and the customer have both gained something positive from the experience. For me, it is about the effort you go to above and beyond that sale which will hopefully become the foundation of a long lasting business relationship. Customer satisfaction is paramount in obtaining this through open and honest communication. This is fundamental in many roles, and having served in the Royal Air Force for 12 years in air traffic control, I learned that to become a good communicator and understand the true value of this key life skill. With this in mind, along with my strong sales background, it became apparent that a business requiring excellent customer service was what I should focus my new venture on.
“Following personal disappointing experiences in the property letting world, from both a landlord and tenant’s perspective, it struck me that I could add some real value to this industry. One added value service we provide at Pebble Mountain Properties is our availability outside of normal working hours to assist with viewings. I always thought it presumptuous that a potential tenant should be expected to take time off work to view a property. It seems so obvious to provide this service, yet surprisingly very few do.
“Another service offered is our Vacant Property Inspection, which ensures that everything is in order if the landlord isn’t available to check it themselves. Simple things such as arranging for the grass to be cut and simple security and maintenance checks all help keep insurance premiums down. Good customer service is valued more than ever in today’s market and will often be the difference between a company surviving or not.”
Identifying your unique selling points as a business and demonstrating what you have to offer versus the rest of the market can help establish your company in a competitive marketplace. However, it is also important to stand out aesthetically. Vince continued: “I enjoyed coming up with the company name and branding which I knew had to be different and stand out in order for it to be remembered.
“The name, once I decided upon it, made perfect sense. I regularly see the sign coming into Aberdeenshire that reads ‘From the Mountains to the Sea, Aberdeenshire has it all’. I therefore wanted to provide a service for any property, large or small (the mountain being a metaphor for large properties, and the pebble for small) and no matter where they might be, on the coast or halfway up a mountain, we can provide a great service for them all. To cement the name choice, my surname Spangenberg actually translates in Dutch to ‘Mountain of Pebbles’, which seemed to tie everything in rather nicely.”
Pebble Mountain Properties has now been trading for a few months and as with many new starts, finding your feet can be difficult. Vince said: “Finance is always a worry when starting out. I didn’t like the idea of working from home as I enjoy the interaction with others, yet office leasing can be a large overhead for a small business. I, however have been very lucky and recently found a fantastic little office within Waterloo Quay Properties (WQP), located at Aberdeen’s harbour.
“The team at WQP are extremely helpful and they understand the difficulties in starting up a new business. They have a fantastic rent-free offer for new starts, which was a great help as I found my feet. I highly recommend investigating the opportunities available with them, as in addition to office space, there is also the opportunity to hot desk, take a virtual office or simply use their meeting space now and again - all of which are great services for young businesses to make use of. And this doesn’t include the gym and catering facilities on site, which are just perfect for me. Being in a similar industry, I found WQP’s passion for customer service very refreshing.
“People have often asked if I’m crazy starting up a property business in Aberdeen, when many are hesitant to move around at the moment. However, I don’t necessarily see it that way. For people who have unfortunately lost their jobs and have had to relocate, yet do not wish to sell their property in a stagnant market, they may look to renting it out instead, and this is where I come in. You also have those who are looking to downsize and rent out their property or may even rent a property themselves for a while until they are in the position to sell. There will always be opportunities if you know where to look for them. As they say, if opportunity doesn’t knock…”