'Awards boosted our credibility'
THE recognition of excellence that comes with a Huntingdonshire Business Award can set a business apart from its rivals. In a field as competitive as the property lettings market, that can make a real difference, according to Maxine Lester, founder of Max
THE recognition of excellence that comes with a Huntingdonshire Business Award can set a business apart from its rivals.
In a field as competitive as the property lettings market, that can make a real difference, according to Maxine Lester, founder of Maxine Lester Residential Lettings.
"It's the credibility that comes with winning an award that benefits the company the most - because it means that our peers are telling us we are doing a good job," said Mrs Lester, whose company has won five awards in four years, including the 2009 Employer of the Year.
The company's detailed feedback notes show that 49 per cent of new business comes through recommendations.
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Mrs Lester said: "People have a wider choice of agents now, so we know that word of mouth and recommendations matter a lot.
"Nearly half our new business now comes this way, which shows that people value the service we offer, which is also reflected in our Business Awards wins.
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"Although business has been tough for many companies in the past year, our market has not changed that much. We don't compete on price, but on service."
It is not just appreciation from outside the company that a business award brings, but motivation from inside, added Mrs Lester.
"It gives you the feelgood factor to win, and we are proud of that," she said. "It's recognition that what we do is working, and it's a motivation to continue to do well. You want to keep on succeeding."
To build on that feeling, Maxine Lester Residential Lettings has entered the Sunday Times Lettings Agent of the Year award, going up against national rivals in a competition that will be judged in June.
As well as being a successful hunting-ground for her company, Mrs Lester said the Huntingdonshire Business Awards ceremony at the Burgess Hall in St Ives has proved an excellent venue for forging links with other award-winners.
Her company is currently in discussions with design company Blue Prawn, winner of the Business Website award last year, after making contact at last year's awards ceremony.
She said: "Business is about people, and when you meet them you begin to see how they work, so the business awards have been great for meeting other business people in the area.
"We have met a number of people directly through the awards who have given us great advice and new ideas."
After garnering praise from judges for its hands-on approach to employee development, Maxine Lester Residential Lettings has continued to invest in its staff in the past year.
Three employees will take the National Federation of Property Professionals (NFOPP) award in residential lettings and property management this summer, with a junior joining the team, and an apprentice scheme being developed.
"Taking on an apprentice may not be a new idea, but our staff know that we input into them, and the idea is that our juniors will progress through the company," said Mrs Lester.
"We have very low staff turnover, and many who started with me five years ago are still here. We have a lot of history here now.
"We want people to see that this can be a career for them, not just a job.