18:03 PM, 5th March 2023, About 12 months ago
This is a heart-warming story of how a potentially very nasty contentious litigation battle was not only avoided but was also transformed into something that could well become a lifelong friendship and lucrative two-way business relationship.
It began around six weeks ago when I was doing some keyword research for SEO marketing purposes and stumbled upon a website called PropSourcer.com
My initial reaction was one of outrage, because at first glance it looked like a total ripoff of our Property118 website. They were operating in our market space (UK landlords), the website colour scheme was identical to ours and to a great extent so was the layout. The fonts used and even the ‘Call-To-Action’ buttons were just like our own.
Our website has been running for much longer than theirs (I checked) so there was no way they could argue that we had copied them. I began to gather my evidence of this and found a link on WayBackMachine to prove what our website looked like years before the existence of ProperSourcer.
I was fuming!
Thankfully, my wife is a calming influence on me and managed to persuade me to take a few days to rationalise my thoughts before acting further. She reminded me that ‘imitation is a form of flattery’ and to sleep on that for a few days before I did anything further.
Fortunately, I followed my wife’s advice and a week later I sent a professional email to the owner of the PropSourcer website to request a Zoom meeting to have a discussion about the objectives of our websites, our motives for creating them and to possibly discuss opportunities for collaboration. The owner of PropSourcer.com is a chap called Dean. He’s a British ex-pat living in Hong Kong and working as an IT developer.
It took a few attempts to persuade Dean to agree to meet me on a Zoom call, partially because of time zones but I suspect he went on the same emotional roller-coaster ride as I did when I first discovered how similar the aesthetics of our websites are. That topic occupied the first five or 10 minutes of our Zoom call.
Later in the discussion I learned that Dean’s back story was that he wanted to build a small UK property rental business to secure his own future. Sadly, at his first attempt he engaged the services of a property-sourcer who ripped him off. Dean had paid a reservation fee to a UK Property Sourcer who did nothing to help him close a deal after taking his money. This resulted in Dean losing out on the deal and on professional fees too. That experience infuriated him to the point he researched the law to see whether his money was recoverable. He soon discovered the Estate Agency Act 1979 and subsequent legislation that compels UK Property Sourcers to belong to an Ombudsman scheme and have Professional Indemnity Insurance to be compliant. As you might expect, the business that had ripped Dean off wasn’t compliant but to Dean’s shock and horror, the authorities didn’t want to know when he reported the crime.
Not being one to give up that easily, and to ensure he wouldn’t be ripped off again, Dean decided to look for a list of UK-compliant property-sourcers, but he couldn’t find one.
Undeterred, Dean realised this was an opportunity not to be missed. He knew there must be a demand for a platform of this nature, so using his IT developer skills he decided to build one. There were three reasons. The first was to build a list of property-sourcers to work with himself. The second was to make that list available free of charge in order to reduce the risks of other people like him being ripped-off, or at least to have some form of recourse. The third was that he saw a business opportunity to sell high-quality leads to the companies he had checked out.
Dean’s experiences and ideas resonated with me.
He also gave me the ‘heads up’ on some SEO software I’d not heard of before and used that technology to flatter my ego by showing me independent data suggesting that Property118 is ranked the 76th most popular business and consumer services website in UK real estate. Wow, just wow!
It seems to be going reasonably well for Dean’s small business initiative too, but after hearing his story it became immediately obvious to me there was an opportunity for us to support each other further. This article is the beginning of that, because it will increase awareness of Dean’s website.
The commercial benefits could also work in the other direction. Every person using Dean’s website deserves to understand how a SmartCo structure can help them with business continuity, legacy planning and associated tax efficiency. Furthermore, there was an opportunity for Dean to further monetize his website by making valuable referrals to the Property118 Tax team, by becoming a Property118 Ambassador.
The morals of the story: –
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