Interview with Greg Bryce, newly appointed Managing Director of SearchFlow

Last week SearchFlow appointed Greg Bryce as Managing Director. In an exclusive interview he told Jane Common at Today’s Conveyancer why he’s excited about his new role and what he will bring to it….

How are you settling into your new job?

“I’m very excited about it. I’m moving down to Kent, where our head office is, as I want to be close to the operation – hopefully I can find a conveyancer and a search company to help me with that!

“Seriously, though, I want to throw myself into this role. I owe it to myself and the guys here to understand the business as quickly as possible and from there make a positive impact – and the way to do that is to live and breathe it.

“A week in, it’s great. There’s a good vibe in the office and people are welcoming and happy to chat. My first fortnight is going to be full on with meeting clients and staff – I have an open-door policy and everyone here will come and spend ten minutes one-to-one with me as part of my induction to the business. I’m asking them to bring two or three ideas along – the people that talk most to our customers are our customer services people and I want to hear what they have to say and understand the business from their perspective. Let’s see what works well and we’ll continue with that and where there might be improvements to be made we’ll get on and make them without delay.”

How did you get into the search industry?

“My background is pretty varied – I worked for Verizon for a number of years as Head of UK Corporate Sales and then my entrepreneurial instinct kicked in and I started my own business, which was very successful. But I wanted to do more so after a couple of years of doing that I became the first UK employee of 118118 Media and it was from there that I moved into the property sector as Commercial Director at Digital Property Group. And that was a challenge – I was looking after FindaProperty and PrimeLocation and when I started they were so far behind the behemoth that is Rightmove that it could have seemed impossible. But we did it –pretty soon we were snapping at the heels of Rightmove and had a 24% year-on-year increase in customer numbers.

“Then Mark Milner, my boss at the Digital Property Group went over to Landmark and arranged for me to meet the then CEO Stephen Stout. I was very impressed with what I saw so I accepted the offer even though the sector was unknown to me.

“I was lucky in that the half a dozen or so outstanding people I’d met at FindaProperty were able to join me. That was so important and I want to acknowledge that – my success is down to the people that work alongside me and their quality and aptitude as well as my own.”

What made SearchFlow an attractive opportunity?

“At Landmark I looked after SearchFlow and its competitors but obviously when dmgi::land&property bought SearchFlow two years ago they became part of the same wider group. Still, there are ‘Chinese walls’ between Landmark and SearchFlow so I suppose that was part of the attraction of this job – seeing what went on behind those walls.

“Also, after three very enjoyable and inspiring years at Landmark, I was ready for a change and the job at SearchFlow was a good opportunity to go into a business that was getting a lot of things right – at the top of its game, if you like.

“It’s also a bigger role for me in terms of the revenues I’m looking after and that should be stimulating and exciting too.”

How do you plan to up SearchFlow’s game when it’s already at the top of it?

“Well, the market has shifted in the last year and there’s been some consolidation so in that changing market I believe I can bring pace and new energy to SearchFlow. We have to stay ahead of the curve with technology too and that’s a matter of listening to our clients. Our sales and marketing people are talking to them all day every day and understand what the marketplace needs from an innovation perspective.”

So are you looking at developing new products?

“Yes but hand-in-glove with our customers – we have some great ideas but we need to be able to commercialise them and that’s going to come through conversations with conveyancers.

“The challenge for solicitors is that the area where they make the least of their money but take the most of their risk is on house purchases. So what we look to do for our customers is to mitigate that risk. They appreciate that when they get a report from us they’re protected because we’re a trusted, knowledgeable business and we’re always at the end of the phone to answer any questions. The one commodity conveyancers need more of is time and we can give them that by enabling them to spend less time looking at searches. That’s our job.”

Will you be getting out there and talking to conveyancers?

“Definitely – wherever I’ve worked I’ve known that good relationships are vital. And that’s with everybody – the people that order the searches throughout the UK are just as important to me as the people that sit at the top of the biggest law firms in London. If I think I can add value to someone’s working life with SearchFlow, believe me I’m going to tell them about it.”

SearchFlow prides itself on customer service – how do you plan to maintain those high standards?

“I want us to be world class and if we are world class now that’s wonderful and if we’re not I want us to get there. Obviously I’ve only been Managing Director for a week so for me to comment on where the good and bad might lie is impossible but I absolutely want to put the customer at the heart of everything we do. You could say that’s a cliché but it’s my mantra and I’ve been very successful in building businesses on the back of it. I want our customers to evangelise about the quality of every contact they have with SearchFlow and I want them to have the same experience whether they order one report or thousands of reports a year.

“Customer service isn’t just about external customers, of course – it’s about internal customers too. I want SearchFlow to only employ the best people in the marketplace – I believe we already do – and I want us to develop those people. I don’t care what people’s job titles are – I want everyone in the organisation to have the ability to influence ideas that shape our strategy. And we should have pride in our brand so when people are talking about their jobs I want them to be excited to say they work at SearchFlow.”

Will you be looking to recruit more staff?

“At the moment we’re about 200-strong but as the market changes if there’s a requirement to recruit more staff, we’ll seek out the highest quality people. And what we offer here is fantastic – we have a very intensive initial induction for our customer services team which is industry recognised as outstanding and I want to build on that with a focus on continual professional development. I don’t want good people to leave SearchFlow – ever. I want to encourage everyone and allow them to grow and progress within the company. It’s a criminal waste if we have talented members of staff whose voices aren’t heard – how disillusioning is that? So part of my job is to make sure that people feel empowered and know their ideas are valued.”

What changes do you anticipate in the search industry over the next few years?

“I think there’ll be more consolidation and that somewhere along the line the whole house buying process might be simplified. It’s still relatively convoluted and there must be some efficiencies that can be made.”

What do you enjoy about working in the search industry?

“I like having a positive influence in the single most important purchase that people make – I relish the knowledge that I’m helping people on their way in life. I enjoy being part of a team as well. Watching people flourish and develop is incredibly rewarding – I influence the people I work with and, of course, they influence me in return. The search industry is also exciting because the market changes all the time. So my role – and indeed the role of everybody who works at SearchFlow – is to make sure we’re always ahead of the curve and delivering the best service possible for our customers.”

For more information about SearchFlow, log on to www.searchflow.co.uk

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