Barry Phillips Meets... Michael Bruce

Posted in : Podcasts on 30 July 2018 Issues covered:

Michael Bruce Purple Bricks headshotMichael Bruce, with his younger brother Kenny, founded Purple Bricks which, in just a few years, has become one of the UK’s leading estate agencies. It shot to fame by offering to sell your house in the UK for a fixed fee of just £845 inclusive of VAT significantly less than the commissions charged by conventional estate agencies. Purple Bricks was recently valued at £868million.

Michael, and his younger brother Kenny and four older sisters were brought up by their single mother in a council house in Larne in the 70s and 80s. His first experience of work was when he was still a schoolboy doing a milk round in the morning and collecting glasses in a local pub in the evening while his brother did the Coal Run.

In this fascinating interview Michael says: “We didn’t want to rush to market. Many entrepreneurs think when they’ve got a website, they’ve got a business. We spent two and a half years building the business first.”

Now in Australia and the USA there is no holding back these two brothers from Larne. When asked for final advice developing a business he simply states: “Have a dream and be relentless and wise in pursuing it.”



Barry:Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Barry Phillips Meets... My guest today is Michael Bruce. My guess is that in common with many others here, you've never come across his name before, but he, along with his younger brother Kenny, could turn out to be two of the most successful entrepreneurs to have come out of Northern Ireland in many decades. Michael and his brother and four older sisters were brought up by their single mother in a council house in Larne in the '70s and '80s. His first experience of work was when he was still a schoolboy doing a milk round in the morning and collecting glasses in a local pub in the evening while his brother did the coal run. After a slow start at school, he began to turn things around, graduating with a degree in law at Southampton University, practicing as a solicitor, and then running legal firms.

In 2012, with Kenny, Michael founded Purplebricks, an estate agency offering the customer a house sale for a fixed fee considerably lower than the rates of commission charged by conventional high street agencies. What's also different about them, they say, is that they provide a local property expert to help market your property. Backed by amazing online technology, they can have your house up for sale even on a Sunday just one hour after the decision was made to put it on the market.

In December, the company was valued at £240 million and was floated on the alternative investment market. Since then, its price has more than tripled. Purplebricks is now one of the largest estate agencies in the UK. The brand was recently rolled out in Australia and the USA.

I might add that Michael proved very hard to track down. He's clearly a very busy man. This was my third attempt to interview him. In order to get it done, we had to do it remotely through a very shaky internet connection. So, the quality of the recording is not great, but please bear with me, ladies and gentlemen. I thank you in advance for your patience here. Michael's journey is extraordinary and what he shares in this interview, I think, is absolutely fascinating. So, please enjoy my interview with Michael Bruce.

Michael, good morning and welcome to the podcast.

Michael:Good morning.

Barry:Thank you very much for your time. I know you're very busy building the Purplebricks empire at the moment. So, I'm very grateful to you for finding the time for this podcast. I'm really excited to ask you a number of questions about Purplebricks in a moment.

Before I do that, Michael, can I just ask you — could you paint a little bit of a picture for me of what it was like for you to be brought up in Larne in the '80s? I understand you were one of six children brought up by a single parent, your mother, in a Larne council estate. So, could you just describe what you remember about your childhood?

Michael:Yeah. I was very proud of our childhood. It was a period of — you might think living in a council estate in Northern Ireland as being something that was not to be proud of. For us, we were very proud of it. There were six of us with my mother. We lived in a beautiful, picturesque place where people these days, if they could stand on that cliff and look over the sea and see the beauty of the Antrim Coast, they would pay a fortune to do that. Living in Northern Ireland, where we were supported by my grandparents, who were a massive support for us, who I saw every single day for the first 15 years of my life, was amazing. It was a very supportive community, albeit divided at that time. I didn't see a lot of the division with the people I would associate with, whatever part of that divide they were at the time. But yeah, it's a beautiful place, beautiful memories, albeit difficult. We weren't brought up with loads of money at all, but we were very strong as a group of people. That's been very helpful in everything we've done since then.

Barry: What was your earliest experience of work? When did you first have a part-time job in Larne?

Michael: My earliest experience of work was I did a milk round. I would be collected at 4:45 in the morning. I would go and do the milk round, get delivered back about 10 past 8:00, get quickly ready, and walk three miles to school. I would then come home in the evening and I would have a job collecting glass in a club. I would be there sometimes till 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning collecting glasses and then I would go back through the same cycle again.

Barry: How did things go for you at school? Were there any early signs of entrepreneurship as a young boy at school?

Michael:I think there were signs that I would be walking three miles from where we lived to school, primary school, and I would be, as a young boy, dreaming about running my own businesses and I would think about who I'd want to work with and why I'd want to work with them, etc. So, I think the early indications were I definitely wanted to go out there and make a difference, run a business and do something. It was always something I wanted to do, but I didn't feel as a young lad that I had sufficient confidence to be able to do that. So, I took a path of going down the legal route to become a lawyer so that I could start the process of preparing to run a business.

Barry:You went to a good university, Southampton University, very good reputation. You qualified as a solicitor, but did you always see that as a means to an end? Was that your training to then go out into business?

Michael:It absolutely was. I was never intending to be a lawyer forever. I always wanted to run businesses. I felt that it was good to be equipped with a degree, a good degree which would help me and has helped me a lot since I've been in business. But for me, it was about fulfilling one element of being a very successful entrepreneur and that's being very confident and it helped me a lot with that. So, I would do all commercial subjects, so therefore pushing towards running a business. Though actually, when I qualified, I chose not to go to a commercial law firm but to go there and do criminal law because it was the only area of law on the day you qualified, you could actually go stand in a court and argue your case. Therefore, I did that so I could go out there and build the confidence. So, when you get into business, sometimes you have to argue your case. That certainly helped me argue mine.

Barry: You mentioned earlier about getting the confidence. Do you think the vision came before the confidence? Did you have an idea that you wanted to go into business? You weren't perhaps sure what it would be, but it would be something exciting and something big. You would just have to bide your time for you to get those skills. How did those two things together come together, the confidence plus the ability?

Michael:There's no reality without a dream. When you're a very young boy, I used to dream about running a business. It started there, really. Then as time goes on, you try and fill in the gaps by getting the right opportunities that are going to put you in a place where you can be successful. And touch wood, I've been very, very lucky to be able to do that. There's obviously been lots of different obstacles along the way, but nevertheless, it started with that dream and all of other pieces of the jigsaw have been slotted in since then.

Barry:Michael, Purplebricks, there's lots I want to ask you, but can I start right at the beginning with the name, Purplebricks, how did Purplebricks come about as a name?

Michael:It came about as a name whereby myself, Kenny, my brother, and the first guy that we called whenever we wanted to do Purplebricks was a chap called David Shepherd who worked with me since he was 20 years of age. We sat around the table, and I think David, as a character, the reason we chose him was because he was very, very particular. Attention to detail was good. In some ways, he's a little OCD. We sat around the table and the first thing he said, "Look, guys, I'm happy to help you fulfil this dream, but I need to know who I'm working for because I won't be able to concentrate on it until I know." He said, "The first thing I need to know is the name." We said, "Look, what do we want the brand to stand for?" We wanted the brand to stand for integrity, strength of character, even to some degree, regalness. We said, "Okay, go out and find me a colour that best depicts that in the mind of the consumer." He came back after a period of research and said, "Look, purple is at the top of the list." Then we said, "Okay, we have a vision for a modern real estate business. We don't want anything that's in any way traditional. Our intention is to build a strong and recognisable brand. So therefore, give me something that hints that it's something to do with property and to do with technology." Then we put bricks and that was it. It was one of the few things where we haven't actually gone and spent a lot of money getting someone with greater brains than us to come up with a name. So, we came up with it in my kitchen and that's how we ended up with Purplebricks.

Barry: That's a great story. So, there's no test marketing it, piloting it, trying it out, getting early customer feedback on it. That's just how you went for it and you stuck with it.

Michael: Yeah, it's funny, isn't it? In our grown-up business now, we do a lot of that sort of stuff, but back then, it just seemed right. So we said, "Look, that's the vision, Purplebricks, it's what it's going to be." We didn't do any test marketing. But what we did discover is along the journey, every time we mentioned Purplebricks to anyone, whether that be someone we were trying to attract to help us along the journey or whether it was someone who we were looking to invest, we recognised very early that the minute you get Purplebricks in your mind, it's very difficult to come out. We have this feeling the brand would be one that would stick.

Barry: When I first came across the name, I remember seeing it on a billboard as I was cycling to work and I thought, "Purplebricks," and I thought, "that's clever." Because it stands out, yet at the same time, it's generic enough that you could grow a lot of business into the name, if that makes sense. So there's room for expansion without you thinking I've got the name here.

Michael: It's versatile enough, and we're showing some of the things that we're doing to extend the brand now. The name is versatile enough to use across a broader spectrum than just the sale or purchase of a property. So, yeah.

Barry: And where did the idea for Purplebricks first come from and what convinced you that it would work?

Michael: Well, it depends whether you want the truth. That would be from me rather than my brother, who will say it partly came from him. But the reality of the situation is what happened is that I ended up sat on the board of a traditional estate agency business. It was a very good business, profitable business, but a little sleepy. Cutting a long story short, Kenny was the estate agent in the family. We then ended up buying that business, persuaded a bank to give us about £5 million to buy it. We bought that business. We were fairly innovative in the space, constantly been asked to sell the business. But got to 2011 and being the CEO of an estate agency business but you've never actually been an estate agent enables you to look at it in a very different way. I could never understand why I worked with some first-class people who wanted to help and support customers, but the minute you mentioned the word estate agent, often people have got a bit of a smile on their face and an inner feeling of unhappiness and that's down to a model. What we were to do is say okay, millions and millions have been spent around the world helping and supporting buyers understand what's on the market and what's in the market, but actually, little or nothing have been spent helping and supporting sellers, the people who actually create the industry, to make their whole life a lot more convenient, a lot more transparent, and a lot more cost effective. So, we said, "Okay, how can we do that?" We looked whether we could do it alongside a traditional model and came to the conclusion that our ability to do that and remain credible would be very difficult. Sending someone to a street armed with an £800 fee and a £3,000 fee knowing that the £800 fee was going to deliver a better experience wasn't going to be a recipe for future success. So, we sold the traditional estate agency business because we felt that we could change an industry by taking great people and technology and bringing them together.

Barry: Can you just describe to me a little bit about the early moves to the business, the early development? That was the concept. How did you go from idea to getting a first footprint in this new space?

Michael:So, the first thing we knew was what we weren't going to do is what a lot of young entrepreneurs do these days, is rush to market. They think they've got a business the minute they've got a website. We believe that it was appropriate to go out and really find out from customers what they loved about the industry, what they didn't, what they liked about the process and what they didn't. We therefore spent just over two and a bit years working full-time tirelessly to get really under the skin of it. When we did do, that's how we built the model. The first things that we knew we needed to build was one, we were going to create a brand and therefore, one of the first people we went to was a creative agency, who them took us on, [inaudible 00:15:31], then introduced James Kidd, who is a former Chief Marketing Officer at Virgin. He was our first hire after David. He was the first person we said, "We need to build a brand, we need above-the-line marketing, it has to be on TV, and you have to build the brand quickly." So, he then created what the brand would stand for, how it would look, how it would be articulated. We even started to create TV advertising. Then the second thing was technology. To some extent, we had not come from a technology background. We had to find someone who was going to help us build technology that gives customers a wholly different experience to what they would otherwise have. So, that was the next stage of the development. The third part was filling in the estate agency part of it and making sure that we had all of the right brains. My brother filled in the third bit of the equation.

Barry: And that first two and a half years of effectively researching it and getting all the ducks in the row, how was that funded? Was that self-funded, that bit? Because even that, presumably, was quite expensive. You must have taken on some very able people there.

Michael: Yeah. I think at the time, we just sold the traditional real estate agency with a view to doing the Purplebricks business. We invested pretty much 100% of every penny that we had to get the business to a stage where we could launch and raise money alongside it. I think we spent about £1.5 million of our own cash pretty much getting Purplebricks to be fit for purpose for a launch and then went on and raised more money just as we were about to launch.

Barry: In businesses, there are a lot of people who say there are huge advantages to being the first mover into a market, but there are others who say well, actually, it's the second mouse that gets the cheese here. Were you aware of others who were about to do the same? Did you feel that you had to get in first or were there any advantages in not rushing and let others make the mistakes ahead of you?

Michael: They're both very valid arguments. There are good examples of both being correct in different industries. I think the key thing for us was making sure that we were well-prepared to execute and execute quickly, that we had the technology in place, we had the brand tools to be able to grow the brand quickly, and that we had the capital to do that. So, in some ways, we weren't the first. There were people that were doing some form of online estate agency over here and there was traditional over here. What they hadn't done is one, took into account the mind-set of the customer, and that is they may never want to sell their house entirely by way of technology. They still want someone who's going to help them get the very best price and save them money, but they do understand the power of technology and what it can do to really help and support them through what can be a very difficult process. So, for us, it was about making sure all of those ducks were on the wall so that if we were first mover out the door, that we could build that brand, grow it materially very quickly, and therefore make it more difficult for the second person coming in to change the price, but also one of the strategic elements of what we did was we IPO'd only after about 20 months of launch. We did that deliberately in order to in some ways make the ability of funds available to competitors to be harder to get. Therefore, I suppose in our case, first mover advantage has worked. There will be other markets that we will enter where we won't be first mover, but we'll certainly be first mover in terms of technology and the power of what it will do for the customer. We'll be first mover in terms of building and growing a brand and we'll be first mover in terms of capital.

Barry: Sure. Mike, this is probably a question I should have asked you earlier, but where are we now in the sense of what is your offer to the consumer that is different to the conventional estate agent's offer? What is it that you have managed to achieve here that means it's much better for the customer here?

Michael: What we wanted to do is offer something that was much more convenient, much more cost-effective, and much more transparent. If you look at it first, the world had moved on in many, many other industries, whereby you could have sat at home at 8:00 at night and you could book a restaurant online, you could book a hairdressing appointment online. But actually, your ability to engage with an estate agency outside office hours was enormously difficult, if not impossible. That was often the time when people were at home. They were discussing the sale of their house or the purchase of their house, but actually, they were then left in no man's land, where waiting for an agent to call them back in order to get answers to things. What we wanted to do is say okay, how can we ensure that everything can happen automatically and systematically 24 hours a day? So, what we did is take the very best people in the industry, give them the opportunity to run their own business, so therefore they would care more about the customer and look after the customer. We would give them an advertising and marketing campaign that meant that they didn't have to worry about finding their own business and going out and trying to get it. We would build a brand. We knew how to build a brand and we would deliver them all of the opportunity. But then we'd build technology that makes everything happen automatically and systematically 24 hours a day. So, from the customer perspective, if you're sitting at home in Larne on a Saturday evening watching TV, it's 8:00 at night and you see one of our TV ads, you could go to our website and put in your post code. And in putting in your post code, immediately you could see who your local property expert is for your area. You could then see a live diary which tells you when they're available. So, you can book them to come around and give you a free valuation. So, let's say you book them for Sunday at midday. Our local property expert will come see you Sunday at midday. They'll give you all the advice and support you would get from the very best traditional estate agent. But we can also get your house live on the market in an hour. So, by 1:00 on the Sunday, your house is now live on the market and by that time that local property expert has got to your front door, everyone's been notified that your property has come to the market. So, by the time the experts then got into their car, people can engage with the market, despite it being Sunday afternoon. They can arrange a viewing. They can give feedback. They can make an offer. They can negotiate an offer. They can agree a sale and the lawyer is instantly instructed. They can communicate between seller and buyer. So, if buyer wants to ask seller a question, they can do that and be treated like adults and not have to have an intermediary go back and forward to make those arrangements. You can walk out of that house — say, what often happens, you walk out of the house and the wife says, "Oh, I love it, I love it. We have to get an offer before anyone else does." For the first time, you could walk down the street. You can make that offer. The second the offer is made, it's instantly with the seller. So, it's clear and transparent that you can negotiate that offer and you can agree the sale by the time you got to the end of the street. The second that the sale is agreed, both lawyers are instructed. So, when they're in the office on a Monday morning at 9:00 a.m., immediately they can see that a deal has been agreed and get on with the transaction. So, that's the sort of experience we give and the experience for the seller is clear and transparent. They know that every single offer is instantly with them. They know they've got an expert that's available to support them throughout the whole transaction. They know they can speak to someone at Purplebricks 24 hours a day. They know that the feedback they're getting is honest feedback that comes direct from the person who's viewed and is not manipulated in any way by an estate agent in order to try and get them to take their price down or whatever the case may be. So it's very clear for them. Also, for a buyer, it enables that buyer to make that offer, to give that feedback, to negotiate and empower themselves for the offer. And it's also for them clear that they can be guaranteed through Purplebricks the offer they make will instantly be with the seller. So, no worries about whether the agent's not putting forward the offer, not put forward in the very best light, etc. So, it's clear and transparent for them. But at the same time, in taking away the need for people to be in an office to arrange viewings, to receive offers, to negotiate offers, to make offers, to take feedback, and do all of these things, we've built technology that will make that happen automatically and systematically 24 hours a day. It's the very best state agency branch. We're able to offer the customer a much more cost-effective solution.

Barry: Michael, that was going to be my next question in terms of the cost-effectiveness of this. You're known for your fixed fee. So, outside of London and, for example, in Northern Ireland, what is the fixed fee for somebody who wants to sell the house through Purplebricks?

Michael: So, it's £849 including VAT. As part of that, you get the dedicated local expert and all of the service that you would expect of a traditional estate agent.

Barry: Sure. And one thing, I get the pricing model in the sense that because you have fewer overheads because of economies of scale, you can offer a very, very competitive rate. And [inaudible 00:26:30] that's why more conventional estate agents are very worried about this development. But what I'm not quite getting here, I suppose, is why don't you just offer a lower commission? Because a lot of your competitors would say, "Well, if there's a fixed fee, there's no incentive for the local property expert to actually really promote and sell the house, the property." So, are you not playing into your competitors' hands by going for a fixed fee rather than a lower commission?

Michael: Yeah, I think they're all very valid questions. The reality of the situation is from our perspective, we were very clear about fixed fee because no sale, no fee is predominately what traditional estate agents offer. We believe no sale, no fee is fundamentally unfair. No sale, no fee only benefits one person. That's the person that never sells. Therefore, everyone that does sell underwrites the cost of those who don't. Therefore, if you look at a traditional estate agency business, they sell something like around 50% of what they take to the market. So, therefore, if you're paying a £2,000 fee, £1,000 of that is underwriting the cost of the people who either don't sell or churn in the market. So, what we said is we want to offer something that's much more competitive, that's fair, that everybody contributes towards, that means that we can offer a much cheaper price, that's one element. Two, it's, again, a very valid question to say, "Okay, if we charge a fixed fee, what is the incentive for us to sell?" So, let's say first off, our model involves giving the very best people in the industry the opportunity to run their own business. They are running their own businesses and the reality of the situation is a local property expert will only be successful by seeing sold boards in their area because every sold board breeds another two valuations, which can get you more instructions, etc. So, they live off sold boards. They earn more money when a property sells. But I've heard this argument before about they're not incentivised. Let's just get real clear on what the incentive is. The reality is if you're an estate agent in a branch working for an estate agent, a corporate estate agency office, and you are currently incentivised by way of a commission, for every £10,000 you get more for a customer, you're lucky to be able to buy yourself one pint of beer for that incentive. So, the idea that they're getting thousands of pounds extra and they don't have an incentive to get the best price, all decent agents, their whole incentive is to sell a property for a customer and help get the very best price. If you look at the TwentyCi data that was independent data that's available to everyone in the industry that came out recently, it said that we sell more houses, we sell them quicker, we complete faster. There's an example in an average UK price bracket where we were getting £6,000 more for our customers than traditional agents. So, they're all very valid arguments, but we are not the most positively reviewed estate agent anywhere in the UK and we don't have the level of growth and success that we've got by not selling houses. We've got it through being very good and very successful at what we do.

Barry:Sure. Recently, Michael, I remember seeing you on "Watchdog" because the BBC "Watchdog" programme was doing a feature on estate agencies and I know Purplebricks got quite a bit of flak because the advertising authority was saying that there are issues around how you're presenting statistics and so on. I just wanted to ask you first of all, what's the process before you go onto "Watchdog"? Do you negotiate what sort of terms there would be, what sort of questions that you might get asked? Or do they just contact you and say that we're doing a feature on Purplebricks. If you want to come in and defend yourself, you better get here next Tuesday, 6:00. How does it work?

Michael:It's definitely the latter. You get put into a room about 30 minutes before you go on air and they show you the footage that's going to go on air and that's really the first time you have any knowledge of what they're going to say.

Barry: And now having gone through that process, because this was Anne Robinson and she was pretty brutal. She gave you a pretty hard time. How do you reflect on the experience now?

Michael:You don't go into business where you want to be very successful and grow very quickly and not find that there are times along the journey that are either uncomfortable or unsatisfactory, and I'm no different to anyone else. The reality is that we built Purplebricks on the basis of trying to be more transparent, be clear about fees, be clear about the service we offer. We are the only agent that tells people exactly what they're going to pay on our website. We believe fundamentally that it's unfair that in today's age that you can have two people selling a house on the same street, myself and my grandmother, the exact same house and the exact same price, but because she can't negotiate as well as I can, she's paying thousands of pounds more in commission to sell the same house at the same cost as myself. So, we've worked to be very transparent. I think being on any of these programmes is a learning curve for everyone in the business. There wasn't a single person in our business that wasn't hurting that day, but we've learnt from it and we'll grow and we'll continue to work hard. But if you're a disruptive business making change in an industry, the reality is, and you're going to be doing it differently than what it's been doing traditionally for years and years, there are going to be occasions whereby you will be asked to articulate your message or present it in a different way and we will do that. If you ask the advertising standards people, they will say look, for a disruptive business, albeit it might be uncomfortable, reality is you get less issues than other disruptive businesses we've seen. So, it's a matter of learning from things.

Barry: Sure. I know you've rolled out recently in Australia and you're doing the same now in the USA. What is the plan for the next five years? Is it global domination?

Michael: I think we continue to grow. The UK business is one element. We have grown the Australian business and are looking to continue to grow that as fast a rate as we possibly can. We're now in the US. We're across a number of states in the US and that's been particularly successful so far. And only a week or so ago, we bought a reasonably substantial business in Canada for CAD$51 million, which again will add value to the overall group business. But at the moment, I want to concentrate our efforts on those four countries and move them to where we expect them to be and maybe think about other things after that.

Barry:Sure. I want to ask you a little bit, Michael, about your relationship with Kenny, who is your main business partner here, your brother. What would you say his skills are that he brings to Purplebricks? If I asked him what skills you bring, what do you think he would say?

Michael:What Kenny brings is a sense of absolute customer-centric affection, a love of people. He's got a really nice character. He has a great brain in terms of how to articulate our message to our customers. He works tirelessly. He's very fair. So, all of those things apply and he's very happy to have a robust debate with his brother as to what the best course of action or outcome might be in any particular circumstance, which is, for me, a quality. So, all of those things, I would say. I think if he was asking me, he would say, don't know, I think he would probably say very, very determined, sometimes tough, I would say passionate. It's very difficult for me to say what my brother might say. It might be the total opposite to all of those things. But I suspect he would have some good and bad things to say. You might want to ask him.

Barry:Yeah. It's just that when you see two people working together and achieving great things, usually one is the person with the vision and other is the implementer. Do you see yourself as the guy with the vision and he's the implementer? Is it the other way around? Or is it actually on this occasion a bit of both?

Michael:I think that I'm probably the one with the vision and the more global strategy. He's definitely got closer to those sorts of things as time's gone on, but I think initially, he was definitely the guy on the ground. He enjoys that sort of thing. He doesn't enjoy being in and around board meetings or investors or people like that. That's not his thing. He wants to be in and around people and helping them be really successful. So I suppose to some extent he's the implementer and I'm the strategist.

Barry:How did this relationship come about? Did it come by accident? Did you both fall into it and then perhaps a year or two into some sort of business you thought, "Well, actually, we're very good business partners"? Do you actually ever sit down and analyse where your mutual weaknesses and strengths are as a partnership or as a team?

Michael:I think we both recognise that the strength of what you've got with Kenny and I is that we're different. We want the same objectives, but we want different parts in the play. It's good that we don't all want to be the same thing. Then if you take into account that many of the things that I'm not as good at, Kenny is particularly good at, and vice versa. Then you put it with the connection of having two brothers who grew up within two years of each other in terms of age who get on well, who are best friends, then you have a very, very strong bond that can make dreams a reality.

Barry:Michael, we're coming towards the end of this podcast, you'll be pleased to know. I've just got a few rapid-fire questions to finish with. The first question is this. Is there a book, podcast, DVD, or resource that you felt so passionately about that you've actually given it to others, and if so, what was it?

Michael: Yeah. Simon Sinek's book called "Starting with Why", that I give it to every single member of the team that joins Purplebricks.

Barry:Okay. What is it you get from this book? It's often lauded about and many people rate it well. What did it do for you?

Michael:It's just a very simple way of articulating a very difficult message about how you should think about leadership and how you should think about growing and developing your business. People buy why you do what you do, not what you do. Everybody does what you do. There are lots of people being an estate agent. They buy why. That why is because you want to offer someone a much more convenient, transparent, cost-effective service and you care dearly about customers. That's what people buy. They don't buy what you do.

Barry: Next question. If you could hang a banner with huge letters on it from the Harland & Wolff cranes for a whole year, what would it say?

Michael:Be proud of what peace has achieved.

Barry: Wow, okay. Why that over everything else that could be put on the banner?

Michael: Northern Ireland is a beautiful place with some of the most beautiful people in the world. They should be very proud of what was a very difficult period in their history and they have worked very hard to make a difficult situation become a success story and we should all learn from that.

Barry: That's a lovely positive thing to say. You won't know this, Michael, or you won't have experienced it, but we've just had probably the best five or six weeks of the summer that you could possibly wish to have in Northern Ireland and it's just been a magical place to be. It is. When you have great weather, although it doesn't happen often enough, but it's just spectacular. Next question. There are many pieces of business advice out there, sayings, etc. that are more clever than true. Have you got one that springs to mind?

Michael: Have an undying love to give your customers and each other, a better day every day.

Barry: Okay. And why that? Could you just explain that a little?

Michael: I think that in order to be passionate about what you do, you've got to have an undying desire to deliver for others. When you start out as a young entrepreneur, you often think about what you're going to get, what's the outcome for you. Actually, the outcome for you is just whatever you do to make other people's life better. If you do something that makes other people's life better, you will get the by-product of that, and that's the success that comes with it.

Barry: Thank you. Is there one belief, habit, or practice that has propelled you forward more than anything else? If so, what is that?

Michael: I suppose when you have a dream, be relentless and wise in pursuing it because there is often an argument for saying that people are very quick to knock your dreams and say, "Stop dreaming, don't daydream, live in reality." But reality only comes from dreams and if you don't try and pursue those in a relentless and a wise way, then it's a very boring future for everyone.

Barry: Finally, Michael, is there anything that you've purchased in, say, the last 12 months for around £50 that has actually proved of huge value to you? If so, what?

Michael: I suspect that it's a thing that I put across my laptop so that when I travel everywhere, I'm the only person that can see what's on it. So, whatever angle you look at, you can't see anything that I'm typing on it. That's the only thing I had bought recently that might be around £50 that's been very useful.

Barry:That's clever. I've not come across that. Is there a name you could give?

Michael: I don't know what it's called, actually, but it's just a little thin plastic film that you clip to the front of your screen and whatever angle you're looking at, unless you're sat straight on, no one can see what you've got on the screen. Lots of banks use it. When you're going through passport control, you'll see that they use it, and stuff like that.

Barry: Interesting. I'll do a bit of Googling on that and if I can come up with a name, I'll put that in the show notes. I've got to be respectful of your time. I promised you it would take no more than an hour and we're virtually there, Michael. Just finally, how can people reach out to you if they want to get in touch with you, if they want to join you at Purplebricks? What do they do? How can they do that?

Michael: It's very easy. I'm very security-conscious. Just send me an email. I've come up with this email. It's very hard to work out. It's Just send me an email and it will be a pleasure to work with you.

Barry: Okay. Michael, you're on a fascinating journey. I have to say I really envy what you're doing. I really admire how far you've got so far. I wish you the very best of luck and thanks for your time. I really enjoyed speaking to you. Thank you very much.

Michael: It's my absolute pleasure. Thank you.

Barry: As a footnote to this podcast, the filter that Michael was referring to there is most likely the 3M Privacy Filter. It's available from Amazon, retailing at under £30, and seems to be very well-reviewed.

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This article is correct at 30/07/2018

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