We are looking to open a new office a year over the next three years

Cousins and business partners Ian Preston and James Baker went from working for a leading estate agency chain to owning an estate agency and letting business under a Bairstow Eves franchise agreement

Around a year ago, business partners and cousins Ian Preston and James Baker went from working for a leading estate agency chain to owning their own estate agency and lettings business under a Bairstow Eves franchise arrangement.

Ian Preston and his cousin James Baker were both working for a large estate agency group when they decided to take the opportunity to launch their own business. "I was an Area Manager responsible for looking after 10 offices," remembers Ian. "During the course of my former employer's restructuring programme I spotted an ideal opportunity to launch my own estate agency business. I always had the aspiration to be my own boss so I saw the then market conditions as the perfect time to take the plunge into self employment.

"At the time, my cousin James was also working within the property industry as an estate agency branch manager. I approached him and suggested we launch an estate agency business together under the Bairstow Eves management franchise model. The fact that James and I are cousins meant that we immediately knew we could trust each other from the outset - a prerequisite when considering a new business partnership.

"By no means an essential ingredient under the Bairstow Eves franchise model, our previous experience within the industry meant that we were able to launch the new business in record time. Adding this to the general sales and management skills we possessed meant that we would become excellent business partners."

Although Ian and James were already familiar with many aspects of estate agency practise and legislation, the Bairstow Eves Franchising provided additional information and training via classroom based courses to fill their knowledge gaps. This was particularly true in the field of lettings and property management in which the pair had little previous experience.

"The training on offer is extensive," reveals Ian. "As we had no experience whatsoever in the lettings aspect of the business, we attended a training programme that concentrated on all aspects of lettings, property management, legislation and the comprehensive client services offered by the back room support unit at BEPM (Bairstow Eves Property Management).

"During the process of launching our York office, we had extensive support from the Bairstow Eves Franchising team at head office. There were many of aspects of running our own business that we had no experience in at all. So it was good to know that there was always someone at head office prepared to guide us through the various problems we encountered."

Ian and James divide their work load, with James concentrating on bringing new houses on to the books and Ian dealing with some selling, the overall business administration and the recruitment of staff. "I have enjoyed the challenge of selling houses again and doing the day to day estate agency jobs," explains Ian. "I have also achieved a much better work/life balance since launching the business and I am able to spend more time with my wife and three young children as I no longer work late into the evenings or weekends.

"In addition, we are now a little over 18 months in, we have grown the business substantially and we are considerably better off financially speaking."

Initially launching their first office in 2008, last December Ian and James expanded their business by opening a second office in Selby. This year the offices are set to produce a combined turnover in excess of £500,000. Although the business is going from strength to strength they are aiming to grow it even further still.

"We have secured franchise licences to open a further three new branches and we are planning to open one new office per year over the next three to four years," comments Ian. "Two offices will be opened in Leeds and one more in North Yorkshire, giving us a network of five in total."