Gary Rigby talks to Gemma Goodson

Gary Rigby, of FDS Southern, talks to Gemma Goodson, Finance Director at Northwood

Gary Rigby: Can you provide us with a brief history of Northwood and how it became a market leader?

Gemma Goodson: Northwood began in Portsmouth in 1995, when we identified a gap in the market for the Guaranteed Rent Service. As a professional company that places significant importance on customer service, Northwood has expanded to 75 franchised territories and manages in excess of 10,000 properties.

Gary Rigby: How does Northwood’s Guaranteed Rent Service work?

Gemma Goodson: Our unique rent guarantee ensures the Landlord receives a pre-agreed figure for the year, paid to them monthly regardless of whether the tenant pays the rent or if the property is let or vacant. The difference between what Northwood guarantees to the Landlord and what the tenant pays is the profit.

Gary Rigby: Brand uniformity, as illustrated by your high street premises, is obviously paramount to the success of Northwood. Could you explain why it is so important?

Gemma Goodson: Northwood is a people business and in whatever business you run, you need to be credible. Part of the credibility comes from a brand that people recognise and associate with. Northwood has a Marketing and Brand Manager who is continually reviewing the brand guideline book to ensure that the brand matches our customers’ expectations.

Gary Rigby: As a prospective franchise owner would I need to have experience in the housing market sector?

Gemma Goodson: Northwood franchise owners come from a wide variety of backgrounds, including the Armed Forces and senior management in large corporations. The right calibre individual needs to have an understanding of business, be able to manage people and have a strong desire to succeed. There is no benefit in having experience in the housing sector.

Gary Rigby: What training do Northwood franchise owners receive?

Gemma Goodson: Northwood’s trainers are actually qualified teachers and deliver all training courses, regionally at the franchise owner’s office and remotely using Northwood’s Virtual Learning Environment. The initial six-week induction is run every month, as well as numerous refresher courses. Pearson’s EdExcel has recently awarded Northwood EdExcel Centre Status. This enables Northwood to offer BTECHs at levels 2, 3 and 4 in customer service, administration, business management and lettings to franchise owners and their staff. Northwood’s teachers work with franchise owners to ensure that each member of staff in every office has a personal development plan in place.

Gary Rigby: I understand you have a comprehensive support service for franchise owners, can you explain more?

Gemma Goodson: After the initial training, our franchise owners benefit from support at various levels all by trained and dedicated staff. The support can be provided remotely, whereby our technicians can connect remotely to the franchise owners’ computers so they can receive training and support. In addition there is the field support and telephone support. An open forum on the internet complements all this so franchise owners can share best practice. The intranet also enables franchise owners to view help videos, workflows, the training manual and frequently asked questions. There are also six regional meetings held twice a year.

Gary Rigby: Is there a bespoke IT software system?

Gemma Goodson: Northwood has a bespoke IT software system called Northwood Business Solution (NBS). This software streamlines the process for both Estate Agency and Lettings and allows franchise owners – if they wish – to run a paperless office. NBS also interfaces with the other IT packages – Sage for franchise owners to produce their accounts, Northwood’s bespoke Landlord Management System, and a group data centralisation tool, which enables Northwood to look at regional and market trends.