By Anton Constantinou
Flexi-Lets is one of our long-standing property partners, and this year came under the management of a new CEO – former SilverDoorian, Patrick Hegan.
Since leaving SilverDoor, Patrick has setup his own management consultancy, spent 18 months working for a corporate housing company, and is now seven months into his current position.
We’ve worked closely with Flexi-Lets for years and were eager to find out what Patrick’s achieved so far with the company. Here’s how our catch-up went:
How have you settled into your role as Director of Flexi-Lets?
After leaving SilverDoor I set up Everyport Consulting to help serviced apartment companies improve or restructure, whether in full or just one or two departments. This led to a thoroughly enjoyable 18 months at Oakwood and, early this year, Flexi-Lets asked me to come on board as CEO.
As with any similar project it’s a learning curve with a unique set of circumstances, but the team here is dedicated, collaborative and a pleasure to work with.
What key changes have you made?
Every aspect of the business has had to be examined. Flexi-Lets now has a new Property Management System (PMS) & Customer Relationship Management system (CRM), a new finance manager and a restructured staff setup.
The booking agent wing was shelved to allow Flexi-Lets to concentrate fully on its own core product. Another major change was improving the PR side of things: Flexi-Lets used to be somewhat insular compared to its peers, but now we’re making all efforts to improve our outbound message, as well as building great relationships with the right clients and partners.
What does your role involve?
I’m chiefly responsible for improving both our customer experience and the company’s reputation.
My first few months were spent listening to everyone in the office to get a feel for how they work and understand the industry. It’s vital to get all staff on board with the company’s long-term strategy so we discuss these points regularly with everyone, regardless of their position.
I spend a lot of time with the sales & booking team, and we work daily on how best to attract clients, allocate bookings and develop working relationships. I’m also involved with the operations team, the finance team and the guest services team – which is the public face of the company.
Some of our biggest successes have come from me taking the reins off, so to speak, and encouraging everyone to trust their own instincts in their decision making. The result has energised the entire company which is the staff’s doing, not mine.
This summer’s been a hot one. How successful has it proved from a business standpoint?
The weather didn’t affect the business but it did affect our energy bills – we had the air-conditioning on full blast for about two months. Everyone spent their spare change buying ice lollies for their colleagues!
Apartment wise, our largest number of units is in Farnborough, home of the Farnborough Airshow. The show takes place every two years in summer and we tend to draw a lot of business from it. All companies involved in its setup and operation tend to require accommodation close by for a month or two, and that’s where we come in. This summer was no different.
Elsewhere, the business has generally remained good. The leisure market gets very busy between June and August and, like most years we’ve reaped the benefits of it.
The efficiency measures put in place earlier in the year are beginning to pay off and meanwhile we’ve been busy implementing the new PMS and CRM systems in preparation for the autumn season.
You hosted an event at the Farnborough Airshow. Can you tell us why the show is so popular?
Are you kidding?! We had a Harrier jump jet and a F16 fighter jet passing within 30 yards of the office every day for two weeks, not to mention practice runs by the Red Arrows and the Blades aerobatics team. Try taking a booking on the phone with that racket going on!!
This event dates back to the 1940s, and is a massive global showcase for commercial, civil and military aviation. New airliners from Boeing, Airbus, Embraer etc. are exhibited to potential buyers by doing near-vertical take offs and a few loops around the runway airspace.
You’d be amazed at what these planes can do compared to what we’re used to when we fly anywhere. Fighter planes and military helicopters are also displayed to international air force customers and the purchase orders run into billions of pounds.
For the general public the displays are nothing short of spectacular and are a great backdrop for an afternoon’s drinks and nibbles with our guests (wish you’d come along!). On the final weekend we were even treated to a flypast by a Lancaster bomber and a Spitfire.
What differentiates your properties from others in the market?
Flexi-Lets’s portfolio currently stands at 162 units, making it a substantial provider in the towns where it has a presence. Unless keys are collected remotely we send a staff member to meet and greet each guest – we like the personal touch! Other than that the Flexi-Lets portfolio offers well apportioned units and a broad choice ranging from studios to 4 bedroom townhouses with private gardens.
Favourite Flexi-Lets property?
Any that are occupied by a happy guest! Failing that, I’m quite fond of our apartments in Guildford (as I am of the town’s real ale pubs.)
Any new locations, expansions or refurbishment plans?
Flexi-Lets has a maintenance and decoration team which keeps the apartments looking smart, and a few minor refurbishments have been carried out this year. Some future potential locations are indeed being looked at, and as soon as a decision is made you’ll be the first to know!