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The History of Harrison James & Hardie

Harrison James & Hardie first launched as an independent specialist agency for the North Cotswolds in June 2000 but the directors Karen Harrison, James von Speyr and Caroline Gee were already well known in the local market place when they met in 1998. " I was managing three branches in Bourton, Stow and Moreton, heading up a team of fourteen staff with Caroline as my invaluable second in command,” says Karen. “Meanwhile, by the age of 25, having already managed branches in Charlton Kings and Winchcombe James was now in charge of the company’s largest branch in Cheltenham.”

Says James: “I first met Karen at an award ceremony where we were vying for the accolade of most profitable office in the Western Division. We discovered a mutual frustration that our success was diverted to ailing branches, with no reinvestment of our significant profits at local level into additional marketing resources, staffing or improved salaries. It was always a real battle to maintain a decent team - with remuneration based mainly on personal commission, morale often suffered under the dual pressures of wildly fluctuating income and a very hard-nosed work environment with a great deal of adverse negative pressure applied from above, no matter that our offices were outperforming hundreds of others within the group.

“There was much I liked about corporate life from the embrace of new technologies, the emphasis on pro-activity and performance and the wider benefits of networking but professionalism was too often compromised.  I very much respected how Karen managed these difficult issues by quietly redistributing her personal sales amongst her team, standing up for fair play rather than passing pressures onto her team. Together, Karen and Caroline had created a happy, experienced and consistent work environment, enjoying a great deal of personal loyalty and support. This resulted in a really strong hold over the local marketplace, with an excellent reputation for outstanding results.”

Karen says: “Discovering that we shared many of the same ethics and ideals was the final spark needed to see how we might do better for ourselves as an independent agency and have a happier work / life balance if we stepped away from the rigours and constraints of corporate business. It seemed obvious that we should combine forces as a new independent agency. We launched with just eight properties, rapidly multiplying to eighty instructions only four months later. Lucy Rollinson and Simon Hardie from our old team in Bourton on the Water were the first on board and many other followed - with a job offer always welcomed by those who had previously worked with us we were able to grow the business very quickly, acquiring experienced staff who were already in tune with our particular way of doing things.”

From the outset, the three founders had very clear ideas about the direction of their new business, determined to deliver superlative service standards and outstanding results with an emphasis on the value and expertise of a consistent, experienced, local team. They were attracted immediate support from the local community by offering a happy balance between the old-fashioned traditional values of local agency and the forward-thinking energy of the corporate world.

“Our single most important resource has always been the people we employ,” Karen emphasises. “As it was twenty years ago, the true cost of our success today is great staff. By rewarding everyone with a share in every transaction, working together as one team in a targeted but positive environment driven by a commitment to excellence, we have remained the most successful agency for the North Cotswold marketplace. We still place great emphasis on the importance of apprenticeship and the acquisition of professional qualifications, recognising the benefits of youthful energy and the invaluable wisdom of experience, but it is our supremely detailed knowledge of the local area that matters most. We understand the true richness of life in the North Cotswolds whether that’s outstanding schools, vibrant village communities, fabulous local events or the sheer beauty of the countryside.  We don’t just sell houses, after all - we sell a wonderful way of life.”

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