Friday, 24 September 2021

DAVID TATE co-founded the award-winning estate agents Davis Tate in 1991 with his business partner Matthew Davis. They opened their first office in Goring followed by one in Henley three years later. The business now operates from 13 offices across South Oxfordshire and Berkshire and employs more than 80 people. David, who is married and lives near Goring, is also a trustee of the Henley Municipal Charities, which is responsible for the town’s almshouses.

What influenced you to go into this particular business?

I left Henley Grammar School at 18 following my
A-levels and had several different jobs over the next few years, one of which was in a recruitment agency. I saw they were advertising a vacancy for a trainee estate agent and for some reason it really appealed to me, so I applied and was hired.

What was your objective in starting your business?

In the late Eighties and early Nineties many of the big life insurance companies were buying estate agents. It became evident to me that the two cultures didn’t really blend and I began to believe I could do better. Because I’d been working for the Prudential in Henley, I wasn’t allowed to set up in business within five miles for the first three years, so we opened in Goring. It coincided with the day the first Gulf War broke out so we didn’t get much in the way of publicity! We were fortunate that the Goring dialling code was 0(1)491, the same as
Henley, so we think many people believed we were a Henley-based firm!

What are the advantages of having a partner?

Matthew came from a corporate background and was looking for escape so the timing was right for both of us. He brought structure to the business while I was responsible for sales. The key is to have different but complementary skills. It has worked perfectly for more than 26 years. We’ve had differences of opinion from time to time but never an argument. Matthew and I had been friends since meeting at Round Table — you really get to know each other standing in the street with collecting tins in the pouring rain!

What is your market?

We are involved in every aspect of residential property — valuations, sales, lettings, new homes, land, investment properties, mortgages and conveyancing.

What is your biggest challenge?

Maintaining our profile and being seen to be as good as the national agencies. We work hard to build our brand awareness by getting involved with lots of local events through sponsorship. Every touch leaves a trace. Also finding good people to enable us to keep growing.

How do you market your services?

You’ll see our ads in the Henley Standard every week, of course, but we have a strong online presence too. Our distinctive purple boards are also an important feature of our marketing strategy.

How important are online sales?

Essential. Sixty-five per cent of our clients never come to our office but the same proportion expect us to have a High Street presence. Most buyers do all their initial research online before contacting us to arrange viewings, so they are better informed than in the old days.

How has the business changed?

Advances in technology have had a huge impact, mostly positive. So much is available online these days. However, what hasn’t changed is the fact that the most expensive sale or purchase most people ever make is their home and they still want professional advice and good service.

What’s the best thing about running your own business?

Control and freedom. No one tells us what to do.

Do you set goals for the business?

Absolutely. We are completely target-driven and measure constantly. All our employees are set targets and we keep track of all the key performance indicators. If you can’t measure, you can’t manage.

Where is your business headed?

We want to maintain our market position and continue to expand carefully and organically. I’ve passed day-to-day management to Matt Bates who has been with us for more than 10 years.

What’s the most valuable thing you've learned since you started?

It’s acceptable to always be a bit afraid. You never know what may crop up to throw you off course but having that awareness helps develop self-confidence.

What was your biggest mistake?

We’ve never made a big mistake but not long after we opened our branch in Henley we opened our third branch. It was too soon and we weren’t ready so we had to close it.

What advice would you offer to someone starting a business?

Concentrate on what you are good at and do it well with pride. Differentiate your offer. Have patience. Don’t start a business thinking you’re going to make a fortune, work hard and success will follow. Save money and invest.

What’s the secret of your success?


How organised are you?

Not very but I have people who are.

How do you dress for work?

You’ll never lose business by wearing a tie!

What do you read?

Business press, autobiographies, The Times and the Henley Standard.

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