Countrywide is the UK's largest property services group, serving customers in 1,500 locations across more than 50 brands. Following the appointment in 2010 of the company’s first female CEO, Alison Platt, the business has evolved by making a conscious move away from anything that makes them look like your typical estate agency.
In June 2015, former finance director Graham Bell became managing director of London, responsible for all the high street brands in that area. Although a head office had always existed, based in Milton Keynes, the company wanted to place Countrywide firmly on the map with a brand alignment project and a new office in Central London. Midland Conference Services (MCS) was brought on board to deliver a series of networking sessions for all the key stakeholders in the region.
The ultimate objective was to remove the multi-agency mentality and encourage all the branch managers to work more cohesively. By achieving a “one Countrywide” approach, there would be potential to boost consumer perception as a result of the various branches working together, referring work and sharing expertise and knowledge, all for the customer’s benefit.
Rather than having just a normal daytime conference format, Countrywide wanted a high-brow event that looked slick and professional, yet had a relaxed, friendly atmosphere.
We devised a series of seven events over four days, consisting of two networking sessions per day from Tuesday to Thursday, and one final session on the Friday morning. Our target was to capture 700 people in total from all the various branches and brands of London.
Whilst internal seeding and promotion of the events was managed by Countrywide, MCS provided full project support in relation to the structure and sentiment of the day, and all the AV and logistics, including the invite process, registration and catering.
By working with trusted suppliers, such as catering company Bread & Honey, we had the benefit of a brilliant team who were punctual, enthusiastic and amenable to accommodate any last-minute changes.
Each delegate was welcomed with Prosecco and canapés, before attending a 40 minute presentation by Graham Bell. Then, the delegates worked their way through six 10 minute mini breakout sessions, each inviting Q&As on different areas of the business, before returning to the main room for a one hour networking session.
Colleagues were given the opportunity to get to know each other and even buddy up with someone they’d never met to share experiences and relay the key learnings of the day to the wider group.
Separate to the running of the day, MCS managed the filming of Graham’s presentation plus the six mini breakouts, so that the content could be relayed to those who weren’t able to attend. In addition, a round-up film was also produced and edited. This was uploaded to the company intranet, designed to highlight the value of attending any future events.
The London office received lots of positive feedback, with attendees enthusiastically describing the event as “terrific” and “buzzy,” and commenting on the unique opportunity to meet and collaborate with people from other branches. Being the first event of its kind for Countrywide, attendance swelled across the last two days as word got out about how valuable the sessions actually were. With 700 attendees in total, Countrywide plan to roll out more events like this in the future.
Graham Bell, managing director, Countrywide London, commented: “London Unlocked was an incredible few days. Not only was it great fun, there was enormous energy at the event and everybody who attended was really open-minded. I’ve heard stories about people establishing solid business connections at London Unlocked, and we’ve already seen some business take place off the back of it.”