Interview: Brooke Williams, CEO and co-founder of Sorbet
Real estate is one of the world’s most lucrative markets. In the UK alone, the value of homes has surpassed the £6 trillion mark, according to Savills.
There’s no wonder why so many people want to get into the industry, and even more potential is being felt through the rise of proptech companies.
Sorbet, which is based in Wales, is one of them. It describes itself as a new way for agents to manage appointments, reports and maintenance.
We recently caught up with Brooke Williams, the firm’s CEO.
TD: What does your company do?
BW: Sorbet is a helpful assistant for letting agents and property managers that will track the communication between the agent, contractors, landlords and tenants – automatically booking contractors when reports and inspections are due.
No more endless phone calls, emails, messages and paperwork for letting agents. They will be able to use Sorbet’s automated system which will handle all reports and property maintenance – in one place.
TD: Why did you set it up?
BW: I previously ran a company with my wife Cheryl, supplying inspection reports and certificates to letting agents. I noticed that agencies are swamped with paperwork, communications and increasing regulatory commitments.
The industry is very “admin heavy”, and I saw an opportunity to create a product that automates the repetitive tasks, freeing up staff to generate more work and to service their existing customers.
TD: What has your start-up journey been like?
BW: I think we are getting the “full start-up experience” as it’s been a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least. We have learnt a lot about our product and business in general, in a short period of time (and often learning the hard way!). We have parted ways with one design company, lost a key member of staff and had a complete rebrand, all in under a year.
Luckily, I have had some amazing support from our other company directors, Kevin and Richard, and from our developer team. We have pulled together through some rough patches and have emerged stronger and with a far superior product.
TD: What makes your business unique?
BW: There’s nothing quite like our product in this sector. Unlike traditional letting agent software, Sorbet automates communications between landlords, tenants and contractors to authorise work, arrange appointment times.
Sorbet will also not only allow tenants to report maintenance issues 24 hours a day but then book a contactor to visit the property to fix the issue raised.
TD: What has been its biggest success and biggest obstacle?
Our biggest success would probably be building such a strong team, closely followed by getting a flagship branch of the third biggest property agent in the world to agree to test our product. I guess our biggest obstacle has been the “real world”, where everything takes longer than planned and costs double!
TD: Where do you see yourself and the firm in five years’ time?
We see Sorbet as being the industry standard for handling all appointments, communications, reports and property maintenance in multiple countries. We also foresee landlords and tenants actively seeking out agents that use Sorbet.
The scope of the product is huge and we have a pipeline of exciting features, which will benefit not only the agents but also their landlords, tenants and contractors.
TD: What advice would you give to the next generation of business people?
BW: Understand your weaknesses, embrace them and surround yourself with talented people. You are not going to understand every part of your business and you don’t need to. But you do need know where to turn to or who to speak to. Be open to change but stay true to your vision.
You won’t really understand your product or service until it’s in the market and being tested and used by real customers. You must work with assumptions, but more often than not assumptions need tweaking or fine tuning.
Take advice and guidance, but don’t be swayed by it. Trust your gut. You have to sell your product to staff, customers and possibly to investors, and if you don’t believe in it then how can you expect anyone else to?