From Page Flicking to Page Clicking: What Can Contractors and Property Managers Learn About Change From the Story of Yellow Pages?

Will McIlmoyle Yellow Pages

Is there anything more damaging to a business than staying still? There are many stories of businesses that have not survived because they haven’t changed with the times. But there are also many positive stories of businesses that have done change well. In this article, we’re going to take a look at one of those businesses – Yellow Pages, and pick out what we think are the key takeaways that we can apply to how Property Managers and contractors work together.

Yellow Pages

Do you remember the iconic YP advert? We see a well-dressed, mature gentleman wandering in and out of bookshops looking for a book by J.R. Hartley but sadly no one has it. The gentleman turns to the ‘big yellow book’ and finally he finds his book. When asked what his name is, he replies, “my name, oh yes, it’s J.R. Hartley.”  The advert was released in 1983 and everyone had a copy of a Yellow Pages book in their home. They were delivered free to our doorstep in a cellophane bag every year and was a business listing for the local area.

Since the rise of the internet, the distribution of Yellow Pages book declined year after year. In September 2017, Yell, the publisher of Yellow Pages in the United Kingdom, announced that the business would be fully digitised from January 2019, ending the publication’s 51-year run. The last UK copies were posted out on 18 January 2019. (Source Wiki)

Yellow Pages had to react to the changing times and completely overhaul how they went to market. They had to move from being a print based offering to providing an online directory for businesses. A massive undertaking but one that had to be done if the business was going to survive.

This change would not have happened overnight. Yellow Pages Directors and managers would have been paying attention to the changing landscape. The Yellow Pages would change to Yell.com which was launched in January 1996. 13 years before the business became fully digitised. 13 years of gradual change from print to online. A change in business model and how revenue would be generated. Many businesses would prefer to stick with what they knew – appearing as a line in the book. Whilst other businesses would be quick to catch on to the rising use of internet directories.

Had Yellow Pages not made the gradual shift to being an online directory or had they left it too late, another savvy business could easily have taken its place. Yell.com is no longer just a business listing site. They have recognised other opportunities to help local businesses other than a simple listing on the site. They offer digital marketing services, offer DIY websites and domain name purchases, as well as links with other online business like social media tools and website checkers. They also now offer a business app so that advertisers have full control of their account.

What can Property Managers and contractors learn from the story of Yellow Pages?

  1. Get proactive!

This is one of the key takeaways. The world is always changing and technology is a huge part of this. Yellow Pages had to shift from paper based to online to keep up with how the end user was finding the businesses they needed. And as more and more businesses went online, Yellow Pages had to do the same.

When we think about how contractors and Property Managers connect and communicate, it would have been the case that in 1984, the same time as the J.R. Hartley commercial, most of this communication would have been by telephone or letters.

Today, we could say that for Property Managers, using the phone, email, a spreadsheet or any manual process could be seen as the equivalent of thumbing through a Yellow Pages directory then making a call or sending a letter to reach a contractor.

If your property management firm is still engaging in manual processes to organise repairs and maintenance or communicating with contractors, do you need to think about how this could be affecting your business now and potentially into the future? How are you keeping up with changing times and ensuring you stay ahead of the competition by leading the way in your industry?

  1. Get on board with new technology!

Which brings us on nicely to how Yellow Pages weren’t afraid to keep up with changing times by embracing new technology. As mentioned, Yellow Pages launched Yell.com 13 years before they became fully digital. They transitioned and accepted that it would take time. They knew it would be a gradual shift to online and they would need to take time to satisfy this shift.

Not being afraid to embrace new technology is perhaps one of the biggest downfalls of most organisations. Even something as simple as restaurants and takeaways being slow to respond to the shift to in-app ordering services like just-eat could affect their business.

For Residential Property Managers and contractors, not being afraid to embrace new technology could be the difference between thriving or not. End users (customers) are more tech savvy and will expect e-communications. If it’s not available, it could raise a question mark over the professionalism of a business. In B2B supply chains, contracts might be won or lost based on how quickly and efficiently everyone can communicate.

  1. Get over the fear of change!

Finally the over-riding factor in all of this – not being afraid to make the jump and implement change.

The current pandemic has seen a lot of businesses embrace technology and do things differently in order to stay in business. Change has been forced upon us and, not surprisingly, we have adapted as we always do. What we can learn is that, in business we have to be proactive in making changes. We cannot wait until we are forced to as (pandemics aside), what forces the changes will often be external influences. This could be increased competition, changes to legislation, market changes or changes in technology, which Yell.com were proactive in addressing.

Have you reviewed how you organise repairs and maintenance recently? What is your competition doing and what benefits are they seeing because of it? Are you stuck doing the same old same old and if so what is the real reason you aren’t making changes and moving forward?

Will McImoyle is Technical Director at Blockworx. Connect with Will on LinkedIn.

If you would like any help or advice on embracing technology and changing to a more fluid and sensible approach to repairs and maintenance, please get in touch with our UK based team today hello@blockworx.co.uk

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