Le Gallais has adapted and expanded its range of businesses over almost 200 years of trading but its central ethos of acting with integrity remains key to its success. Emily Moore reports.
WHEN a business has been trading for nearly 200 years, it is probably safe to assume that, as well as having strong expertise in its field, it is a company used to innovating and evolving.
These are all characteristics common to F Le Gallais & Sons – the oldest family-owned and run business in the Channel Islands – which is due to celebrate its bicentenary in 2025.
Originally founded by cabinetmaker Richard Le Gallais in 1825, the company’s route into property sales, lettings and management was somewhat circuitous.
‘It really started with making fine furniture,’ explained director Robin Sappé, who has been with the firm for more than 20 years. ‘Richard started selling his furniture overseas, which led to items being shipped abroad and, from there, the removals arm of the business was born. From shipping furniture for export, it was only a matter of time before the business was providing transport for people’s possessions moving to and from the Island in the population boom of the late-1800s. Once those people arrived in Jersey, they needed somewhere to live, which led to the development of the property agency.’
While the removals and storage arm of the business continued for more than a century, it more recently evolved into the self-storage business, which the company established in Hilgrove Street and more recently at Five Oaks.
Central to the firm’s operations is a commitment to respecting its heritage, innovating to enhance services for its customers and supporting its 20-strong team and the community.
As Darren Donnelly, head of property management and lettings, explains: ‘Our heritage really sets us apart from other agencies. Having been established for almost 200 years, we have built a reputation for honesty and dependability, and customers can be confident that they are working with a business which has weathered many storms and has the infrastructure and expertise to continue adapting.
‘This is really borne out through the relationships that we develop both with families purchasing properties and with the landlords and tenants of the sites that we manage. We are known for building long-term relationships, something which is underpinned by our integrity.’
Supporting this integrity, says head of property sales Kate Warren, is the company’s focus on its people.
While backing calls for increased regulation in the local market, she says that Le Gallais invests significantly in training and employee development.
‘Everyone in our sales and letting teams either holds an industry-specific qualification or is working towards these exams, something which we think is absolutely vital considering that people are trusting you with their biggest asset,’ she said. ‘Not only do we invest in team members’ qualifications, but we are also a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors, Propertymark UK and are accredited by Rent Safe locally.’
Unlike some agency models, every employee at Le Gallais Estates receives a salary rather than just commission.
‘Awarding our negotiators a salary, rather than forcing them to rely solely on commission, means not only that we have a more measured approach to selling a property but that there is a really strong team ethos within the organisation,’ Robin added. ‘This applies not just within individual teams but across each arm of the business, with the sales, lettings and self-storage staff all supporting one another.’
And the concept of support extends beyond the office walls, with the firm striving to reduce its carbon footprint and working to support local charities.
‘Having been an early signatory to Durrell’s Rewild Carbon initiative, we have subsequently invested in electric cars and bikes and have also installed a solar array on both our Bath Street office and the self-storage facility at Five Oaks,’ said Robin. ‘We also provide financial support to staff members who want to buy their own electric bikes and we do a lot of work with local charities, most notably through our commitment to donate £150 to The Shelter Trust every time we sell or let a property.’
Having launched this initiative in 2019, the agency has donated, on average, more than £20,000 to the charity each year.
And further investment is taking place in technology this year, with a new website and a portal for landlords and tenants to review all aspects of their tenancy agreements online due to launch this summer.
With so many innovations taking place, it is not surprising that Darren says Le Gallais is a ‘busy but good place to work’.
‘There is a real energy and inclusiveness about the business,’ he said. ‘Everyone has a voice and, although it’s always busy, it is great fun and also tremendously rewarding. You never forget that, whether someone is selling, buying or renting, you are helping them to find their home, and that is one of the most important decisions they will ever make.’