When brothers Patrick and Charlie Hill left the hustle and bustle of London and their high-pressure corporate careers behind them to help co-create conscious real estate agency Charles Marlow, they were doing more than becoming brothers in business.
We were determined to shape a company culture that would enable us and our team to become the best versions of themselves they could be. We believed that, by going inwards, we and the team could go outwards to build exceptional relationships with Charles Marlow clients and the business’s network.
Since Charles Marlow began in January 2014, we’ve sold E163 million of real estate to 76 couples and families in Deià, Mallorca and in Ibiza. We have rented homes on these islands to more than 650 people since 2016.
We’re proud of what Charles Marlow has achieved so far in our story – as well as rather surprised.
But we’re perhaps even more proud of the way our success is rooted in constantly working to grow a company culture that nurtures our team while delighting our clients and enabling fruitful relationships with our network.
While we flourished in big companies – Patrick at Deloitte, BSkyB and innocent and Charlie at BMW – we knew in our hearts that the corporate world wasn’t really for us.
Although we’re fascinated by business and love responsibility and a challenge, we’re not especially motivated by money. We also felt trapped by strictly regimented corporate cultures that were more about the time we spent at our desks than anything else, that didn’t see us as people.
The exception to this was innocent drinks, where Patrick worked, whose approach to work was illuminating and definitely shaped Charles Marlow.
innocent demonstrated that there was a different way to run a company. Working for them, Patrick felt aligned to the company’s purpose and respected. Work was a part of life that was fun rather than something separate and a burden.
We began Charles Marlow knowing what we didn’t want the business to be but with a vague idea of what we thought it could be.
It helped that we didn’t know the first thing about the world we were getting into. When we began Charles Marlow, we said we were mastering the art of real estate. All these years later, we’re happy to say we still are.
Perhaps it also helped that we were entering into a lifestyle business. It made us search for an answer to the question “What is the lifestyle we want for ourselves?”
Charles Marlow is a never-ending training ground for us. Everything we experience shapes our future.
When we started, we knew intuitively that our success would be down to not simply hiring people with real estate experience who had preconceived ideas about how things were done.
Recruiting people who are clearly talented, that we feel we can connect with and trust, will always be our focus. Trust is especially important as it’s the foundation of any great team working together to achieve a shared goal as well as their individual dreams.
Once someone becomes part of the team, we encourage them to be the best version of themselves they can be and to find a way to live their lives how they want to. When everyone on the team believes they can do this, we grow exponentially as a business. We also invite every team member to offer open and honest non-judgemental criticism when it’s appropriate.
We put our philosophy into practice in a number of different ways.
In 2019, we introduced what we call our Team Pot to share success – selling a home or securing a rental, for instance – across the team. It’s our way of recognising that we’re all essential to Charles Marlow’s success. If we’re all rewarded, we fly together.
At our Monday Morning Meetings, someone devises a game that we all play together. We have rotating five minute slots to share something important to us such as an experience or a hobby.
We have quarterly celebrations. This might be going on a ski trip together or taking time out to relax together while being taught a skill such as landscape painting.
To help all of us understand how we can help each other grow, we’ve had workshops on how to become a coach.
Although taking this approach to our business is rooted in our experiences and personal vision of how life and work can be integrated, not just balanced, it also makes sound business sense.
When people are encouraged to do the work to find out who they really are and what they want from life, including work, an enthusiasm, honesty and transparency that clients pick up on and love cascade out.
We’ve also found that the freedom we offer our team usually results in increased loyalty, manifested in a higher output and fewer sick days, and a desire to innovate rather than have innovation imposed upon them.
Read what some of our clients say about Charles Marlow here.
Rather than just give our perspective on things, we asked some of our team members to share their perception of Charles Marlow and their work.
I realised I wanted to go into property when I bought and renovated an apartment in the South of France with an inheritance when I was at university.
When I decided I wanted to stay in Mallorca, I asked a friend, a lawyer who works with real estate agents in the UK, about real estate. She said real estate wasn’t for me. She had a low opinion of real estate agents. Meeting Patrick and Charlie was an absolute dream because it totally contradicted what my friend said and shattered the preconceived ideas I had about real estate agents.
Joining Charles Marlow, I instantly felt I was part of a special family – one that wanted me to be happy but also give me honest feedback while expecting me to do the same, which I love.
I know integrating life and work is vital for Patrick and Charlie and that they want us to find what makes life meaningful for us. This makes us happy people and happy workers, which naturally shines through in our relationships with our clients.
They also encourage us to be ourselves. This is harder than it sounds. I’m still not comfortable seeing myself on video. But, when I stopped trying to pretend to be something I’m not for our clients, I could see they loved it.
I’ve known Patrick and Charlie since we were kids growing up in Marlow, a town in the UK. Pat and I stayed in touch.
In 2014, Pat and I went on a boys’ holiday to Ibiza and I remember saying to him that “I could really chuck it all in and move here”. I was working in sales in London, selling products that were neither here nor there for me and doing the whole thing of getting up at 6AM to take the train to work and not getting home until late, all the cliches.
When I heard that Pat had moved to Mallorca, I have to say I was pretty envious. But, when he called me in 2015 and said that Charles Marlow was expanding to Ibiza and would I like to join the team, I was thrilled.
I didn’t know anything about real estate but I thought all I had to do was show people beautiful houses that would sell themselves. Needless to say, I couldn’t have been more wrong. I had to learn the nuances of building regulations and Spanish property law, as well as Spanish itself.
Apart from Pat thinking I was the person most likely to jump at the offer to join Charles Marlow, I believe he and Charlie appreciated the fact that I had no real estate background and no preconceived ideas. I didn’t hesitate and joined.
Right away, I realised that if I was going to be the best at what I do, I’d have to really dedicate myself to real estate. That’s an ongoing journey.
Most of all, moving to Ibiza and working as part of the Charles Marlow team opened up a whole new world for me. The company gives a great deal of flexibility and I’m really grateful for that. I’m not a slave to someone else’s schedule – I make my own career and life. I’ve also learned how to avoid the temptations of Ibiza while enjoying the excitement.
Today, I love my lifestyle here. I get to spend plenty of time with my partner and our children. I see a lot more of them than I would if I was in London. Our life is simple and quiet with plenty of time outdoors. The big cities of Europe are all around a couple of hours away so we can get our cultural fix when we feel like it.
I’m from Denmark. I was moving to Mallorca and needed a job. A friend introduced me to Charles Marlow. They liked me and I liked them. I knew nothing about real estate.
But I connected instantly with the people at Charles Marlow. Right away, I felt like they saw me as a person not just a CV or a resource.
Today, it’s great to work with people who aren’t just focused on competitive, short-term gains but who are thinking about long-term stability, about the community and sustainability. That’s really inspiring and something it’s a pleasure to be part of.
Patrick and Charlie’s commitment to encouraging us to find a way to be the best possible version of ourselves we can be at work and at home has definitely affected me.
Their belief that life and work should be integrated in a healthy way has also been a profound influence. After I became a dad, I knew I wanted to spend as much time with my growing daughter as possible. Charles Marlow’s flexible approach to work, as long as we’re meeting targets, has really helped.
I’ve also learned a lot about relating to other people and listening without judgement. It’s a powerful learning that I’ve taken into relationships outside work.
Then there’s the fact that I think it’s a real privilege to work where I do. Our flexible approach to work means I’m able to take time out if it’s appropriate. Not long ago, some friends were down at Cala Deià. I joined them and we spent the day diving, swimming and chatting.
One friend said “How do you manage to live here? It’s paradise.” And I was reminded how lucky I am.
We’re proud of the relationships we have with the people we work with outside of Charles Marlow.
Highly successful architecture, design and landscaping Moredesign of Deià is one business we’ve worked with closely for the past ten years.
When we chatted with them recently, Moredesign partner Manuel said, “What I’ve always liked about Charles Marlow is that you develop very personal relationships with your clients. These are long-term relationships based on honesty. Your attitude is that you’re not going to sell a client any old house. And, even if there’s a problem, you work until you reach a positive solution.”
Oro, Manuel’s partner, added “We all come from a place of honesty and trust. You have naturality, a certain flow that makes people feel comfortable. I think we’ve always had that symbiosis when we’ve worked together.
Rolf Blakstad, Head of Design at architects at Blakstad Ibiza is someone else with whom we’ve worked closely for a number of years.
“I first met Charlie six years ago in 2016 when visiting a property with a client who’d called me in to consult on the possibilities of refurbishment,” Rolf said. “My first impressions were that he was clearly very professional, knowledgeable and amicable. He’d also done an unusually thorough Due Diligence and the legal status of the property was clear.”
He continued, “We continue to collaborate on a regular basis, enjoying a fluid working relationship. My trust in Charles Marlow has continued to grow over time as I’ve experienced their involvement and commitment to go the extra mile to iron out any issues in order to have a transparent and easy transaction.”
It’s heartening that it appears we have created a brand that stands for honesty and transparency. We’re also delighted that everyone who comes into contact with us has the great experience that we want for them, whether it’s buying a home from us or simply getting directions to the beach.
Judging by what our team tells us, we’ve helped them gain more of a sense of who they really are and the lifestyle they want to live. This makes us happy.
The fact that our team feels empowered is also important to us and the business. They lead on their day to day tasks, job roles and the strategies for their areas with very little intervention.
Now we’re at an interesting point as a business.
Conscious that we need a marketing strategy and that none of us is a marketer, earlier this year, we commissioned heavyweight strategist Sandrine Delabriere of Pourquoi pas, an innovation and strategic marketing consultancy, to work with us on our marketing strategy.
When we asked Sandrine how she saw Charles Marlow, she said, “You have a clear mission, especially for such a small and relatively young company. Although yours is a very competitive sector, I believe you have a unique positioning in that you’re extremely focused on specific locations, you have an exceptionally high level of client focus and your approach to video and other visual content is extremely good. You manage to be excellent because you’re so specialised.
“In your team, you have an exceptional pool of talents. You’ve clearly managed to get this far and grow so much because each team member is very good at what they’re doing. Everyone is in the right place, which is brilliant. Team pride and alignment is really important in a small company.”
Turning to the future, Sandrine said, “If you manage to keep the uniqueness of your proposition while growing it will be fantastic.”
While we’re obviously excited about the future, we’re also committed to contributing to the communities we’re already part of in Mallorca and Ibiza and to finding new ways of creating dialogue and systems that sustain the places and people we love.