This year is an interesting year for our brokerage: it’s the first time in 19 years that we will be unrestricted free agents. In our industry some agents change companies like kids change clothes. Every Monday morning I get the latest sheet from RECA showing the agents that changed brokerages that week, and each week it's a very long list.
In 1993, we took an unprecedented step of buying a franchise. Having been a successful independent real estate company in Edmonton since 1977, I saw the need for change. At that time we excitedly chose to go with the franchise we chose based on our years of going to Hawaii and other places in the U.S., where we saw the strength of that brand.
Well 19 years have come and gone and our company has undergone a myriad of changes in that time, just as the ownership of the master franchisor has changed a number of times. What’s exciting for us is the possibility to revisit whether we should go back to our roots as an independent, stay with our existing franchisor, or look at other franchises and what they bring to the table. You just can’t do this everyday. We have had talks with one other franchisor that has basically said before you make a decision “let us pitch you one last time.” Their enthusiasm is encouraging as we believe they are a very respectable option for us.
Our situation is unique in that we have zero reliance on the franchisor to deliver us business or promotional materials. Our materials are created in house by our marketing director (who actually held a similar job with our Canadian head office during the 5 years she worked there). Our online presence which is pretty dominant in the Edmonton area is also her responsibility and she has been instrumental in making us a technology company introducing us to tablets over 6 years ago and probably making us the first transactional paperless office in Alberta. For certain we were the first office to have 100% of our agents using tablet PCs for which she has custom created presentation and marketing materials for our agents. In addition she has created a program whereby she assists our agents in the marketing of their clients' properties in order to increase the likelihood that they will sell.
She has taken us to the top of search engine rankings in just about every real estate related short and long tail search term in our marketplace. Consumers find her philosophy on marketing their homes very refreshing every time I meet with a potential seller they are impressed. She has taken us to other new heights as we were the top team for our franchise in Canada for 2010 and 2011 for total units sold. Throughout 2010 and 2011 our company consistently placed in the top 5 for offices in our size category of 1-10 agents worldwide (out of 900 offices on average in this size category).
I certainly have all kinds of love for some of the phenomenal people who have been great mentors and collaborators on deals, projects and ideas. In fact that is the one thing and the only thing that we would truly miss if we left. However, many of those great friends have gone elsewhere as well and we still collaborate no matter what brand is on their business cards.
I could go on about the innovations and leading edge stuff she has done for our company, and the great stuff that’s happening in our group, but that's not the point. We are so excited because chances to make operational strategic decisions like this don’t come around everyday. I think about it in terms of a great hockey player who’d like to play for the team he is with, but is also excited about what potential is unknown to him. All I know is the next six months are going to be extremely exciting as we peer in to our future.