BHP Billiton’s chief executive, Marius Kloppers, told a business breakfast I attended recently that he runs his global corporation based on a set of values and goals developed and refined by current and former senior leadership executives.
These are essentially contained in a one-page document.
As I sat and listened to the engaging and multitalented Mr Kloppers discuss his experiences and how he leads and manages the diverse corporation that is BHP, I found myself drawing many parallels with our industry.
While that may sound completely out of the ball park in terms of comparisons, what it really brought home to me is that there are elements that are common to all businesses, no matter the size or product mix.
At Realmark – with our eight offices and 150-plus employees – we have spent a great deal of time and put considerable emphasis on what we need to do to provide clear direction for Realmark as the company grows and evolves, with different business silos, and considers new opportunities.
It’s my view that a real estate agency successfully operating in a cottage business form is no longer a viable and self-sustaining option and one that belongs to the past.
Financing, remuneration, social media, web portals, the rise of the online ‘for sale by owner’ model, the new fully-informed consumer and the very transparent marketplace have all combined to make real estate a more challenging business than it once was.
As such, the traditional, stand-alone cottage businesses that dominated the industry when I first started my real estate career – and which are still very common in WA in particular – no longer serve the market or real estate practitioners well.
There is a real need for a different real estate business model to maintain our relevancy and sustainability, and that is what we believe we’ve developed at Realmark.
We have spent a great deal of time and energy stripping back what is important and achievable for our business in real estate and formulating goals and values to which we aspire, and which we believe make us the best at what we do.
And, coincidentally, we got it down to one page. I have found this one-page brief to be particularly relevant and useful as the Realmark business has grown, both in terms of the volume of transactions and the number of people involved.
To maintain and deliver consistent quality service outcomes in line with our emotional brand promise to the consumer, we have had to build a common operating platform, communicate a clear set of values and develop an internal culture around the key essentials of belonging, aspiration, choice and currency.
And like a major corporation, we have learned that one model doesn’t fit all so we have developed a choice both of employment and business equity –partnership models for our operators.
However, the need to be aligned in practices and values with the group –regardless of whether the relationship is with an employee or the owner of a Realmark licensed business – remains non-negotiable.
BHP’s Marius Kloppers spoke at length about what it means to lead and how best to lead. Senior management, he said, need to ensure the decision making filters for the business flow down to all levels of the team, giving all employees the tools and guidelines they need to make good decisions in alignment with overall business goals.
From my 25 years’ experience in both residential and commercial real estate, I can say whole-heartedly that leadership, shared goals and a shared understanding of those goals are the keys to results and rewards for all parties involved in a transaction or relationship.
At Realmark, we operate a collegially-based model, with a head office providing support and direction to a growing network of offices licensed to use our unique intellectual property and systems.
This model supports individual entrepreneurship while providing clear direction, navigation and engineered business outcomes. The entire Realmark group – both the residential and commercial divisions – is run based on a simple one-page charter that states our core values and our 10 core decision checks.
Within that one-page charter, there is an option for individual offices to establish their own customised business charter through which they can guide both their daily and long-term business decisions.
And like BHP, the emphasis must be on keeping things simple, keeping costs under control, finding both tangible and intangible value and return on investment and benefitting from leveraging off shared services and knowledge.
If we in the real estate business can apply these practices, then we have a far higher chance of staying on course and remaining relevant – and profitable – in a market that continues to increase in complexity and present new challenges.
The key selling point
We at Realmark also sat down to really define the one compelling reason why a consumer should choose us over one of our competitors.
To resolve the challenge of differentiating Realmark from being ‘just another homogenised real estate agent’, we asked ourselves, ‘What is our core product?’
We concluded that the core product offering of the Realmark brand is the delivery of trust and hope in every real estate transaction to communicate this, we had to look beyond the cosmetics of our brand livery and ensure we were communicating our emotional brand promise of ‘My Agent, My Advantage’.
The ‘My Agent, My Advantage’ tagline connects the aspirational qualities clients and employees associate with Realmark.
We then went further and looked at what our customers wanted.
We decided that those who seek the property services we offer are looking for leadership that represents values, hope, clarity and direction.
And we proposed that the ‘four Cs’ of trusted leadership are Candour, Caring, Commitment and Clarity.
It’s these core values and attributes that we emphasise and it’s people who possess these key attributes that we want to attract to the Realmark group.