Agency independence yields success: First National

First National, a cooperative network with 430 offices in Australia and New Zealand, said the independence it grants members is a key reason it has reached its 30 year anniversary milestone.

“When the first board of directors was elected in 1982, they were charged with running a network whose core beliefs were that members should work together but remain independent so they can continue to provide clients with local expertise,” the company said.

The company started in 1981, when a small group of independent Victorian rural real estate agents met to discuss the possibility of forming an association to compete with the large franchised organisations.

“What attracted me to the network was the fact that it provides me with state of the art tools and processes but leaves me to run my business” chairman Russell Burton said on the sidelines of a celebratory dinner held in Bali earlier this week.

“What keeps me in the network though is the great sense of family. There is always someone prepared to help as well as share information about how they’re addressing the challenges they face in their business.” 

First National said it continues to grow, with 30 new members joining the group this year, including a new office in Vanuatu, a first for the network.

First National’s milestone comes as Real Estate Results Network (RERN) founder Michael Sheargold claimed an increasing number of agents and franchisees are leaving the big franchise model in favour of independently run businesses.

He pointed to a “significant exodus” from the franchise real estate model in favour of agencies owned and managed by families with a strong code of ethics, underpinned by old school values.

“It’s not just about customer service; it’s about building relationships based on trust,” he said. “The integrity in which these independent agencies conduct their business is netting positive results right across the property spectrum.”

“Our industry is one that has converted the hopes and dreams into prosperity for so many real estate people and it is reassuring to see that entrepreneurial spirit alive and well in this market.”

CEO Ray Ellis said First National's cooperative network is different to franchise operators.

“I have worked in lots of large organisations, both here and overseas, and I have never seen one where everyone is so prepared to help each other, to give their time in running the organisation or individual businesses, training, or just helping another member solve a problem. I think this is the difference between a network and a franchise, everyone behaves as if they own it because they do,” he said.

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