How to position your agency for sustainable growth

Having recently gained another eight offices, boutique real estate agency Laing+Simmons is going from strength to strength, with 23 per cent of its franchisees enjoying top market share in their key local suburbs. Here, managing director Leanne Pilkington shares the group’s innovative strategies for continual success.

Laing+Simmons’ successful expansion strategy starts with a thoughtful selection process for franchisees, which is centred around finding people who are passionate about the industry, says Ms Pilkington.

“That’s the number one criteria for us – they’ve got to love the industry and they’ve got to know the areas that they’re looking to open up into. So that’s the major driver for us: passion, enthusiasm and local knowledge,” she says.

A non-traditional approach to franchisee management

The key to the group’s success is a collaborative approach to managing its franchisees, with a focus on empowering them to create an asset for their future, according to Ms Pilkington.

“We want to help people achieve their goals, rather than to impose our goals on them,” she explains.

“For us, it’s about understanding what it is that they want to achieve, what their drivers are, and then working with them on a plan that suits the individual business owners, not just using a one-size-fits-all approach.”

The group also supports its franchisees through the newly developed Dexar Elite coaching program, which brings together the top business owners and salespeople from across Laing+Simmons, Independent Property Group and Peter Blackshaw to learn from each other and “fast-track” their results.

The program also helps to foster emerging talent, says Ms Pilkington.

“We want to put them in the mix with the more established, successful agents so that they can learn from them,” she says.

Laing+Simmons’ NSW Projects division has also added “millions of dollars’ worth of revenue to our business owners”, according to Ms Pilkington.

The division assists business owners and their teams in identifying potential development sites to sell off-the-plan apartments.

“We’re helping franchisees grow their business,” she says.

“It’s not just about us handling all of the project work. It’s helping them to grow property management businesses off the back of the apartment sales.”

Harnessing the power of technology

Laing+Simmons’ success also comes from taking advantage of technology to boost the group’s service proposition.

Ms Pilkington says, however, that the group is selective about the technology it chooses.

“It’s important for us to be finding technology and promoting technology that is making the agents more efficient and effective,” she says.

“There’s a lot of technology around, there’s a lot of new stuff being developed, but not all of it is useful and you can’t use everything.

“You’ve got to be able to sift through and find out what’s valuable for the franchisees.”

To determine which packages will add the most value, Laing+Simmons’ head office allows key franchisees to trial new technologies before deciding whether they should be rolled out across the group.

One technology that has made the cut is Web Books, a flexible tool for developing online documents that can be printed off or viewed on any device.

“Our business owners can take this technology, which has already got the Laing+Simmons branding and their office details, and actually turn it into a mini-website for anything they like,” Ms Pilkington explains.

“It can be about a property, it can be for a tenant with all of the emergency details and all the information the tenant needs.

“You can use it to do a listing presentation; they can be emailed to vendors or landlords overseas; they can be downloaded and printed and can include links to videos, contracts, photos, websites – almost anything,” she says.

The group has also developed a comprehensive Laing+Simmons app, which includes all of the group’s branding documents, style guides, market reports and training material.

The idea for the app came about because franchisees were finding that although they knew templates were available for agent marketing, market reports and other purposes, they were not sure where to find them, and often called the head office to find out.

The app solves this problem by consolidating all the information franchisees need in one place.

“Everything that our franchisees and their teams need can be downloaded from the app. It’s kind of like a complete knowledge centre,” Ms Pilkington explains.

“Business owners and team members alike know where everything is, so it just means that everything is much easier to access and therefore gets much more use.”

However, Ms Pilkington emphasises that this is just the beginning for the agency.

“We’ve got an incredible amount of support that we can offer to the business owners or salespeople who want to open an office, so our focus for the next 12 to 18 months is on growing our brand footprint,” she says.

[Related: Sydney agents challenged to lift their game in 2016]

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