POINT OF DIFFERENCE

Executive director at Richardson & Wrench, Andrew Cocks tells Real Estate Business about how his group supports its franchisees, and its plans for 2013

IS THE ‘QUIET’ JANUARY PERIOD AN OPPORTUNITY FOR SOME AGENCIES TO BE ACTIVE WITH PLANNING?
If you look at any business there’s lots of things they can be doing … a quiet time in some areas can be an opportunity to do lots of other things. It’s going to be something that every office treats differently.

WHERE ARE SOME OF THE OPPORTUNITIES FOR RICHARDSON & WRENCH?
We’re all about building and growth. What we’re really focused on is growing our core markets, which are NSW and QLD, and we’ve got a particular focus on metropolitan Brisbane and metropolitan Sydney. There are some strategic expansion opportunities … and that will be our focus for the next 10 to 12 months.

R&W APPEARS TO HAVE A SENSE OF HUMILITY ABOUT HOW IT WORKS WITH ITS FRANCHISEES. DO YOU CONSIDER THIS IMPORTANT?
That’s an important thing for us – we have to be really clear on what our function as franchisor is. Our job is not to tell them how to do their business, how to be successful … our function is to really provide them with the tools and support to become as successful as they can. Sure, we can give them guidance that they’ll find helpful, but the real feature for us is to make sure that we’re adding value to the business and helping people profit.

WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE IS R&W’S CORE POINT OF DIFFERENCE IN THE MARKETPLACE?
The commercial structure of our franchise is different. But probably the really significant difference that’s not as clear when you look at a franchise agreement is the diversity of the people that we have, all operating really successfully. Regardless of whether they’re operating in different demographics or different parts of the country, they get on really well. The reputation that exists within Richardson & Wrench is a draw card that really holds a lot of the group together.

CAN YOU SHARE SOME OF THE SPECIFIC INITIATIVES YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR 2013?
It’s important for us to focus on technology, so we’ll be providing a significantly stronger IT platform for the whole group, and really providing a level of flexibility in terms of technology that the network has never had before … I think that’s going to provide us with a real point of difference.

IS THERE ONE HABIT IN PARTICULAR YOU WANT THIS TECHNOLOGY TO ENHANCE WITHIN THE GROUP?
No. That’s one of the features of our group, there’s not one office that operates exactly the same as everyone else, so we really focus on the individual strengths and challenges of each office. Obviously we have some people who run very large businesses with many people and many principals who may not be listers, they might just run the business. On the other hand, they might be a two, three or four man operation, and that’s what they find is really going to work for them. Our focus is to support [them].

YOU’VE TALKED ABOUT DIVERSITY, BUT ARE THERE COMMON TRAITS THAT MAKE A GOOD PRINCIPAL?
Again, it’s really going to depend on how they want their business to operate. Many are exceptionally good real estate practitioners and they lead the sales team in terms of getting listings, selling properties and providing leadership. Others just want to run the business. There is no single trait of a Richardson & Wrench operator.

WHAT’S ONE TREND PRINCIPALS SHOULD KEEP AN EYE ON IN 2013?
The transition from more traditional marketing through to electronic marketing. If you look at the typical profile of business owners, they’re generally in the senior demographic of the industry, and as a result they may not have been brought up with technology to the same extent as junior staff. I think, as a result of that, some principals may get left behind. That’s what we’re focusing on – not only by providing the right tools but by talking with principals about how they can leverage those tools to benefit their business.

ARE YOU NOTICING AN INCREASING SHIFT FROM ‘OLDER’ PRINCIPALS TO A YOUNGER GENERATION WITHIN YOUR NETWORK?
It’s going to happen regardless. The key point is having a platform that’s attractive to principals who wish to continue their career in real estate, but that’s also attractive to young principals coming into the business for the first time, or those who have been operating in a small way and are looking to grow their business.

WHERE DO YOU SEE MOST ACTIVITY IN THE NSW AND QLD PROPERTY MARKETS IN 2013?
I don’t think it’s going to be as tight as it was … I think we’re seeing some real upside in the global economies and, at the end of the day, Australia is still a fairly small marketplace. We are very much affected in terms of sentiment on what’s happening in the global market. We’re seeing some stability come back to the global markets now, and I think that’s going to flow through … to the Australian markets, including the Sydney and Brisbane residential markets.

AND DO YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE IN THE AUSTRALIAN ECONOMY IN 2013?
The Australian economy is strong regardless of what minor ups and downs we have, and we’re still significantly better off than almost every other economy in the world. I think people forget about that and don’t put it in the right perspective.

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