Running your own real estate franchise is certainly a challenge and having the support of a strong brand behind you makes an enormous difference to your operating potential. There’s also the tendency as a small business owner to think that if things aren’t working, it must be you - but what if it’s not?
As a franchisee, there are certain expectations you are entitled to have of the real estate network you are a part of. Being part of the brand is about more than just the visuals. Getting informed about the network’s role and responsibilities can help you determine if the franchise is delivering services to you in a way that fulfils the needs of your business.
First National Real Estate offers an entirely different value proposition to the traditional franchise model, by operating as a co-operative that focuses on community building and mutual support amongst its member agents. Many of Australia’s biggest real estate brands are missing these fundamental values, as the agencies under the brand fight it out for top billing against each other, rather than reaching out and working together to build their businesses. Interestingly, this makes a difference that customers notice too. When research and ratings agency Canstar Blue surveyed Aussies and Kiwis about real estate services it found no other brand delivered better customer satisfaction ratings than First National. It granted the New Zealand arm of the network its ‘Overall Customer Satisfaction’ award in 2015, then the Australian network won again in 2016.
Unlike other brands, First National is owned by its members, not by an individual or entity, so everyone has a vested interest in the overall success of the brand. First National’s comprehensive training and support programmes ensure agencies are assisted and supported every step of the way, from branding their office to implementing technology, to recruitment and training of staff.
First National has developed a strong and extremely well respected reputation for its commitment to excellence and care for its members. The essential components to a full service brand offering include listing leads, design services, staff training, technology, social media, recognition through awards systems, personalised support through dedicated Member Services Managers, and a low, fixed monthly fee that assures value for money. Assessing whether you are receiving true value from your current Franchisor starts by asking yourself questions around these particular areas.
For example, what kind of training have you been offered? Is it brand focused and delivered by highly qualified trainers in a variety of formats i.e. face-to-face, on-demand, pre-recorded modules and webinars? What corporate support do you receive and how regularly? How often do people come to see you at the office? Do they advise you on efficiency, or familiarise themselves with your people? What kind of ongoing support and performance recognition do you receive? Are you happy with the reputation the brand seems to have amongst your new and existing clientele?
First National believes in the long term value of upskilling its members so training is tailored to inspire and engage and delivered in a variety of formats. A combination of video on demand, live webinars and face to face training and support makes for a more dynamic and engaging training experience and enhances the staff acquisition process and staff retention.
Of course comprehensive software and technology support are the backbone of any business and many real estate franchisees have found themselves tearing their hair out over complicated performance tracking software and clunky non user-friendly CRM and accounting packages. First National understands the importance of support and guidance in the early stages, as well as individualised solutions to match people’s needs and skill sets. Their professional technology solutions cover
websites, sales, intranet, office management and marketing tools as well as consumer focused options such as social media support, apps and customisable e-resources.
While changing brand can feel complicated and overwhelming, First National’s member community focused approach means that support is not only available when you switch over, but it is an essential component to the success of the overall brand. Established First National offices reach out to new offices without hesitation, to offer advice and support during their establishment phase, as well as in the longer term as the new agency finds its feet and spreads its wings. That support is also sustained through the various life cycles of the business and recognition offered, as milestones are achieved and the many and varied successes celebrated.
First National’s most important point of difference, however, lies in the brand’s fee structure. With franchise models financed through performance based fee structures, many franchisees feel the pressure to do more; without realising that their performance can be directly affected by the support (or lack of it) that they are receiving from their franchisor.
Through the First National model, agencies pay a fixed monthly fee to the brand, rather than paying a percentage based commission on every sale as well as a percentage of property management income. This may seem incidental, however it is of particular importance when an agency is just starting out and becomes more important as it grows and has bigger budgets to take care of. Agencies can grow with strength and confidence, without concern that their percentage based fees are constantly increasing, in alignment with their growing market share, thereby leaching profits.
As you reflect on some of the issues raised, you may discover that you are getting far less value than you expected from your current real estate network. If this is the case, then maybe it’s time to start pursuing other options? Changing brands can seem like an impossible task, but with First National’s unique operational structure, over three decades of experience, the comprehensive value proposition that comes with it, and their unwavering commitment to their members, you’ll wonder why you didn’t make the switch earlier.
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