• Ryan McCann went from the leading agent in a major franchise group to languishing in a jail cell overnight, but when his agency unceremoniously dumped him without even telling him, he decided he would somehow rebuild his life and career.
  • Now an advocate for drug rehabilitation and a regular industry speaker on the perils of drug use, he’s even more successful than before and the owner of his own agency in Brisbane’s Moreton Bay.

From Drug Bust to Busting a Move

Ryan McCann was born into real estate. His father was an agent and his mother was a property manager, and when his parents divorced, even his stepmother was an industry professional. Ryan’s earliest memory was being dragged from sandpit to sandpit, with each open home offering a different backyard to play in.

It was instinctual that after leaving school in the tight-knit Redlands community on the coast of Brisbane’s Moreton Bay, where Ryan had lived all his life, he’d want to sell real estate. Ryan’s father refused to give him his first start though, fearing he might have to fire him if Ryan proved unsuccessful.

Image of Ryan McCann

Ryan McCann went from the leading agent in a major franchise group to languishing in a jail cell overnight

So, it was under the banner of a franchised office that Ryan began working in 1998, hitting his straps almost immediately. Within 18 months, Ryan was outselling his dad’s agents and he was formally invited into the independent family business. Success followed success and as Ryan’s reputation grew so did his personal wealth. With an impressive property investment portfolio under his belt by 26, Ryan was living the high life in a waterfront property, driving expensive cars and acquiring whatever toys he wanted.

But tragedy was to strike soon. His father was involved in a serious car accident and stepped away from the business. At the same time, a different leading franchise business made an offer that was too good to refuse, prompting another shift in brand.

Seven years passed, with Ryan receiving award after award along with lifetime membership in the brand’s most successful member’s club. At 36, he had sold $40 million worth of real estate in just 12 months, but his life was about to come crashing down. Spiralling emotionally after the breakdown of a toxic relationship and with the office environment similarly toxic, Ryan had turned to drugs to maintain the pace of his hectic work life, developing an addiction to ice.

A knock on the door of his waterfront mansion one night sent his world into chaos as police raided his home, then his office, throwing him into jail. He woke up the next morning in a jail cell to find his picture featured in a full-page spread in the Courier Mail where he was falsely accused of being part of a drug ring, leading a double life involving gangs, death threats and trafficking.

The nightmare continued as Ryan discovered he had also lost his livelihood, finding out from a TV newsreader as it was being announced to the world that his franchised firm had unceremoniously sacked him.

This was the start of a nine-month battle to clear his name, with Ryan going to rehab to beat his addiction shortly after charges were laid. While, ultimately, he was only found guilty of personal drug use and supplying to four friends, with no commercialism involved, the damage to his reputation was done, with the Courier Mail choosing to print a three-line retraction post his conviction – hardly enough to correct the reputational damage done by the original front page story.

But Ryan was determined to rebuild his life and career, deciding he would approach First National Real Estate and seek to join. While the application caused some controversy amongst the members initially, the CEO – Ray Ellis – and corporate team were supportive after listening to Ryan’s story and, eventually, his fellow members were too.

First National Real Estate Cleveland

Opening the doors in 2015, less than a year after his life had hit rock bottom, 136 people supported the official launch.

Opening the doors in 2015, less than a year after his life had hit rock bottom, 136 people supported the official launch and Ryan was back on his feet with a clever plan. With his agency now on a fixed fee, he would put aside the extra money he would have paid in franchise fees and save it up to eventually buy rent rolls.

Just a few years later, a local rent roll with 250 managements came up for sale and Ryan laid down $890,000 in cash to buy it. Eighteen months after that, he did the same again with another rent roll of 110. Eight years after his restart, Ryan’s business has 452 managements and no debt, employs 22 people, and is ranked number one across First National Real Estate in Queensland. Ryan himself is the top agent in the state and third nationally.

“The local community was really forgiving and has always supported me, even when the other big brands wouldn’t come near me. I’ll never forget that First National Real Estate was the only group willing to give me another chance at success – they took me on when no-one else would,” Ryan said.

“I could have started an independent agency and would have, if I had to. People list with people, but I really wanted to be part of a national group as I think it’s important to test yourself against others. It worked out so well, because I got everything I would have gotten from a franchise but instead of paying massive fees to them, I’ve been able to use that money to build my business.”

First National Real Estate Cleveland

The team at First National Real Estate Cleveland

“In regards to the flat fees you pay to operate under the First National brand, I know people say you get less because you pay so much less than you’d pay in franchise fees, but that’s rubbish. You get just as much if not more, and you have the added benefit under the First National brand of being more flexible – they really understand every business is different and it’s not a rigid model.”

“Drugs have become a real issue in our industry. I often get asked by agency groups now to speak about the dangers of drug use and I’m passionate about raising funds for the charity Drug Arm, to help others who might not have had the support I did to turn their lives around – we’ve been able to send 39 kids to rehab so far, and counting.

“Now that it’s eight years later and the business is so successful, I of course get the other groups knocking on my door all the time but I’m just not interested. The major brand in QLD came to see me not long ago and I worked out I’d be paying $800,000 a year more in fees if I was to go with them – apart from my personal loyalty to First National Real Estate, why on earth would I even consider that?”

Are you thinking of joining a major real estate brand? Here’s what our members say about making the transition.