Two decades ago, Rebecca Dean was sitting at her job as receptionist and salesperson at a local air conditioning company when she first spotted the advertisement that would change her life. The role was personal assistant to a sales agent at a local franchised real estate business, just two days a week. With a four year old daughter and one year old son at home, the opportunity seemed perfect.

Immediately entranced by the industry, Rebecca embraced her new role and the next 18 months flew by. Before too long, she was ready to step up and become a sales agent in her own right, moving to work under a different national franchise brand where she’d remain for the following 17 years.

By now the mother of three children, Rebecca continued to climb the ranks, eventually reaching the rank of top ten agents across the country in the group and selling almost 100 properties a year. Her eldest daughter Meg eventually joined the business as a buyers agent for another top agent, showing the same natural aptitude for the industry as her mother had.

Still loving every minute of her job and completely satisfied with her working environment, thoughts had begun to creep into Rebecca’s mind of starting her own business. She was receiving regular calls from all brands seeking to recruit her, but one caller in particular had stuck out in her mind. This woman was from First National Real Estate, a collaborative charging a set fee rather than franchise charging a percentage. Even more appealing, all fees were ploughed back into member services rather than paid out in dividends to shareholders.

While an independent agency still was appealing, Rebecca had also watched several of her peers leave the business over the years and successfully open offices under the First National Real Estate brand.

Still she was unsure. Comfortable where she was, it was hard to consider leaving, but the little nagging voice kept the considerations alive. One day during yet another discussion with her husband but still toying with the idea, a First National Real Estate advertisement came on TV and Rebecca felt instantly it was a sign. By now she’d lost the First National Real Estate woman’s details but by another coincidence, Rebecca went to appraise a home shortly thereafter only to find that woman standing on the doorstep.

The connection and decision was made. Rebecca would open her own business under the First National Real Estate band and her daughter Meg would become a salesperson in the office.

After Rebecca and Meg resigned, their principal was both disappointed but understanding and they left on good terms having been work colleagues and friends for many years. Rebecca approached her accountant, who offered her the use of one of his offices while the duo got on their feet.

At the same time, an old client phoned Rebecca, wanting her to list their home for sale as soon as possible. Rebecca explained the predicament – having resigned but not yet completely set up in the new business, they just weren’t ready. None of the important resources and systems were in place and they didn’t even have their own laptops! The vendor said they couldn’t wait, but if Rebeca could get things organised in time to hold the first open on the following Saturday, the listing was hers.

One week later, having rallied support from all corners and pulling a few all-nighters, Rebecca was standing on the threshold of a new chapter, welcoming 28 groups through the home.

Just 18 months after their first successful open home, First National Port Stephens already holds several area records – the highest price achieved for a residential house at $7,600,000, the highest price achieved for a block of land on the waterfront at $3,750,000 and the highest price achieved for a residential acre sale at $3,510,000. Rebecca’s team has grown to ten team members and is already in the top three agencies in the area for market share.

“Probably my biggest surprise in joining First National Real Estate was in how many resources were not only on offer but included in the membership fee. I vividly remember going on to the company intranet early on, scanning through the available training. I spotted a Lee Woodward course and called up my support person from the corporate team to ask how much it was to attend and was blown away when she said nothing!”

“Previously I’d had to pay for my team to go to training, even though we were part of a franchise group and paying much higher fees. Awards nights, conferences – everything was an added cost.”

“Here, everything is either paid for or heavily subsidised, even the international conventions.”

“I was also shocked by how much support I received and still receive from other offices in the group. Neighbouring offices were all willing to help me and share their experience in the set up phase and beyond, and everyone genuinely wants each other to succeed.”

“The flexibility of the brand and marketing is also a big thing for me. There are guidelines but they’re not stringent, we can adapt for our local area and add our own touch.”

“We went hard from the get go on marketing – I’m big on print advertising so the first week we already had four pages in the local paper, followed by eight pages in the second week. Now we do between 20 and 22 pages every single week. We saturated the area with billboards, letter box drops, videos and social media and the local area responded really well to the brand.”

“I’m so glad I took the plunge and honestly, I have never looked back”