We are not actively marketing franchises at the moment. Since the birth of the new Help-U-Sell a the end of 2008, we have been focused on just two things: stabilizing the franchises we have and adding value to the brand. The former had to do with ending the relationship with franchisees who didn’t have the heart to continue and reconnecting with those who did. The latter involved creating a new, more effective presence on the Internet, exploiting new business alliances and communicating. The franchise sales function has not been part of the mix.
Oh, we’ve had a few new offices open: Elias Klaeb and Tammy Whitehead both returned to Help-U-Sell after being gone for awhile and reopened in Southern California and Jeanne Lukes opened an office in Indianapolis. But these were franchise sales that sought us out, not ones we created through aggressive marketing and that’s very different for a real estate Franchisor.
The disease of the industry — the real estate franchising industry — is the strong emphasis on franchise sales as the ultimate goal and strategy for growth. It’s a problem in every real estate franchise. You have these gigantic organizations with lots of facets, all aligned to produce one result: more franchise sales. The result is a rush to approve almost every applicant and nearly every location, which leads to greater numbers of poorly performing franchises and a dilution of the power of the brand.
It’s not unlike the disease that infects most ordinary real estate offices, where recruiting is seen as the answer to all problems and becomes the broker’s most important job. The selling of real estate is seen as the agents’ job and is largely delegated to them to figure out individually and on their own. (I remember myself, 30 years ago working for one of the other franchises, saying to their brokers, ‘There’s not a problem in the world you can’t solve with recruiting!’)*
Today we’re using different language to describe the Help-U-Sell Team. While ‘Franchisor and Franchisee’ still describes us from a legal standpoint, we’re now using language that puts all of us on the same team with the same objective. Today we talk about CTs and MTs: the Coaching Team and the Messaging Team. (I know: in the latest Corporate Update video, we said MT stood for ‘Member Team,’ but it was just a flub, one I should have caught). The Messaging Team carries the message to the consumer: Help-U-Sell is the best value in real estate. The Coaching Team does everything in its power to ensure that the Messaging Team delivers the message to as many consumers as possible. We coach, train, explain, build technology, lead, communicate, form alliances and so on.
The most important thing about all of this has actually been at the heart of Help-U-Sell from the beginning: all eyes are firmly focused on the consumer. We are all working to get to as many consumers as possible, to save them as much money as possible and to create as many fans as possible. And we approach this with a great sense of mission — it’s more than a business, it’s a cause.
In this tough world, in this difficult business, it is energizing to have a cause, a mission, something to believe in. It gives you the power to dig deeper, do more and be more than you could all by yourself.
So, will franchise sales become a part of the new Help-U-Sell? Sure. But it’s not going to be what it was in the past nor what it is in other franchise organizations. We don’t plan to pursue anyone who isn’t pursuing us. They’re going to have to really want us. And they’re going to want us because our existing Messaging Team is smiling in growth and profitability. Protecting that will be job number one.
*Here’s an interesting aside. About seven years ago, I talked with a business consultant who worked for a big 100% company (no names). We were at a Brian Buffini Turning Point rally. At the break we were talking about what we did and he mentioned market share as a measure of his company’s success. That was a hot button for me because we at Help-U-Sell were finding it difficult to get consistent sales data to calculate market share on a national basis. So I asked: ‘How do you calculate market share?’ ‘Simple,’ he responded, ‘We count the number of agents in the local Board and then compare that with the number who work for us.’ The water I was sipping took that moment to go down the wrong pipe and I fell into a fit of coughing. If that doesn’t show how far from the consumer the business focus has strayed, I don’t know what does. Here is a real estate organization — and a good one — that is not even in the real estate business. They’re in the agent business! They don’t count transactions to determine market share, they count agents! In most 100% companies, where the agents pay a desk fee and then keep all of the commission, the broker’s revenue stream has nothing to do with how much real estate anyone is selling. All that matters is how many agents are paying desk fees every month. The consumer is . . . lost.