2009 was a pivotal year for Help-U-Sell. New ownership took over in the week between Christmas and New Years, 2008. The company, with assets and information in Southern California and Colorado was boxed up and shipped to its new home in Sarasota, Florida. Simultaneously, a search for competent, credible leadership was undertaken; and it didn’t take long to identify John Powell as the logical choice.
John had been a very successful Help-U-Sell franchisee in the 90’s, sold that office and went on to be a successful Regional Director. When Regions were abolished in 2008, John did the one thing he knew he could do to generate an income: he opened another Help-U-Sell office in his home town, Tucson. Now, that was a gutsy move. In the middle of the worst real estate market in history, John opens a Help-U-Sell office. Yet, from a dead zero start, he and his wife, Maria, took that office into the black in five months. I work for John now and he is the ultimate antidote for ‘It-can’t-be-done-itis.’ Anytime I hear that the market is impossible or that nobody can make it in this mess, all I have to do is point to him.
About 450 of the nearly 800 existing Help-U-Sell franchises were assumed by the new owner, Infinium Realty Group. Many of these franchisees were alive and well and fighting their way through the tough market. Some were hanging on by their toenails. A few were just waiting for someone to close their eyes and pull the sheet up over their heads. Everyone had scaled back, cutting expenses wherever they could. Job one for the new company was to simply sift through the assumed franchises to see who was still up and open, who needed immediate help and who had the heart and determination to continue.
At the same time, the new team started looking for ways to improve the brand offering, to kick it up a notch and to create tools and alliances that would mean more business for the franchisees. Immediately, Robert Stevens was given the mandate he’d been seeking for a year: to build a killer website for the company from the ground up, paying careful attention to all the tools and tricks that make a website attractive to search engines. Finally, we were going to own our technology, we weren’t going to be at the mercy of an outside vendor. The new Corporate site went live mid-year and since then, development has shifted to the creation of companion websites for each of our franchise offices. These broker sites will start to come online after the first of the year.
John Powell began talking with Bank of America about developing a real alliance — one that would benefit both organizations. The result is a concierge service that preserves leads that come to Bank of America via Help-U-Sell websites and returns them to the originating party. The new relationship empowers B of A Mortgage Loan Officers to negotiate space rental agreements with Help-U-Sell brokers and to participate in co-branded marketing. Five months into it, I have been impressed with how many positive stories I’ve heard about the relationship and how few negative. Personally, I’ve been wowed by the depth of knowledge and experience of the MLOs I’ve met.
Maurine Grisso was tapped to deliver quality training on topics of immediate interest every Thursday and to build valuable content for the rally series that kicked of mid year. Her up-to-date, real-world experience helped everyone do a better job of navigating short sales and working with REOs as well as simply moving forward in a very tough market. Ron McCoy and Jack Bailey worked with her to develop a coaching program for Help-U-Sell brokers that will become the backbone of how the Brand and the brokers work together to maximize production and profit.
I came on in June after a call from John and a meeting in Sarasota with him and Infinium principal, Ron Westman. It was a no-brainer for me. Though I’d worked for most of the national franchisors at one time or another, usually as a contractor on a variety of projects, Help-U-Sell was the one company that captured my heart. It was love at first sight between the Help-U-Sell business model and myself when we spotted each other across the room at Help-U-Sell University in 2002. The three years I spent after leaving in 2005 were laced with a longing for the sense of mission and the determination we all have in this company. When I determined that the new leadership was committed to doing what was necessary to breathe new life into the company, to bring it through the difficult market and to make it thrive going forward, my decision was easy: YES.
I believe the best yardstick we have for measuring the health of the Help-U-Sell family in 2009 is the series of rallies we held around the country: 24 of them and counting. We hit many locations twice over the past six months and that’s where I get my perspective. Every one of those first rallies began the same: angry and disengaged brokers coming into the room with arms crossed across their chests, looking as much for a reason not to believe as for a reason to move forward. Usually, half an hour into John’s corporate update, people would begin to relax. An hour later they were smiling and by the end of the meetings they were laughing, sharing and rediscovering the energy any meeting with Help-U-Sell members creates. The second round was completely different. People showed up excited. They were anxious to reconnect with each other and to plot and scheme their next incursions into the marketplace of 2009. Seeing that shift told me we were on the right track, that we were going to come through this stronger and better than we’d ever been.
Today we’re looking forward to 2010 and making plans to capitalize on the improving market. We recently added Tami Patzer to the team as Communication Resource. She’s already done and excellent job communicating who we are and what we’re doing in a variety of outlets, notably our monthly newsletter, Help-U-Sell Connect. She’s putting the finishing touches on the December edition today. I’m planning and calendaring the next round of rallies. We want these to be bigger and better attended than the ’09 offering, so expect to be nagged about going to the one closest to you. After all, I know of nothing better for getting your attitude and energy up than getting together with other members of the Help-U-Sell family.
John has a number of other initiatives boiling in the cauldron right now and I expect we’ll have some remarkable news when rally time rolls around. You will certainly be hearing more about the new broker websites coming online and how to easily tweak them to produce the largest number of leads for your office.
Our team in the field is a scrappy bunch. These are the fighters, the ones who don’t go down often; and on the rare occasions they do fall, they’re quick to get up and get at it again. It’s an honor and a privilege to work with this group as we march toward the coming year. I believe, if 2009 was pivotal for Help-U-Sell, 2010 will be remarkable. To quote that renowned American poet and philosopher, Huey Lewis:
‘The future’s so bright I gotta wear shades!’