By Barbara Pronin
Her office is in Lexington Park, Md. His is 70 miles away in Alexandria, Va. But for company president Mary Lynn Stone and CEO Todd Hetherington, the partners and dynamic visionaries behind CENTURY 21 New Millennium, the distance is bridged by a focused synergy that powers the company’s success.
“We don’t need to be at adjoining desks to understand our individual strengths and use them to our advantage,” says Stone. “We’ve been co-leading the company long enough to understand that it is, in fact, our combined strengths that enable the business to keep growing.”
Hetherington, a West Point graduate, got into real estate almost as an afterthought while stationed as an Army Engineer Officer at Fort Belvoir, Va., in the late 1980s. He sold his first five homes in his first month as a part-time REALTOR®, opened his first CENTURY 21 office in short order, and by the late ’90s, had grown the company into a successful Virginia brokerage with six offices statewide.
But his dream was to become a regional player, expanding into Maryland and making the most of relocation business opportunities in the highly transient D.C. area.
Enter Stone, whose Stone & Associates realty business was already a leading force in the Maryland market with considerable success in the relocation sector. She had been talking with another brand as the next step in her company’s growth—but when an intermediary introduced the two, it was professional love at first sight, and the merger added the Maryland region into what was, by then, Century 21 New Millennium.
“Together,” says Hetherington, “we have been able to focus on growing our footprint from within, as well as on completing a few additional and very strategic mergers and acquisitions.”
As a result, the company today is among the top three CENTURY 21 franchises in the nation with over 700 agents in 16 offices in Maryland, Virginia and the D.C. Metro area, with an estimated $1.6 billion in volume and more than $41 million in gross total commissions last year.
In 2011, the company earned the Platinum Club designation within the Cartus Broker Network, an honor that recognizes superior customer service in the relocation sector and is earned by only the top nine percent of Cartus companies.
Most recently, the company announced the acquisition of three additional Maryland offices and the opening of a new office with the prestigious address of 1000 Pennsylvania Ave. on Capitol Hill in D.C.
“This expansion into the D.C. Metro area will enable us to introduce a greater number of consumers to our distinctive array of real estate services, including specialty market programs like CENTURY 21 Fine Homes and Estates, with expertise in the luxury market, and CENTURY 21 Commercial programs focused on the commercial property market,” Hetherington explains.
But despite the company’s formidable reach, there is no secret to its formula for success.
“We are grateful to be large enough to have market presence and clout,” Stone acknowledges. “But we will always remain small enough to be involved and agile, and very focused on our accountability and unmatched customer service. That is what separates us from the competition, and that is what accounts for our growth.”
Hetherington, from his office in Alexandria, thrives on analysis and strategy. It is he who traditionally crunches the numbers, studies the trends and business indicators, and recommends budget and growth strategies. He also oversees the company’s mortgage, title and property management divisions.
Stone, headquartered in Maryland, is involved in the day-to-day, from hands-on sales and staff supervision to the company’s extensive community outreach programs.
But communication between the partners, their branch leaders, their staff and their agents, keeps the wires humming.
“We run the business like a business,” says Hetherington. “We are detail oriented, and accountability is a big part of that. We use integrated electronic calendars, for example—we call it stealth accountability—which helps with self-discipline and time management. All our calendars are accessible, so everyone is on the same page in terms of scheduling coaching sessions, recruiting interviews, budgeting meetings and more.”
The partners are also proactive, developing and sharing better ways to originate business and ensure that every transaction is handled with maximum care and efficiency.
“We know we can do everything better than we did it the day before,” says Stone. “So Todd and I work hard, not just to push for the best in each other, but to motivate and encourage our people to make each day more productive than the last. We are very demanding, but as a result, we believe we have the industry’s best branch leaders and most knowledgeable and professional agents.”
In today’s environment, there is a lot of real estate information available to everyone online, “but,” adds Stone, “consumers want an agent who knows the market, instills them with confidence, and works diligently to help them reach their goals.”
For that reason, the company’s business model provides complete support for agents, including full-time, non-selling branch leaders and business coaches, individual office operations managers, customer service representatives who answer phones and administrative issues, and transaction coordinators who process paperwork so that agents are free to focus on prospecting and impeccable customer service.
“In the end,” says Stone, “our agents stay with us over the long term because we do everything possible to make certain they are successful.”
“Everything possible” includes leading-edge technology and the training to maximize its potential. A single sign-on to the agent dashboard puts the most important business tools at every agent’s fingertips, and a social media director makes certain every agent is comfortable with the myriad social media venues that maximize their exposure in the marketplace.
“Part of excellent customer service,” Hetherington explains, “is the capacity to communicate with customers in whatever manner they prefer.”
An early subscriber to RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), the company also provides agents and customers alike with access to the most current and incisive real estate data available—a boon in an age of information overload, when the clear and concise interpretation of all that data is more necessary than ever.
But technology alone is not enough, Stone believes, because real estate is a human endeavor that extends beyond data to the customer service so important to the company culture.
“No matter the state of the market,” she explains, “there is never a pity party here. Our mindset is always up. Business is great at CENTURY 21 New Millennium.”
And, in fact, business is great at this innovative and well-established company which, despite the most recent economic downturn, has outpaced competitors to post a 10 – 15 percent increase in revenue in each of the past five years.
“We are basically pretty conservative,” Hetherington says. “So fortunately, we did not need to scale back all that much during the worst of the downturn. We were able to use the time wisely and, in fact, were able to capitalize on market opportunities to keep expanding during that period.”
It was also a good time for recruiting.
“The past few years have been a huge recruiting opportunity,” notes Stone. “We have been able to grow our sales team with dedicated, professional agents and leaders who are happy to be in a work environment where everyone is smiling and supportive, and where hard work and planning pay off.”
But success has its share of responsibility. As company leaders, Hetherington and Stone are fully committed to giving back to the communities that support them. Each of their offices participates fully in the “Dr. Bear’s Closet” program at Children’s Hospital in D.C., which provides young patients with everything from little red wagons to transport tots for their lab testing to scrapbooking and other hobby materials to help keep the older kids occupied.
In addition, last July, New Millennium’s director of business development, Scott Becker, joined CENTURY 21 system CEO Rick Davidson in a Climb for Kids trek through the Alaska Mountain Range that raised $30,000 for Easter Seals, a campaign the CENTURY 21 system has supported for more than three decades.
“It’s part of being a good citizen,” Stone says. “And it adds to the culture of caring and camaraderie that is so much a part of our company.”
As the general economy and the housing market rebound, confidence and optimism are high—an outlook that carries over to consumers.
“The market is strong as consumers take advantage of historically low prices and phenomenally low interest rates,” Hetherington says. “With our full complement of core services, from the residential and commercial sectors to property management, mortgage and settlement services and top-of-the-line relocation management, CENTURY 21 New Millennium is prepared and excited to take business to the next level. The last three words in our mission statement are ‘fun,’ ‘fair’ and ‘profitable.’ It’s a mission we really believe in, and it sums up our company very well.”
For more information, please visit www.c21nm.com.
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