By John Voket
RISMEDIA, September 1, 2008-Century 21 President and CEO Tom Kunz recently returned from Brazil, where the company announced a partnership introducing a new contingent of gold-coated real estate agents to many new markets in the South American nation. As Kunz tells it, the latest launch not only caps a corporate goal to establish the Century 21 brand in the world’s pre-eminent economic BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) nations-Century 21 is the first international franchise in Brazil-but should also reinforce the power of the brand with buyers and sellers in the U.S. and across the globe.
Real Estate magazine: As this is Century 21’s first foray into the South American country, did you notice any similarities-or glaring differences-between the U.S. and Brazil?
Tom Kunz: I noticed several important similarities between the way the U.S. and Brazilian real estate companies do business. Brazil actually has a similar structure to the National Association of Realtors. They’ve worked with our national association to use the Realtor ‘R’ and they’ve gotten approval to use the word “Realtor.” I have never seen that done in any of the other 60-plus countries we’re in.
RE: Let’s talk briefly about the work involved in establishing a franchise in another country. Because of the different laws, etc., do you generally work with their government?
TK: Typically, when we go into some of these countries, our master franchisees are working with the governments to help set up those regulatory and industry organizations. So it was really refreshing to not only see those things in place, but to meet the heads of state who run those organizations and to see how well Century 21 is going to fit into that picture in Brazil. The Brazilian government has been working closely with industry representatives to ensure that licensing laws for agents are as effective as possible in that nation.
RE: How did the expansion into Brazil come about?
TK: The sequence of events leading up to the Century 21 launch in Brazil was a combination of us seeking opportunities there and a group of willing and capable investors coming to the table to help make it happen. We’ve sold the master rights to South America to one of our established master franchisees in the United States-Phil Yeager, who also owns the master franchise rights for Mexico.
RE: Can you explain Phil Yeager’s involvement with Century 21?
TK: Phil was one of the founding members of the Century 21 systems in the United States. He not only facilitated opening Century 21 offices in Venezuela and Colombia, but took the initiative to see the brand launched in Sao Paulo as well. His success in that venture has helped the company establish its presence in the lucrative BRIC nations.
RE: Can you talk a bit more about the BRIC nations?
TK: This is a group of countries that have the fastest-growing economies outside the U.S.-nations we want to have a stronghold in. We currently have about 1,400 offices in China, representing our fastest-growing international region. Our grand opening in India will take place just after the first of the year, and we opened in Russia late last year.
RE: Who will be running the Brazil franchise?
TK: Antonio “Tony” Martinez, Robert Menescal and David Moyer. David was a partner investing in one of Tony’s projects in Hawaii. In the course of doing business in Brazil a few years later, they were looking for an attorney who spoke English. That’s when Robert came onboard. In the process of helping David and Tony, the question came up about whether or not there were any national franchises in Brazil, and would this be a good market for it.
RE: What’s been their key to launching this swiftly and successfully?
TK: As much experience as these folks have, they listen to what it takes to make a master franchise successful in a new region. They’ve done everything by the book-nearly letter perfect. Their opening was great, and they will be very successful moving forward.
RE: How does Century 21’s expansion affect its U.S. clients?
TK: While domestic real estate clients of Century 21 might not think opening a new region in Brazil will have much influence on the buying and selling of homes in the U.S., the rapid expansion of the brand in key international markets does play a role in the company’s ability to best serve their clients at home.
RE: To what do you attribute Century 21’s Brazilian appeal?
TK: I think it’s like any established brand-it brings a sense of security to consumers. It gives them a certain level of expectation of what they can get in terms of service. RE
Who Led the Brazilian Expansion?
Here’s a look at the principle partners in Century 21 Brasil.
Board Chairman Antonio “Tony” Martinez-In addition to a distinguished military career where he served aboard the Argentine Tall ship “Libertad” on its 1987-88 diplomatic tour, Martinez served in both operations Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom. He obtained his master’s of science degree in 1996 and founded several successful real estate related business enterprises. An avid writer, collector of art, antiques, and antiquities and a lifelong fitness enthusiast, he founded Century 21 Brasil (official company name) in October 2007.
Century 21 Brasil President Robert Menescal-Menescal was born and raised in Brazil, before spending several years abroad, acquiring international business and multicultural experience as well as proficiency in English, Spanish and French. In 1998, Menescal returned to Brazil to join ACE Associates Consulting and conclude his college education. With business and law degrees, and graduate studies in Constitutional Law, Business Law, and Creative Problem Solving Methodology, Menescal has worked as a consultant with transnational corporations in Brazil and abroad.
David L. Moyer, Executive Vice President-Moyer has worked in real estate since 1999 with the industrial properties division of Colliers Monroe Friedlander of Honolulu. In 2001, he entered residential real estate with Prudential Locations of Honolulu and quickly earned “top producer” recognition and related awards. During this time, Moyer also founded several successful real estate related businesses and holding companies, joining Realty Executives in 2004 and becoming an independent broker in early 2006.
For more information, please visit www.century21.com.