RISMEDIA, January 18, 2011—It might have been the market meltdown. Or maybe it was the emergence of new players. But somehow along the way, it seems as though the real estate industry forgot about a big company named CENTURY 21 Real Estate. Now headed by real estate veteran Rick Davidson, the organization is taking on the ultimate challenge: reminding people that CENTURY 21® remains one of the most recognized real estate companies in the world.
In this exclusive interview, the president and CEO discusses his plans for growth, how he plans to bring his company back to the forefront of industry conversation and why his company should be known as the “smarter, bolder, faster, stronger, and more innovative real estate company.”
Stephanie Andre: You’ve had a very busy 11 months since taking over the position of president and CEO of CENTURY 21.
Rick Davidson: I started in this position in February of last year and have spent practically every moment traveling the world getting to know our brokers and their agents, their business, and what’s necessary to be not just successful, but the undisputed leader.
SA: What do CENTURY 21’s brokers and agents need most?
RD: First and foremost, a best-in-class platform that enables brokers to focus on attracting and retaining the best agents in the market.
Agents need a brand that can be trusted, industry-leading training—regardless of their experience level—and high-impact, high-visibility marketing to reach consumers where they are searching for homes. Additionally, they need a global network to drive additional referrals and opportunities for repeat business.
SA: Today, job security is vital, but so is success. Why should agents move to CENTURY 21?
RD: Agents are looking for opportunities and alternatives. I have the same mantra for my entire career: market conditions should never dictate your success. There are those who continue to be successful no matter what market they’re in, and it’s because they know how to leverage the right platforms and take advantage of opportunities that the market presents. It’s also because they have the right attitude and company to back them up.
I think agents are attracted to the CENTURY 21 System because of our incredible attributes. We have an unbelievable industry presence, a top-notch platform, and the right tools, systems and technology to make successful choices. If you take some time to look under the hood, you’ll see we have it all.
SA: What’s your greatest goal in taking over as the leader of Century 21?
RD: It’s a pretty simple equation for us: growth moving forward. We are striving to be recognized as the global leader in real estate transactions. We have an incredible foundation already. The industry has lost sight of who we are and what we represent. We are the largest residential sales force in the world, with more than 121,000 agents and approximately 8,000 offices. We have the largest global footprint in the world and the highest brand awareness at 97%; that’s according to a survey commissioned by Millward Brown. We are going to use that positioning to take the lead back in the real estate industry. If you can’t tell, I’m pretty passionate about this.
We are concentrating on growth opportunities here in the U.S., but global growth is just as important to our strategy. We have about 1,500 offices in China alone. In fact, I recently had the opportunity to speak in front of more than 10,000 agents at CENTURY 21 China’s 10th anniversary convention. In February, I’m headed to Japan, where we have more than 800 offices. We have this incredible position in the world.
Thanks to technology, the world is a smaller place. We’re at a point where we have the opportunity to truly serve the needs of consumers at a global level. In 2009, $66 billion worth of real estate transactions in the U.S. involved foreign buyers. We now have an incredible opportunity to assist with that.
SA: How do you plan to execute this plan for growth?
RD: The essence of how we grow this organization is our incredible foundation, but the bottom line is our reputation, which is based on three simple metrics:
Professionals we associate: Every CENTURY 21 agent’s reputation is on the line when the transaction is completed. What will the buyer or seller say about the CENTURY 21 professional they worked with on the transaction? Is that a person they’ll refer to everyone they know?
There are very few industries in which you actually sit across the table from your biggest competitor and work together to complete a transaction. A CENTURY 21 agent’s reputation within the local REALTOR® community is just as important as his/her reputation with buyers and sellers.
Companies that we affiliate: How is the local affiliate perceived in their local market? They should be looked at as a company with integrity. The firm should be looked at as one that is innovative and bold, and takes business to another level. Are they a player in the market they serve? They should be and moving forward, they will be if they aren’t already.
Transactions that we complete: We are an industry that measures ourselves on completed deals. Who sold what? How many did they sell? We like to talk about ourselves a lot and point out the successes we’ve had.
Everything that we do as a franchise company will be focused on those three things. In turn, we should be represented and positioned within the market to grow market share and drive opportunities.
SA: It seems as though you’re looking to reintroduce CENTURY 21…
RD: We want to be known as the smarter, bolder, faster, stronger, more innovative real estate company…something that the entire real estate industry will be talking about. I want the industry to be backed up on its heels saying, “Wow, what are they doing?”
SA: How can CENTURY 21 reclaim its position amongst the industry elite?
RD: We focus on five pillars to build on:
Passionate Pride: Those that are part of the System need to be excited about being here and really rally behind the organization. We’re in the sixth year of a market correction. This has been a very long and difficult correction for everyone. People are looking to be energized and motivated. It’s our job to do that.
Service for Customers: Our local affiliates are our customers. We are changing the way we serve them to better enable them to leverage the platform we offer—that is imperative.
Growth of Companies and Agents: How we are positioned in each market and what the franchise looks like are big parts of recruiting. We already have a significant recruiting platform; we just have to continue driving new professionals there.
Learning Leadership: This goes back to the professionals we associate. Consumers need to work with the best trained and certified agents possible. The CENTURY 21 Learning System was again recognized in Training Magazine’s Top 125 and we will emphasize the importance of certifying our brokers and agents with CRS and CRB certifications.
Marketing Prowess: Many people in this industry know that we took a bold move and focused primarily on a digital strategy in 2009. That strategy will continue and will remain focused on a high-impact and highly visible messages. Our presence in the industry and with consumers will be very bold.
We have to reintroduce the power of the CENTURY 21 brand to the industry. As an organization, we