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Over the past few months, as we were gearing up for our 40th anniversary celebration, I spent a lot of time thinking about ERA Real Estate’s roots in innovation. When our founders Jim Jackson and Gene Francis paired the new technology of the fax machine with the real estate industry, who knew that this would pave the way for the development of an iconic global brand?

This got me thinking about the unexpected and I realized that often, innovation is the result of unlikely pairings between seemingly unconnected thoughts, concepts or beliefs.

Everyone talks about innovation these days – and how important it is. Indeed, being able to make those connections – to see them and imagine the end result – is what ultimately separates the followers from the leaders.

But innovation just doesn’t happen. It must be cultured.

In 1972, the unlikely connection of the fax machine and real estate created a way to control real estate listings. At the time, the industry focused predominantly on buyers, not sellers, and this shift in thinking, facilitated by the creation of a nation-wide referral network, laid the very groundwork for how real estate is conducted today. What may seem obvious now was a novel way to approach the business 40 years ago.

In the ensuing years, we continued to culture an environment conducive to innovations. In 1976, we introduced a program that offered qualified sellers a clear path to closing called the ERA® Sellers Security® Plan. The slogan was “If ERA doesn’t sell your house, we’ll buy it!” The unlikely pairing of financial responsibility on the part of the brand and the peace of mind of the seller created a program that continues to this day to distinguish ERA Real Estate in the marketplace.

Today, we are getting ready to deploy another unconventional approach: a website solution for the entire ERA network that unites all of our franchisee’ websites within a single branded hub, not only amplifying the power of the ERA brand but providing a seamless search experience for consumers. Why is this unexpected? Because the franchising model in real estate has long been at odds with the very local nature of real estate as a service industry. To that end, brokers used their websites to communicate their local expertise. In the emerging era of IDX search, in which all listings can be made available to consumers in a single search, fusing the local focus with a national tool is clearly a forward thinking approach. All it required was the creation of a solution that facilitated the pairing of two unlikely practices.

As ERA Real Estate celebrates its 40th anniversary, we have been also taking a moment to look back at the philosophies upon which our founders built the brand. In fashion, it’s often said “what’s old is new.” But for ERA Real Estate, the concept of innovation has never gotten old; it has remained at the forefront of our company throughout our 40 years. As we enter the next 40 years, we will continue to scan the landscape for those unexpected pairings that lead to innovation, fully expecting the success that comes with it.

Charlie Young is the CEO of ERA Real Estate. For more information visit