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Energy, vision and teamwork are the three qualities that Century 21 Affiliated executives attribute to their company’s success and ability to defy housing market challenges in their markets of Wisconsin, Minnesota and Northern Illinois. Read on to learn how Bill Kessler and Dan Kruse have leveraged their experience and success to position their company as a leader in the housing recovery.

Bill Kessler
Dan Kruse
CENTURY 21 Affiliated

Maria Patterson: Please give us an overview of CENTURY 21 Affiliated.
Dan Kruse: We have 33 offices and 445 agents (at press time). Our offices blanket all of Wisconsin and we extend into part of Minnesota. We are in Northern Illinois and a recent venture has taken us into downtown Chicago. Over the last five years, we have been aggressively expanding while a lot of people have been pulling back. We’ve wisely positioned ourselves as a leader as the market starts to recover.

MP: How were you able to grow in the midst of a real estate downturn?
Bill Kessler: It was clear to me back in 2005 what was going to happen. For the most part, we slowed our capital investment, slowed our growth of ancillary service staff and did not renew leases that weren’t already in place. And sure enough, the downturn came. I was fortunate enough to have already reduced expenses, renegotiated leases and determined what we really needed in terms of staffing.

MP: What have been some of the company’s most significant areas of growth over its history?
BK: We’ve had three significant periods of growth. The first was when we were coming out of the ’82/’83 recession. We were in a good position to grow and get listings, as people started to enter the real estate market as a career. Our second growth period was in the late ’90s when it became clear that centralized services could work, so it made sense for us to consolidate services. That enabled us to start moving beyond Wisconsin. The third period of growth, and the largest in terms of dollars, has occurred in the last 12 months (at press time). It’s been great. MP: What is one of the greatest lessons you’ve learned as the company has grown?
DK: We’ve learned how unique each market and each community really is—and that’s been humbling. We’ve learned to adjust to different marketplaces while still keeping our overall company philosophy intact.
BK: Back in the late ’90s, I made the error of thinking that I could take the systems I had here and export them to other locations and everyone would be fine. I learned the lesson that you just can’t replicate everything precisely.

MP: What sets you apart in the marketplace?
BK: If I could sum it up, it would be energy and vision.
DK: We’ve always believed in our culture, which is, “We’re a team—we’re all in this together.”

MP: How do you manage to maintain this team culture within such an expansive company?
DK: With a company as large as ours, with a geographic footprint as large as ours, communication is challenging. That’s why we focus a lot on webinars and regular email communication. We also do a road trip twice a year, where we get out to all of our different regions. We also have regular award presentations for our company. We get everyone together within one or two regions and share our successes, both on the agent level and on the leadership team. We meet with our team leaders and staffs to talk about the vision of the company. Those touches, whether it’s through technology or in person, are essential.

MP: What technology investments have proved to be the most important over the years?
DK: One of the distinct areas we’ve invested in and also the largest one is Web exposure. Our partnership with CENTURY 21 helps us build that exposure on a company-wide level. We also have a strategic partnership with® to receive premier placement for our listings. Also, our investment into CENTURY 21’s Lead Router gives us the ability to have response time within 30 seconds of a lead coming in. One of the other major directions we are moving toward is mobile technology.

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