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RE/MAX Anchor Realty has seen it all. From rebuilding after Hurricane Charley, which left the majority of the company’s agents homeless, to surviving the economic downturn in 2005, the Florida-based company has been through its share of tough times and still manages to come out on top. So far on top, in fact, that in 2009 they were named the top RE/MAX Broker/Owner of North America.

Additionally, from 2010 to 2013, the company ranked among the nation’s Top 500 brokers in RISMedia’s Power Broker Report, an annual report identifying the country’s most successful residential firms. In the following interview, Broker/Owners Debra K. Meredith-Peters and Philip “Rocky” Farhat provide their winning recipe for real estate success: one part positivity, one part proactivity, and a whole lot of hard work.

Zoe Eisenberg: How did you come to lead RE/MAX Anchor Realty?
Debra K. Meredith-Peters:
Before franchising, Rocky and I each owned our own independent real estate company. In 2004, we realized we were going to need to align with a franchise to be able to weather what we thought would be a real estate storm. We shopped around and ultimately selected RE/MAX because we felt it met our independent needs. We made that decision on August 12, 2004. On August 13, Hurricane Charley hit. We were at ground zero for that hurricane, and most of my agents were homeless. All of our business fell through—everything on the books tanked. We didn’t actually buy our franchise with RE/MAX until one year later because we were taking care of all that.

In October 2005, we signed the deal and converted four independent offices to RE/MAX with two locations. At the time, we were the largest conversion within the RE/MAX of Florida history. Right after we signed, the market went off the cliff. For us, it was such an opportunity to gain marketshare. Our competition thought we were crazy. We were the new kids on the block, but we had RE/MAX behind us. The downturn actually turned out to be the key point of our success.

ZE: Why did you choose RE/MAX?
We bought the franchise for tools and branding so we didn’t have to recreate the wheel. RE/MAX dovetailed nicely with our current business model and the way we were running our independent offices. Because we were an independent for so many years, we blended conventional real estate with training and administrative support, in conjunction with high commission splits for top-producing agents. We began using the slogan, “We’re Not Your Mom’s RE/MAX Office.”

ZE: How many offices and agents do you currently have and what regions does your firm serve?
We have five offices, 107 associates, and a staff of 19 for a total of 126. We service southwest Florida, and we cover a pretty big geographical area. Each office services a different market type. In our office in Marco Island, for example, our average sales price is $765,000. The average sales price in our office in Punta Gorda is $126,000. And then we cover agricultural, which is a whole different animal entirely. A lot of our agents were born and raised in their area, so they have that connection.

ZE: How would you describe current market conditions in your area?
Diverse. They’re different from office to office. I don’t think the Marco Island office suffered as much because their clients are in the million-dollar range. They see lots of cash buyers and international business. Overall, market conditions are good. Some markets weren’t badly affected by the downturn, and others were hit hard. Each market is different, but overall, we’re seeing a lot of new market growth.

ZE: What is your approach to company growth?
We share a lot and we refer a lot. Each office has its own culture. Our agents are encouraged to take ownership of their own business. Our function is to provide the most successful platform possible for each agent to be as successful as they possibly can. We’re going to sift through our RE/MAX tools and find the tools and branding that are going to best suit each agent’s unique business plan. We do business plans with all of our agents, and an annual goal check-up where we share our short- and long-term company goals. We expect our agents to have individual goals and we all know none of us will reach our goals if we don’t work together.

ZE: What sets your firm apart from the competition?
Philip “Rocky” Farhat:
We have great locations and great offices where agents want to come work every day. We are set up with the highest technology and an Internet-cafe atmosphere. We have an open floor plan, one of the first ones in the franchise. When planning to build, other franchisees have come to see our office as a model. Now, the average age of the agents in our Internet-cafe offices is 36, so we did what we set out to do—bring younger agents into the business. We’ve also started a mentor program because our recruiting pool got small in a hurry.

DMP: Our office culture and administrative staff win the day every day for us. Our staff creates a work environment that agents desire to become a part of and engage in all that is offered through the office. Each and every staff member is devoted to our associates and their success. Conversely, our associates are then fiercely loyal to our staff. This creates a formidable team environment. Our administration, whether answering phones, processing checks or greeting clients, is the engine running RE/MAX Anchor and RE/MAX Affinity Plus. They are the face of our business and our success.