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Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc. (WREA) recently surveyed its existing franchise owners—as well as prospects who chose not to affiliate—to get a read on how real estate professionals view the company. What came across loud and clear is that Weichert® is defined by its unique culture of support and its unmatched credibility. Jim Weichert’s people-first, grassroots approach when he opened for business in 1969 has remained intact throughout the company’s widespread expansion over decades. “Jim and his son James have led the company to tremendous growth since it opened in ’69,” says WREA COO Bill Scavone. “They created a model and systems that are employed not only in company-owned offices, but in franchise offices across the country, since 2002.” In this exclusive interview, Scavone shares the philosophy and strategies that continue to make the Weichert brand a growing force in the marketplace.

Maria Patterson: Please describe your role as COO of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates, Inc.
Bill Scavone:
I’m involved in many functions, but oversee two main areas. The first is the franchise sales effort—identifying brokers with a dream and a strong desire to build a better, more efficient, productive business. Second, is operations—making sure we’re providing all possible Weichert resources to our affiliates. I love my job for many reasons, but primarily because I get a firsthand look at the great results companies achieve by implementing our services and using our tools and techniques. It’s incredible for me to see these companies come on board, implement the systems we teach and grow their business. We work as one unit here, so I get to see that what we sell and promise, we deliver.

MP: How many offices and agents does the firm currently have?
Between franchises and company-owned offices, we have approximately 500 offices and more than 15,000 associates

MP: What sets your firm apart from the competition?
Our depth of resources; it’s what enables our affiliates to provide the best experience for the consumer. We recently conducted a survey of our affiliates and four areas stuck out as uniquely Weichert. One, a strong culture of support and core values. Two, our unmatched credibility—we are in the business. We won’t ask any affiliate to do something that we haven’t done, tested and proven to work. Three, we offer a blueprint for growth. Weichert has been tracking activities and results since the beginning and understands what needs to be done consistently to be successful. And four, best-in-class technology to assist in marketing, training, lead management and streamlining transactions.

MP: How do you make sure that serving consumers is always the ultimate goal?
It’s in our DNA. The original Weichert office is still open today, still growing, still profitable…all because our way of doing business works. We build it right into our tools and training, which are designed to provide legendary customer service and ensure it can consistently be delivered to every customer with every interaction by every agent. And “customers” not only means “consumers,” but our sales associates, as well. Weichert wouldn’t be this successful if we didn’t deliver great resources to our associates so that they can then deliver successfully to their clients. We have a few sayings at Weichert: We sell more because we do more; We do what we say we will do; Invite us in, we’ll bring results.

MP: Please describe the company’s growth trajectory over the years.
Jim Weichert has followed a continuous path of growth and expansion, adding financial services, corporate relocation, a lead conversion network, corporate housing, property management, new homes, referral associates and commercial brokerage. Today, the Weichert Family of Companies operates approximately 18 different real estate-related businesses.

MP: When did franchising factor into the plan?
Jim and his son James looked at the future and wanted to continue to grow our business. Marty Rueter, a veteran of real estate franchising, was hired to be the architect of WREA in 2001. They realized there were thousands of real estate companies around the country who would love to have all the tools that Weichert had, so franchising was a natural progression. Weichert already built a great operating system, so why not let people plug into it?

MP: What has been the cornerstone of your success in the franchising arena?
The key to our success is our unbelievable credibility and the core values we follow. They align with how many brokers tell us they operate. Jim and James have built a company with a great reputation. There were many brokers who never franchised before and repeatedly said “no” to other brands, but they aligned with us because we’re more than a name.

When a franchise owner is looking to join us, we invite them to come to our headquarters. We want them to see our campus; we want to show them our resources, and understand their values and goals. We show them they can save time, energy, money and stress by sharing in our resources. We are a very organized company with a great structure.

Our franchise owners have a lot of independence in their markets. We offer a huge complement of tools, services and systems to choose from. Every office that joins is assigned a business coach. We give them direction and offer all the services available, from which they can handpick or take it all. There are brokers around the country doing great things, and they can grow their firms by overlaying our systems and resources with their business. They don’t have to reinvent the wheel. We have a huge infrastructure in place to support our offices.

MP: Please describe what makes your corporate culture so compelling to brokers.
Our culture is a real estate culture. We’re in the business every day just like they are. We have the same challenges they have. We understand them, and we have great resources to overcome those problems and challenges. For example, if there’s a tech problem, we can task our own tech people to find a solution. There is a shortage of listings in the current market, so we challenged our training department. They developed a workshop called Listing Mastery and provided it to our offices. We see an increase in listings after an office employs what they learned. We have a slogan called “Weichert Works,” which has a dual meaning: We work hard, but our systems work, too.

Our culture is also very activity-based, which comes right from Jim and James. We provide our affiliates with the tools, training, techniques and technology to help them perform the activities that lead to more sales. Without activities, sales don’t materialize. Everyone here is in the business—it’s not an ivory tower.

MP: What is the Weichert approach to support and service? Why is it like having a personal trainer?
Every Weichert affiliate has an individual relationship with our support staff. We’re always there for them, just like a personal trainer. We provide them with a blueprint for growth based on their goals and our experience of what works and what doesn’t.

Just like when you want to lose weight, if you follow a proven program, you will. Same with Weichert. We know from years of measurement what works. We know exactly what needs to happen for an office to grow and make money. That’s no different than a personal trainer giving you a diet and exercise program. If you follow it, you’ll lose weight.

MP: What’s your approach to coaching?
We provide our owners with one-on-one coaching; it’s personalized for each owner and office. We set goals and create a custom business plan and use that plan during coaching sessions throughout the year. We strongly believe in setting stretch goals. We also offer many opportunities for our offices to train together so they can learn from their peers. We’ve had group sessions on financial management, time management and accountability, recruiting and building middle management. Our affiliates enjoy getting together to share ideas and best practices. We have a strong network of motivated owners. When someone signs with us, they get a service staff at their fingertips. We don’t disappear once they’ve joined. We treat them like part of the family.

MP: Talk about how Weichert provides a blueprint for success.
We have an incredible model in the Weichert Selling System that is time-tested and proven. It has not only survived every type of real estate market, but also it’s thrived because the company continuously adapts and changes with the times. We don’t believe in staying status quo. You need to innovate, challenge yourself to be better each day and find better ways of doing things. The fundamentals of taking care of the customer don’t really change. What changes are the tools and technology, and we use those to be more efficient and effective in delivering a consistent, legendary customer experience. We provide a very clear, effective operating system to our offices along with constant support, coaching, training and tools to help them stay on plan.

MP: How do you utilize technology to facilitate this culture of support?
Our support is really driven by our people. We have excellent business coaches, service managers and trainers. They have an incredible amount of experience in the industry and have lived it. We believe in face-to-face communication and interaction; however, we use a variety of technologies, social media, and relationship management systems to stay in touch, communicate and train our owners, managers and associates. We think the best way to provide support is by reaching out and shaking their hand, sitting down with them and working through their business plans in person.

MP: What’s on deck for the future of Weichert?
The future of the franchise opportunity for Weichert is huge—we’re just scratching the surface. We’re in 39 states and growing fast. We will continue to add offices in every state. Although we’ve been around a long time, Weichert is new and fresh in most markets. It’s a great opportunity for offices to jump on board while they can.

Weichert will continue its model of adapting and innovating to the changing market. A lot of franchises sound the same, but when you start peeling back the layers, you get to the true depth of the offering. Ultimately, our depth is what makes us different.

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