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After 25 years in the real estate business, I feel like a kid again, with a family that cares for me and has my back every step of the way on my journey to becoming No. 1 in the world. Here’s my story as I moved from being an independent brokerage to affiliating with an iconic global franchisor.

Licensed since 1992, I came from a blue collar world and started off in what I was sure was the biggest and best real estate brand in the land, Century 21 Real Estate. Real estate was a natural fit, and I quickly gained momentum and consistently earned my status as one of the top agents in our company. In fact, early on, I chose to learn every facet of the business, from new construction, condos and commercial to relocation and bank-owned properties. The latter, I learned, afforded me the opportunity to develop ties with Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as many other mortgage finance companies—an experience that helped drive growth through all the ups and downs of the real estate cycle in the years that followed.

Unfortunately, others in my office didn’t fare as well, as sales and the number of listings plummeted. I quickly realized the time had come to open my own independent office, and within a few weeks, my For Sale and Sold signs dotted my market area. In the last three years, my office (and the incredible sales professionals who joined the brokerage) earned a leadership position, and we opened up new markets and niches in an effort to level out my company. It worked. I planned to reinvent my independent office with new signs, a modernized logo and an investment in software and tools to give my agents a competitive edge while competing for listings and delivering the best experience possible to their clients.

My company’s success led me to be approached by several large franchisors and big-box brands about affiliating with their companies. I wasn’t interested. I liked the freedom and comfort of being an independent, as did my agents.

Then, about a year ago, that changed when a franchise sales representative appeared at my door and persuaded me to join the SMARTER. BOLDER. FASTER. CENTURY 21® brand. It took some convincing, of course, having started my real estate life as a gold jacket, but today’s brand is more exciting and innovative, and reflective of the consumers in our markets.

Every time that rep calls or visits me at the office, I still thank him for his persistence and for explaining how our leading reputation, image and culture as an independent could remain intact, as together—as CENTURY 21 Lakeside Realty—our passion for consumer-centricity, innovation and an environment of independence, professionalism and accountability would help make us a stronger organization.

After my first CENTURY 21 Leadership meeting, and getting to know not only the corporate leadership team, but also peers from around the world, I feel like a kid again, and I know that this company and the professionals within it have my back every step of the way.

George J. Berick is owner/agent/manager at CENTURY 21 Lakeside Realty,

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