The lessons learned through the growth of Weichert, Realtors in the Mid-Atlantic
are helping the company expand around the country through franchising. By Eric Slack
Founded in 1969, Weichert, Realtors has grown from a single office into a leading provider of homeownership services in many markets around the country. Today, the company serves key markets throughout the United States. It consists of a family of full-service real estate and financial services companies that streamline the delivery of mortgages and home and title insurance and help customers buy and sell both residential and commercial real estate.
The story of Weichert begins with Jim Weichert's initiative, creativity and willingness to take risks. The company started in Chatham, N.J., and grew over time based on Weichert taking a personalized approach to serving the marketplace. That growth was fueled by prospecting, along with active recruiting and training of sales associates, innovative marketing, aggressive mergers and acquisitions and a people-first business philosophy. The company opened additional offices, building solid operational systems and outstanding sales teams, ultimately creating a business model that other growth-minded brokers could follow.
“Jim grew the company in the Mid-Atlantic fairly quickly by adding agents and acquiring offices through mergers,” says Martin Rueter, president of Weichert Real Estate Affiliates Inc. . “He was able to create a consistent system of selling that people could follow, and he adopted a full-service real estate model.”
Weichert began franchising in 2002. Since that time, the company has brought thousands of affiliate brokers and associates onboard, providing tools, systems and support that help them replicate the corporate operation’s success. The company now has more than 450 corporate and affiliate offices in 39 states. The Weichert brand has a presence in numerous American cities and towns, proving its value by making the experience of buying or selling a home a positive one for buyers.
“I came on board to help the company grow through franchising,” Rueter says. “Franchising allows you to layer your extensive resources over existing successful businesses that understand their local markets. What made us different from the start was our financial commitment and long-range view. We wanted to go national and were committed to servicing the franchisee beyond just training them at our home office.”
Weichert staffed its franchise team with trainers, consultants and controllers so the first franchisee in Jupiter, Fla., was fully serviced and the company could get the next franchises up and running. The company chose not to franchise within the territory of its corporate offices, instead venturing into other parts of the country and bringing its business model to new territories.
“We push our franchisees toward the Weichert way, because we know it works and to ensure the brand is consistently represented in the market, while giving them flexibility to meet the unique needs of their markets,” Rueter says. “As a result, we see same-store sales going up each year and we are outperforming the market because offices follow our listing, selling, advertising and recruiting methods.”
Franchisees also have access to incremental business opportunities through its affiliation with the corporate office, such as lead generation and corporate relocation business. Weichert invests heavily in digital marketing tactics designed to drive customers to its corporate website. Leads from the website are handled through a fully staffed call center in New Jersey that receives the inquiries, scrubs the leads and connects people who are ready to make a real estate decision with agents.
“We replicate that process with recruiting, by mining resumes and qualifying candidates,” Rueter says. “We have an online real estate school for licensing, as well as a full suite of online and live training programs for managers and licensed agents. Those services are very hands-on and respected. We also help franchisees with their individual business plans to make sure they have systems in place so they can prepare for everything from profitability and long-term wealth to exit strategies for broker owners.”
Aiming for Growth
Ultimately, Weichert helps franchisees compete in their marketplace by affiliating with a respected national brand with proven systems and resources. Weichert is actively recruiting prospective new franchisees while also fielding inquires from prospects that are interested in learning more.
“We want to get a feel for what they are looking to achieve,” Rueter says. "We want those who desire growth, but don’t want to be absorbed by a large conglomerate. We gauge their ambition, because our goal is to take the smaller single shops and helps them grow.”
To ensure that franchisees have the ability to grow, Weichert does not want to add franchisees on top of one another. It wants to grant territories of opportunity to franchisees to see how they can perform, aiming for a minimum of 15 percent marketshare and a top three position in each market. The company wants to ensure that all of its operations are outperforming the market and profitable, and strong relationships with franchisees are critical to reaching that goal.
In the years ahead, Weichert will continue to ensure that its corporate operations and franchised locations are working together for the benefit of all. The Weichert corporate operations will continue to provide support to franchisees while also absorbing best practices and lessons from new franchisees as they come on board. The company is committed to ensuring its qualified leads find their way into the hands of franchisees, and its long-term plans include expansion into all 50 states and reaching 1,000 offices.
“Our franchising operations are about more than a contract; they are about relationships,” Rueter says. “We have focused on maintaining that bond and relationship with franchisees so we can work together to make the right decisions. Great systems drive business, great people drive systems, and great leaders drive people. Our systems, people and leadership make our franchising operations a great model for growth.”