When Mike and Irene Green arrived in Brisbane from Auckland in early 1997 they did so with two young boys in tow and one big ambition – to take New Zealand’s most successful real estate brand, Harcourts, to a country where it was largely unknown and franchise it.
Less than two months later, on 4 March, the couple opened the first of four Harcourts offices and, 25 years later, the franchise’s success speaks for itself.
It was a long and arduous journey and one that’s been undertaken largely unreported until last year, when news broke that the Harcourts network had hit the number two spot for the highest number of sales across Australia.
“We’d barely unpacked before we were busily opening our first cornerstone offices, with much of the groundwork having been done by an incredible man, Mike Piagno, who we’d been lucky enough to meet and employ on a scouting trip the year earlier,” Mrs Green said.
“At the time, it was a huge decision to pack up our young family and move to another country. Everyone said we had rocks in our head, that no brand had ever succeeded coming from New Zealand to Australia, only the other way around.
“And that if we had any chance at all we should have started off in Sydney. I think we heard every sheep joke imaginable. But all of this probably just made us even more determined to succeed.
“For me, moving to Brisbane was a lifestyle decision, it was where we wanted to live more than anywhere in the world. So I was willing to take the risk.
“For Mike, it was the continual drive to be the best, to be number one in our field in a bigger pond – we’d already successfully conquered the north island of New Zealand and built a nine office network that had become number one in the Harcourts brand. It was time for a new challenge.”
Mr Green said that while the duo has made plenty of mistakes along the way, he and Mrs Green always worked as a team and supported each other through the challenging times, living by one of the key brand values of “doing the right thing”.
“In our industry, unfortunately sometimes doing the right thing means coming in second or even last,” he explained.
“But we never wavered from our values and gradually over time, almost by stealth, we just kept growing, building a community of like-minded people who were great at what they did and believed in what we stand for.”
It wasn’t an easy journey, and there was some opposition from competitors, but that only served to fuel the Greens desire to succeed.
“I remember being told in the early days that a major competitor had stood in front of their business owners in Queensland and told them not to worry about Mike Green, that he’d be back in New Zealand in six months,” Mr Green said.
“It backfired though, because knowing that just drove me harder, daily.
“There were plenty of times we both wanted to give up, that it was too hard. I remember saying to Irene maybe we should open our own business in Noosa – something we knew we could do well.
“Luckily neither of us felt that way at the same time, so we just kept picking each other up and continuing on.”
Now, 25 years later, the Greens have few regrets and immense pride to still be closely involved in the 400-plus office network that now also employs their two now adult sons – Head of HR Mitch Green and Business Operations Manager, Steven Green.
“Our primary focus has always been culture – to attract and keep brilliant people who feel safe and trusted and a part of the Harcourts brand,” Mrs Green said.
“And that’s been the real secret to our growth – whatever ranking we achieve is a side effect of putting people first. We’re all here to help each other, as we’ve seen during these extreme weather conditions.
“We’ve had corporate team members forming mud armies to help affected offices, with our Australian Chief Executive Officer Adrian Knowles shoulder to shoulder with our extended teams and network.
“We’re proud of what the Harcourts Australia team has achieved over the past 25 years. And we still love Brisbane, even when it’s flooded.”