Crossing the Border

Successful businesses make objective, proactive decisions. Others react to challenging times with fear-driven, risky cost-cutting. This case study follows a successful franchise that has strategically invested in its long-term future by breaking new ground interstate. Story by Julia Hebaiter.

You’re a highly successful brand in one Australian state. You’ve been around a long time, have worked long and hard, and are well respected in the real estate industry. You’re thinking about going national. How do you go about it? Where do you start? Is it better to tackle one state at a time? Is the legislation different? And what are the pitfalls?

Stockdale & Leggo, a market leader and household name in Victoria for 75 years, has approximately 90 offices spanning the state, including border offices, Albury and Corowa. The company, amidst much celebration, recently opened its Caloundra office in sunny Queensland in mid-May, its second after its Landsborough office, also on the Sunshine Coast. More Queensland offices are in the wings, promising developments are well under way in Tasmania, and the company has its sights well and truly set on other Australian states.

An inter-state expansion, handled very carefully, is an investment into the future that brings: broader, deeper foundations for long-term growth and security; the added credibility and repute of national branding; lucrative business opportunities to more potential franchisees; an honest and ethical real estate service alternative to members of the Australian public in more states; an add-on referral service for clients of existing franchisees; and an injection of renewed energy and excitement into the existing company, from the corporate team to office staff. It’s a win-win situation all round. So, how did Stockdale & Leggo go about it?

A dedicated business development team
Given the complexity of the task – and the ramifications if you get it wrong – a designated group of people working collaboratively is important. The various processes should unfold in the most streamlined way possible for facilitating an easier transition for new franchisees. The Stockdale & Leggo team has a proven track record. It comprises licensed estate agents, qualified auctioneers, previous business owners, and qualified trainers – all of whom provide practical, hands-on training and mentoring. Lyn Andrews, Stockdale & Leggo’s Business Development Manager and a former franchisee with the company, works in close consultation with CEO, Peter Thomas. Once an agreement has been reached, the various departments, including Marketing, IT, Franchise Management and Professional Development, swing into active, ongoing support. It’s a cohesive, dynamic team approach that provides the most comprehensive support.

Why Queensland?
“Queensland was the logical choice,” says Lyn, “given high levels of cross-migration and holidaying between the two states and the fact that our Victorian franchisees were receiving frequent requests for referrals.” Lyn also has an excellent grasp on Queensland real estate and an extensive network of contacts, as she’d previously worked there extensively during her 22 year history in the industry. “Given it’s such a large state, breaking it up into manageable target areas, four broader regions with the Sunshine Coast as a starting point in this instance, not only makes it more manageable for us, it also means that each new franchisee has the added support of a neighbouring office,” says Lyn. “A fragmented approach will lead to a fragmented business. It’s important to protect our new members from any sense of isolation and give them a sense of inclusion and unity.” It’s also important to ensure all legal requirements, which differ from state to state, are adhered to. These can range from contract and licensing laws to advertising, staffing and general real estate legislation. Familiarise yourself with the appropriate terminology. For example, ‘For Lease’ is commonly used in Victoria, whereas ‘For Rent’ is used in Queensland.

Less is often more!
A selective approach to bringing franchisees on board is critical, according to Peter. “Bigger is not necessarily better,” he says. “The success and longevity of the company over its 75 year history has been underpinned by its commitment to its core values of family, honesty, ethics and open communication. New members – whether young or old, male or female, highly experienced or relative newcomer – should share our time-honoured business philosophy and passion.” As with any other reputable company, Stockdale & Leggo works to ensure the brand’s strong reputation is maintained. It is also in the enviable position of successfully operating as one large, united family. Peter maintains a welcoming, open-door policy to all members at all levels of the network. This means he can be contacted up until 11pm every night. His roles as mentor to his professional family have included anything from friend and financial advisor to marriage counsellor! It is indeed rare within the upper echelons of management today that a CEO makes himself that accessible, yet strong family values filter through every aspect of the company, right down to its recently trademarked branding and advertising logo, Welcome®.

Additional dos and don’ts

Build relationships – A potential franchisee who is lukewarm or locked into a current franchise agreement might join you down the track.
Be prepared for knockbacks – They’re inevitable when scouting for new business, though the team at Stockdale & Leggo says that the triumph of seeing a franchisee succeed far outweighs any disappointments.

Make promises you can’t keep –Trust underpins the relationship. Ensure that whatever is promised is delivered.
Let distance be your undoing – Conduct online training, visit regularly, maintain frequent contact via all available communication mediums, and provide access to every available resource.

Real estate is all about people

“Whether supporting our people,” says Peter, “facilitating transactions between vendors and purchasers, or negotiating successful long-term business partnerships with franchisees, real estate boils down to a respect for people and a genuine desire to see them succeed.” Stockdale & Leggo employs Australia’s best trainers to deliver regular training and professional development programs, which include online scripts and dialogue training, and develops and maintains strong mentoring, liaison and support initiatives. In keeping with the family ethics of the company, Kevin Stroud, Principal of the newly-opened Caloundra office and a former franchisee with a different company, joined Stockdale & Leggo as a result of a referral from the Landsborough office. He is thrilled with the level of one-to-one support received and is eager to assist the company’s ongoing expansion into Queensland. As for the corporate team, they’re ecstatic, with Franchise Managers almost having to draw straws to decide who would look after the new franchisees. Now, that’s the spirit!

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