Hodges Caulfield is a true family-run business with siblings Oren and Golan Flamm and their sister Eilat Rachmani carefully guiding the agency their father Alex built. But, as Oren explains, the family orientated culture runs much deeper than that, with clients and staff also considered part of the clan.
Hodges Caulfield operates under a simple philosophy. “Our family, looking after your family.”
It’s a message that not just features on the agency’s new billboards around Caulfield in Melbourne’s south east, it’s the motto the Flamm siblings live and run their agency by.
For directors Oren and Golan Flamm, and their sister Eilat Rachmani, it’s an ethos that underpins everything they do, from securing listings and selling properties to forging relationships with vendors and tenants, and fostering a family-like culture with their staff.
“We are a real family-run business,” Oren says.
“Our clients like that we are a family-run business and that we treat them like they are family.
“We really pay attention and give personalised service.”
IN THE BEGINNING
Oren, Golan and Eilat’s father, family patriarch Alex Flamm, started the family-run real estate business as a small LJ Hooker office in Elsternwick in 2005 after working for another agency and generating some solid results.
Oren, who studied accounting at university before realising it wasn’t his destiny, worked in commercial real estate for six months before joining his father to open the family agency.
“It was just four of us,” he recalls.
“Dad, myself, a receptionist and a property manager. That was it.”
In 2008, Golan, who had been working as a car salesman with Mazda, joined the fold, and in 2017 Eilat, a lawyer, came onboard.
In the beginning, Oren says building the business was “slow going” as they gradually built up a client base comprising residential sales and property management.
They were competing against larger franchises with 30-year histories and a strong foothold in the marketplace.
FINDING AND CREATING OPPORTUNITIES
Before they could think about winning business, Oren says they had to let people know who they were, what they stood for and that they were in the market.
“Forget about winning the business,” he says.
“Before winning the business, you needed to have an opportunity to pitch for the business.
“We needed to go out there in the market and be seen.
“If people don’t know who you are, they’re not going to call you.”
To get out there and “be seen” meant turning up to the competition’s auctions and letting all of their contacts in the community know they were on the hunt for sales listings and doors to manage.
“In the beginning, when we didn’t have many listings, instead of not working on the Saturday or Sunday, you’d put your suit on and go to other people’s properties or auctions so people, potential clients, could see who you were,” Oren recalls.
“Winning business in the beginning was hard, but the whole principle was that the more opportunities we found, the more opportunities we had to win.
“So it was about getting in as many doors as possible, speaking to as many people as possible and networking.”
Gradually the business started growing, and about four years after opening on the ground floor of their small two-storey office, they had enough business and staff to lease the second level.
Oren says there weren’t many family-run agencies in the area back then, and the smaller, boutique-style operation appealed to a lot of clients who were looking for a more personalised approach.
“The alternative was that you were more of a statistic rather than a client,” he says.
“With us, it was very personable. We said, ‘This is who we are, and we operate to get the best that we can for our clients’.
“We knew that to be successful we had to build momentum, build trust and build testimonials.
“To do that we had to show people that we are good people and not just there to make a buck.”
Oren says many selling agents have come and gone in the business over the years and whether they had little experience or a lot, his Dad, Alex, always had time to share his wisdom and guide them.
“My Dad always had time to sit with people and to nurture them,” he says.
“One of the main lessons from Dad was that you need to put buyers in your car and take them to properties, which meant that you couldn’t rely on or expect people to do A, B, C and D. You have to lead them every step of the way.”
A NEW DIRECTION
In 2016, when their agreement with LJ Hooker came to an end, the business moved to the Hodges brand, with Oren noting that they were attracted to the brand’s position in the market and its focus on building strong community relationships.
Today, Alex, Oren, Golan and Eilat are all directors of the business.
Eilat is the head of the property management department, which looks after more than 1100 properties, while Golan is in charge of sales.
“My job is to run the business as a whole and also list properties,” Oren says.
“I’m also the main auctioneer.”
While the siblings have acquired ownership of the business, Oren is quick to point out that Alex is still very active in the day-to-day running of the agency.
“Dad is still a director and is around every day to offer advice, help, guidance, assistance and anything that we might need to progress,” he says.
“It’s amazing. A lot of people inherit a business when their parents pass, but he’s still here busting our balls every day.
“He supports the decisions that we make and tells us if he thinks we’re making the wrong decision.”
COMPLEMENT DON’T COMPETE
Oren says one of the best things about working in a family business is that there’s no internal competition between selling agents, and each sibling complements the other, with each having their own unique strengths.
He says they all get along 99 per cent of the time and, on the odd occasion they disagree, they still work towards the common goal.
“Just like any partnership, we all have our strengths and we all have our weaknesses,” Oren says.
“But at the end of the day, this is our business, and we know that the more we do, the more we put in, the more we grow.”
Oren says one of the key areas of focus in the business is growing and maintaining a great culture where every employee feels valued and happy.
The team now comprises about 20 employees, and Oren says some have been with the agency for more than a decade.
“We have a core group of people that have been with us for years, and that means a lot because it’s a family within a family,” he says.
“So although I’m in the business with my brother and sister, it goes well above that.
“It’s not just about making a dollar; it’s about culture, and people and family and making sure that everyone is ok.”
Moving forward, Oren says the goal is to expand to multiple offices and continue to build their rent roll.
He says it’s a responsibility but also a great privilege to manage a team and the desire to grow the agency is more about collective success than it is personal gain.
“Besides my brother, my sister and myself, there are 20 people that get a paycheck every fortnight,” Oren explains.
“It means that if our business is not successful or generating income, then they won’t get paid.
“When you employ 20 people, it means 20 people’s livelihoods are in your hands.
“It’s a really big responsibility, and it’s a great responsibility. Along with this responsibility comes a lot of gratitude and a lot of good fortune and friendship.
“We have a great network of clients and loyalty from them and our employees, and hopefully it continues for years into the future.”