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Secrets of Success

Harcourts is often recognised as an industry leader in property management. Harcourts International Head of Specialist Divisions, Julianna Forsyth heads up Property Management internationally and Leased Magazine spoke to her about the philosophy and the systems that underpin Harcourts’ success.

Each office and Property Manager have their own annual business plan which is reviewed quarterly with their Operations Manager to ensure office and personal goals are achieved.

As a company, Harcourts have always prided themselves on their unique services, dynamic culture and key points of difference. All aspects of the Harcourts business are known for their cutting-edge operations and innovative use of training, technology, and marketing solutions. Harcourts Property Management division is no exception, offering a unique structure and original support solutions.

Harcourts philosophy of recruiting the best people and training them to be better is very evident in the Property Management Division. Harcourts International Head of Specialist Divisions, Julianna Forsyth heads up Property Management internationally. Each state in Australia employs a fulltime, dedicated Property Management Operations Manager whose sole role is to support the Property Management divisions and the Property Managers themselves. Ms Forsyth works with the Operations Managers to build on the great work already done in developing and delivering a ‘Harcourts way’ for Property Management. Together they ensure that each office is assisted with growth, training, problem solving and being kept up to date with the latest in the world of Property Management. With a long-standing history, one-of-a-kind corporate culture and structure, and numerous support facilities, Harcourts’ Property Management division is unlike any other.

Brand overview
Harcourts began as “Harcourt & Co” in Wellington, New Zealand in 1888. After merging with another New Zealand real estate group in 1985 and altering its name to Harcourts Real Estate, franchising began in 1989. Harcourts now operates a full service real estate franchise model which covers residential, commercial, rural, urban projects and property management. Currently Harcourts has offices in Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, China, Singapore, Indonesia, Fiji, Zambia and America, with dedicated property management teams operating out of each region.

Harcourts operates an international support and development team comprising of finance, marketing, technology, training, franchise development and value added services. Each market where the brand operates has an on-the-ground support team to deliver these products, services, and assistance to Harcourts franchisees and property managers. Now with over 640 offices across nine countries Harcourts attributes the following factors as instrumental to its continued success: internal culture, training, technology and marketing.

The Harcourts brand has been carefully developed over its 122 year history. Over this time, Harcourts have developed a unique people-orientated culture which is the single most given response when members of the Harcourts team are asked why they joined and why they remain with the organisation.

Harcourts Property Management is very clear about its purpose – “we create success”. The organisation is committed to ensuring that people achieve their goals, whatever they may be. Harcourts’ Property Management business philosophy is based on this purpose and four specific values that are communicated throughout the organisation – people first, doing the right thing, being courageous, and fun and laughter.

Having the very best people is fundamental to Harcourts success, however, providing them with the opportunity to be the very best Property Managers they can be is equally imperative. The organisation has recognised that growth is a basic human need, both personally and professionally. Satisfying this not only delivers the group’s purpose to create success for every individual within the organisation but it also provides a compelling reason for people to stay with the organisation.

In order to facilitate this level of growth, the Harcourts Academy was established in 2000 to provide a vehicle for delivering a range of training programmes, from sales training for new entrants to high-level business planning for multi-office business owners. The Academy, which is an official Registered Training Organisation, has a team of 15 people focused solely on developing and delivering training and skill-building sessions.

The Academy runs a specialised Property Management course which the organisation is particularly proud of. Run by qualified Academy Trainers, the Property Management program provides training for new property managers and those studying to achieve their real estate certificate. Our Property Management Operations Managers also run advanced Property Management courses within their district which covers areas such as recruitment, prospecting, compliance, risk and financial management, and budgeting amongst other topics, said Ms Forsyth.

The Operations Managers provide an online state or country specific policy and procedures manual which includes checklists, letters and forms. In house training or personal one-on-one coaching is tailored specifically to each individual office and continuous improvement of our systems and processes are kept in line with the industry best practise. Each office and Property Manager have their own annual business plan which is reviewed quarterly with their Operations Manager to ensure office and personal goals are achieved.

Through regional, national and international award events and an internal awards structure we make sure that our Property Managers performing at the highest levels have the opportunity to shine. These occasions are key to the continued success of Harcourts Property Management. They ensure that our people not only recognise the skill and dedication required to rise to the top, but also the rewards that this work can bring.

Harcourts are technology innovators. Ms Forsyth notes that Harcourts was the first real estate organisation in New Zealand to upload listings to its own website, the first to have a website, the first to launch an application for PDAs, iPhones and iPads, the first to develop a fully online programme for its offices to manage their business, the first to establish a help desk with staff answering calls from throughout the group 12 hours a day, the first to build Google mapping into every listing, and the first to upload all of their listings to Google Base.

Harcourts are proud to be at the cutting edge of property management technology by offering a mix of mobile and web based products to assist the Property Manager. The Harcourts One online product suite consists of property, contact management, e-mail marketing, print marketing and financial reporting. Currently Rockend’s Rest and Palace property management systems are integrated into the Harcourts One platform with Console being integrated later in the year. Combine this with industry leading personal and office websites and we have a formidable technology platform, said Ms Forsyth.

Harcourts are proactive in brand development and management. Ms Forsyth explained that whether it is online or print, they continually research local and international property management trends to ensure their customers have the best possible marketing options available to them.

The continual development and refinement of the brand is overseen by a centralised marketing, research and design team assisted by regionally based marketing facilitators. This team oversees international and national brand marketing as well as development of marketing that is tailored to each current and new market Harcourts operates. Franchisees have access to evolving office, individual, and property marketing products through an online system which allows product customisation, costing, and ordering whilst retaining brand consistency.

Harcourts offers a selection of marketing booklets which are specific to Property Management – such as Managing Your Property with Harcourts, Landlord and Tenant Handbooks and How to Maintain a Rented Property. We offer monthly online newsletters which are sent to all landlords and tenants and we survey all our clients to ensure that we are continuing to improve our level of service. The tools allow us to market our products and services effectively whilst also actively involving landlords and tenants in our Property Management process, said Ms Forsyth.

Perhaps most poignant of all, Ms Forsyth summed up the Harcourts’ success in property management by saying-We don’t see property management as a division tacked on to the side a real estate company”-.

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Julianna Forsyth

Julianna Forsyth is Head of Client Services at Marsh Commerical UK and holds a proven record of designing, developing and rolling out quantifiable, visionary CX programmes.