When I was looking into the possibility of starting my own boutique real estate brokerage, I had to decide if I should go it alone as an independent or invest in a franchise. The process for opening Hunter’s Fairway Sotheby’s International Realty was an adventure filled with excitement, determination and a little trepidation.
Step One: Get Moving; Take Action
Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote: “Once you make a decision, the universe conspires to make it happen.” I find that to be true for many exciting things in my life. I am a visionary and I process thoughts and ideas rather quickly, so when I want to do something I am usually an action-oriented person. I decided to “go for it!”
Step Two: Match Your Passion to Your Market
I drew from my passion of wanting to help people solve their “living” problems. I have an uncanny knack for helping individuals find the right home for their lifestyle and social network. Therefore, I started to research the various high-end real estate franchises.
Step Three: Challenge Yourself to Dream Big
I loved working with two concierge level boutique offices during my 25 years of experience finding the right homes for corporate executives as well as for numerous Chicagoland sports celebrities. This niche works for me and is very comfortable. What I wanted to do was translate that into a boutique office that offered an international reach.
Step Four: Look for Synergy with Your Dream
I was introduced to Sotheby’s International Realty and my search was over. Sotheby’s International Realty not only allowed me the dream of having an international reach with a boutique feel, but also brought clarity to how I would like to present my company.
Step Five: Look for an Extension of Yourself
Sotheby’s International Realty branding is described as “inviting, discreet, savvy and refined.” I thought this was a perfect extension of how I represent myself in the market.
Step Six: Evaluate the Franchisor (Due Diligence)
Ask the tough questions and the simple ones, too. (Sotheby’s answers in parentheses)
How long have they been around? (1976)
How long have they been franchising? (2004)
How many franchises? (Over 500 worldwide)
Can they be called as references? (Yes)
How many franchisees have purchased multiple units? (44%)
Does the franchisor offer ongoing training? (Yes)
Do they offer financing? (Yes)
How strong is the brand? (Excellent for 260 years)
Step Seven: Create Your Business Plan (Cash Flow is Key)
Requirements for franchise investment
Growth requirements to maintain franchise
Projected return on investment (ROI)
Fees: franchise, royalties, required associations, minimum marketing spend, etc.
Determine your monthly cash flow needed to break even; what is profitable activity versus investment activity?
Step Eight: Set up Your Business and Prepare Paperwork
Incorporate: C, S or LLC (I’m an LLC taxed as an S-Corp)
Make duplicates of everything (organize early)
Send with tracking numbers (make sure it gets there)
Line up your banking relationships (checking and line of credit)
Have the pros look over your opportunity and offer advice: attorney, accountant, Chamber of Commerce and/or SBA assist
The franchisor has teams of people ready to help you succeed, use them.
Step Nine: Go! Go! Go!
Decide to persist. Most businesses fail within three years – don’t!
Set your expectations to work like no one else is willing to for three years so you can live like most people can’t for the rest of your life.
If anyone should have failed it is me; I bought a boutique brokerage and the franchise in 2007 just before housing turned — ouch.
Step 10: Never Relinquish Cash Flow or Marketing Message
Be the boss, not a friend. You can have a great team and camaraderie but don’t manage your business by consensus. I have made mistakes, and will make more, but learn from them and you will go far. Watch your cash flow like a hawk and never dilute the focus of your brand and marketing message.
Constance Y. Antoniou is the broker/owner of Hunter’s Fairway Sotheby’s International Realty in Barrington. She can be reached at 847.756.7244.