Franchise Players is Entrepreneur's Q&A interview column that puts the spotlight on franchisees. If you're a franchisee with advice and tips to share, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Although the housing collapse of 2008 was a difficult time for many, it was a great time to be in the foreclosure business. Thankfully, though, those days didn’t last forever. “I realized that the flood of foreclosures would one day dissipate and that I needed other sources of revenue if I was going to grow,“ says ERA Real Estate franchisee Greg Kurzner. Kurzner describes himself as “fiercely independent,” but he also recognized the advantages of franchising. Read the interview below to see how the father of three has embraced the franchising model.
Name: Greg Kurzner
Franchise owned: ERA Atlantic Realty, Alpharetta, GA
How long have you owned a franchise?
I joined ERA Real Estate’s Franchise Network in 2012
For many years I operated my business as an agent for another brokerage and made the decision in 2009 to go on my own. At the time, I didn’t see the benefits of going the franchise route. After about two years and struggling to recruit and retain agents, I started to consider that franchising was the only way we were going to grow. Many agents we attempted to recruit wanted a “brand” name, but even more wanted tools and training which we didn’t have the ability to deliver. We certainly tried to build our own toolbox and training system, but we soon realized we didn’t have the time, expertise or money to compete and if we were going to be able to offer these tools and training, we were going to need help.
What were you doing before you became a franchise owner?
I have been a producing residential real estate agent beginning in 1994 with ERA, ironically. Before that, I worked in real estate but on the commercial side, and prior to that, I was a management consultant after graduating from graduate business school.
Why did you choose this particular franchise?
I was and still am fiercely independent and didn’t want to be dictated on how to run my business. Most franchises seemed to have a heavy hand with franchisees and the “our way or the highway” approach, but ERA didn’t. They said we have the tools and systems and educational offerings you can use - just place us over your existing business like a super-structure.
How much would you estimate you spent before you were officially open for business?
Initially when we franchised, we didn’t have too many costs since we had an existing, independent brokerage, agents and location. We spent money on the franchise fee, signs and other marketing for our agents but it wasn’t much, perhaps $30,000 ($25k for the franchise fee and about $5k for the agent-transition and signage costs).
Where did you get most of your advice/do most of your research?
We talked to other brokers mostly, several in our market and some in other markets, some with the ERA brand, some not.
What were the most unexpected challenges of opening your franchise?
For me, it was learning all of the systems, tools and offerings and effectively being able to communicate those to our agents.
What advice do you have for individuals who want to own their own franchise?
The most important thing I can stress when considering opening a franchise is to make absolutely sure you will want to be in the business and industry and with this franchisor for at least 10 years. If you are not committed to a long term love of the industry you are entering and not certain you have chosen the right partner, don’t do it. If you can honestly believe you will be thriving and passionate 10 years out, then weigh the franchise against competitors -- their strength, ability to innovate and continually create competitive advantages that help you grow and make more money.
What’s next for you and your business?
We are passionate about growing our business in investor and property management niches. We have found a synergy in helping investors acquire, lease, manage and eventually dispose of real estate and are focusing on those business lines as our primary drivers in the coming years. We are looking to expand our business with international investors as well as local and national ones.