The CEO of Harcourts Group Australia, Marcus Williams, catches in excess of 150 flights a year to visit Harcourts’ 409 offices around Australia. “I’m up at 5.30am, I walk the dog, check my emails and invariably get on a plane. I travel so much it’s hard to keep the same daily routine,” he says. It certainly isn’t a job where he’s sitting at his desk 24/7, but for Marcus, this is exactly what he sought in his career.
All this travel is really about keeping in touch with people, which Marcus says has always been the heart of real estate. “Grassroots real estate hasn’t changed much over the years,” he comments. “It remains a people business and it’s all about building and fostering relationships.” The CEO values in-person interactions above anything else to form strong relationships and build trust.
“Communication is the secret to forming strong relationships. I prefer face-to-face discussions instead of relying on technology. Real estate is a contact business and I believe you need to be present.”
While Marcus describes technology as “a wonderful thing”, he adds that the challenge is to ensure the tech doesn’t replace the personal touch. “This is a face-to-face business, real estate. You can’t build trust with an email or SMS.” But technology has certainly added a valuable dimension to the industry.
“There has been a huge amount of change in technology, which has helped people to have access to what’s on the market. More information is available to a buyer and seller, greater transparency and sensational tools that not only make an agent more efficient but enhance the experience for the client.”
Harcourts Group is certainly keeping up with the changing technological demands. So much so, Apple featured Harcourts’ apps and a video about the Group’s custom iOS solutions across its global web network.
“Harcourts is the first international real estate business to receive this recognition from Apple, with the accolade reserved for organisations across the globe that are adapting iOS devices in a cutting-edge way to deliver greater efficiency, productivity and profit for their business,” Marcus beams.
Harcourts isn’t short on accolades. Just last year, it was ranked Best New Office by Real Estate Business and number one Large Network of the Year by RateMyAgent. It also received a Contribution to Community Award from realestate.com.au.
“I’m very proud of the recent recognition Harcourts has received nationally,” says Marcus. “Companies don’t succeed, people do. Our results and growth are a direct reflection of the talent in the Group. We are an extraordinary success story.”
While Harcourts has been in business internationally since 1888, Harcourts Group Australia has just celebrated its 21st birthday. “We really feel that we are in the beginning of our journey,” Marcus says. “There are exciting times ahead.”
We really feel that we are in the beginning of our journey. There are exciting times ahead
Currently sitting in the top three, Harcourts is aiming to become the leading real estate agent in Australia, which Marcus says will be through “ensuring that the Harcourts experience is recognised as the finest experience by our business partners, teams and clients”.
“To have become the third-largest real estate franchise network in Australia is because of the people. I am very proud of our people and what we have accomplished,” he adds. “We work in an industry that isn’t highly renowned for quality service and we, as a group, have shown the courage to take that on board and enhance our vision. In doing so, not only have we won a number of accolades, but we have grown because people have chosen us.”
“Leadership, as I often discuss with our business leaders, comes down to three things: know what you want; make sure your communication is regular and consistent; and ensure your actions reflect the above.”
“A good leader also requires real clarity on the roles that people fulfil. They do not have to be the smartest person in the room, and they need to be willing to admit they’re wrong. Everyone needs to learn from their mistakes.”
“A good leader is able to attract and retain talent. They are a good listener and provide an environment for people to excel. The best leaders know that it’s a collaborative approach.”
“The job of the leader is to find the right mix of strategy and operations and keep the business humming today, but always with an eye on the future.”
This success starts with fostering ‘Team Harcourts’ – the people at the core of the business. Marcus notes that culture is one of Harcourts’ greatest assets, built on its four core values of: people first; fun and laughter; being courageous; and doing the right thing.
“These four values are part of our DNA and help shape our daily decisions,” he reiterates. “Ask anyone who works with the Group and they can rattle off the values because these are present in everything we do.”
Harcourts recognises its top performers at several events throughout the year, but Marcus points out, “Recognising our people is not just a once-a-year fanfare. We endeavour to live it every day.
The most powerful way is to offer verbal acknowledgement one on one and in front of peers,” he says. “The standards set by Harcourts in the marketplace and the individual achievements made by our team throughout Australia are nothing short of exceptional.”
Harcourts New Zealand is where Harcourts Australia was born, and everything, from the culture to the service, translates across. Achieving the status of the most trusted real estate business in New Zealand every year for six years running, from 2013 to 2018, Marcus says, comes down to Harcourts putting the client first. “The client has, and always will be, at the forefront of everything we do.”
For Harcourts, it doesn’t stop at clients and employers, however; the company extends its care for people through the Harcourts Foundation, which has raised more than A$5 million for charity since its inception in 2008.
As of 2017, the Group supported more than 600 charities and 300 communities with 850 grants. Just last year, Harcourts’ franchise offices across Australia granted in excess of A$300,000 to 38 charities.