“OBrien Real Estate wants to be a place where people can facilitate their growth,” says Stavros Ambatzidis, one of three Corporate Directors. “We began franchising in 2013, and since then we’ve gone from three offices to 32 across the group and 400 staff and we are Victoria’s fastest-growing real estate franchise.”
That astonishing growth is the result of some obvious things – a lot of hard work and an obsession with customer service – and some underlying factors that are perhaps not so obvious.
When Stavros talks about facilitating growth, he’s looking way beyond himself or his own team. “We are talking about our landlords, our tenants, our buyers, our sellers and our own team,” he explains. “Our mantra is to facilitate growth across all those five elements and we really live by those values.”
“When you can see the future, the price you pay is irrelevant.”
His OBrien Real Estate team is comprised of many long-term employees, some dating to 2008 when Stavros first opened the doors, before they went down the franchising road. “The industry has a high churn, but not many people leave our business,” he says, reeling off a list of OBrien staff anniversaries they’re about to celebrate in the monthly meeting. “It means you’re not having to do training and inductions all the time.”
Even though they know the business inside out, he makes sure he and his team stay curious. “If you’re not adapting and learning new things, you’ll expire. You’ve always got to be changing, if you’re not, you’ll be left behind.”
He agrees that his focus on continuous personal growth has been a key “attraction agent” for OBrien’s exceptional staff retention, as well as loyalty from customers. It’s no surprise, then, that he has high expectations of his service providers.
More than five years ago, Stavros’s relationship with his long-standing telecommunications provider “ended quite badly due to a lack of customer service,” he says. “We were being let down, we were being made promises that never eventuated. I’d call or email my rep and I wouldn’t hear back, or not for days. Also we do quite a lot of work in rural areas and we were finding that we weren’t getting mobile coverage where we needed it.”
As he looked at options for his next service provider, he was in a sceptical frame of mind. Then a mutual connection introduced him to the man who was to transform him into a very happy telco customer. “Mark from Vodafone came in to meet me and from day one he was one of these guys who promises a little but delivers a lot,” says Stavros.
Stavros says Mark takes Vodafone’s personalised account management offering literally. “There have been many times he’s done things for me out of hours, or I’ve driven past his home to pick something up. There’s never been a time that we haven’t been able to get hold of him.”
The real-estate agent sees such dedicated service as critical to success. “The reason we’re in business is to solve issues. If we weren’t solving issues, we wouldn’t have a business and Mark solves everything! I’d love to get him into real estate – his customer service, his patience and his tolerance would be perfect!”
Stavros, who personally owns four of the real-estate offices in the franchise, has all of his team’s mobiles – about 20 in all – on a Vodafone Business Flex plan, as well as his NBN connection. The other thing he loves is the Vodafone Business Flex plans is Tech Fund, which accumulates credit that can be used to acquire more devices – the more connections, the more credit.
The Business Tech Fund will come in handy as Stavros progresses their plans to be paperless within 12 months. “The Tech Fund will enable me to get tablets for every single person in the business, for signing contracts, authorities and so on. Most of our staff already use mobile devises when we’re signing people in at open houses.”
Communication even further afield is important to Stavros. “I’m Greek, and I go to Greece once a year, and Vodafone offers the best international roaming options, the $5 Roaming for data and phone – if you don’t use it, you don’t get charged. When you use it, you only get charged $5 a day.”
Stavros is definitely in the use-it category, hotspotting his computer early in the morning local time, which is late afternoon back in Melbourne. “Around 8am, I turn on my computer and most of the emails for the day are there by then,” he says. “I can hotspot from my phone in Greece and run my business. And whatever data package I’m on at home, it’s the same when I’m away. I don’t even think about it.”
“Success leaves clues,” he notes. In OBrien Real Estate’s case, the clues are in plain sight.
Learn more about 'The Future of Work'
Watch the new Vodafone Business Red Wire series, hosted by Taryn Williams. In this first episode, Taryn interviews Lisa Messenger (founder and CEO of Collective Hub) and Soren Trampedach (founder of co-working space Work Club) about 'The Future of Work’.
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