For CEOs, branding is power. It conveys influence, credibility, respect, name recognition and respect. Those strengths resonate without regard to personality or the status of any one executive. Think, for example, of IBM or Apple (even two years after the passing of Steve Jobs), or the Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts: These blue-chip companies have a noted reputation for excellence; they are brands with a clear identity, a storied history, loyal consumers and an emphasis, in their own respective way, on service. That same principle – the value of branding, which makes entry into new markets easier and more successful – is just as true for the real estate profession.
There is, however, an additional truth about branding: That a negative reputation can precede the hard work and investment of an executive, who must, instead, spend his or her time repairing a tarnished image and regaining the acceptance of the public. Put a different way, it takes a long time – and a lot of effort – to build a national brand; but it can take mere minutes to destroy decades of integrity, leadership, sales and marketing, and institutional prestige. All of those factors characterize elements of the Great Recession, the real estate collapse and the era of Too Big to Fail banks.
Thankfully, I have the perspective – and collective support from a national brand – to approach this situation with optimism, as opposed to resignation and regret. For, as a franchisee for HomeVestors and as the owner of Clear Key Property Solutions, I have the advantage of leveraging an admired brand (HomeVestors), so I can increase my presence, regionally, and help sellers of distressed properties in the Greater Dallas Area.
My advice, therefore, to other executives – and this rule applies to every industry, including franchisees and owners of individual businesses – is simple: Only join or oversee a brand with the reach and acceptance (from potential clients and the media), which will allow you to flourish. The alternative is an exercise in damage control, something investors like myself can ill afford in sensitive situations, where prices and opportunities may change rapidly. I, instead, need – and have the chance to benefit from – a brand, which introduces itself before I offer someone my business card or analyze the details of a proposed transaction.
HomeVestors offers me that name recognition, which also accrues to the advantage of Clear Key Property Solutions, giving owners of distressed homes the peace of mind they deserve. Please note: The distressed real estate market is a category onto itself, which may contain (from this investor’s point of view) signs of forthcoming price stabilization for the housing market as a whole, or warnings of renewed speculation and inflated pricing. That business intelligence is separate from the role HomeVestors and individual franchisees choose to play in one city versus another.
But the information I have – including access to a diverse inventory of properties, coupled with the willingness of homeowners to talk to me is the result, in part, of the credibility a brand name confers. Simply stated, people know – and trust – HomeVestors, as a company, which makes my work easier or more expeditious.
Kevin Guz, owner of Clear Key Property Solutions, a HomeVestors franchisee in Dallas, Texas.