Family is a word that figures large amongst R&W Principals as they prepare for their annual awards night which this year will double as a celebration of the group’s 160th birthday.
From the fast-growing Brisbane hot-spot of Caboolture in outer Brisbane to Sydney’s fashionable inner-city Elizabeth Bay, the sense of family is what sets R&W apart from a host of other real estate agencies, both large and small.
But it’s also loyalty, integrity, support and above all, pride, that members of this dispersed real estate family nominate as the glue that holds them tight.
This Saturday around 400 members of that big happy family will gather at Sydney’s International Convention Centre to celebrate 160 years, packing enough heat into the room to do serious damage to the 160 themed ice sculpture.
And while there’ll be a moment to reflect on their founders, Robert Richardson and Edward Wrench, it’s the more recent journey that is uppermost in the minds of most. Since 2016, when the franchise was acquired by Andrew Cocks, the process of rebranding and repositioning the network for growth, that he began in 2010 as its Executive Director, has gathered pace.
The level of service to its franchisees, steered by a hand-picked Head Office team, has become the hallmark of R&W and the envy of many. Its most recent rebranding, led by Head of Brand and Network Strategy Amanda Ward not only signalled a new future-focused era for the network but the overwhelming sentiment of its members. Proudly.
This year’s award winners, to be revealed on Saturday, reflect a diverse and growing network with the spoils shared by both new and long-standing offices and principals.
Ahead of the big night principals shared some of their thoughts about what it is about the culture that keeps them proudly R&W.
R&W Elizabeth Bay/Potts Point Principal Greg McKinley nominates loyalty and friendship as the key to success.
“I’ve always been shown loyalty and that’s what I’ve given back,” says McKinley. “You have to earn the right to receive it and with Andrew at the helm I feel there is a real loyalty to the brand.”
McKinley started as a leasing clerk with R&W at Bondi Junction, progressing to property manager at the newly opened Potts Point office that he later bought in 1988. He gathered around him his friends, Andrew Hoggett and Jason Boon, as fellow directors and set about building an agency that was much more than a business. It became family, with extended members reaching right across the eastern suburbs to Bondi Junction and Double Bay.
“I still feel my office has a similar vibe to when it started. We’ve always had a very strong culture of fun, learning and really going for it. Culturally each office is its own beast. But the key to our success is loyalty.”
Robyn Lachmund, matriarch of what is fast becoming a real estate dynasty in the Queensland town and suburb of Caboolture, opened a Richardson & Wrench office with husband Peter 18 years ago. She’s witnessed a growing sense of inclusion over recent years.
“I think that is why we are now seeing such a big difference,” says Lachmund. “We no longer feel excluded; we are consulted and considered to be equals. If I was to describe R&W I would say we are one big family.”
Mark Smith has had nearly two years to dwell on his decision to rebrand First National North Sydney under the Richardson & Wrench banner when he and co-director Tim O’Halloran acquired its North Sydney office.
Smith is no newcomer to real estate with four decades as a valuer, in property development, as a franchise owner with LJ Hooker and under the First National co-operative brand.
He takes a pragmatic view of why the Richardson & Wrench fixed fee model works so well for business operators like himself.
“R&W has a more relaxed franchise arrangement because it is fixed fee. We still feel as though we own our own business and that we are equally important to the partnership as head office. They don’t dictate to us; we feel as though we are consulted and that our opinion does count.
“One of the advantages of being in a franchise is that ultimately decisions are made. We found that as an independent office within a co-operative often decisions were not made because everybody wanted to have their say and wanted it done their way.
“With R&W they consult, they do listen and ultimately a decision is made, even if it doesn’t please everybody.”
The sharp shift towards consultation began with Andrew Cocks’ arrival in 2010, charged with growing and modernising the network. His first step was to reach out to the many people who had stuck with the brand through thick and thin. He invited them to be a part of building the company manifesto, signalling a management style that was about bringing people with him through respect, trust and loyalty.
That manifesto stands tall and proud in Mark Lawler’s R&W Coolum agency, symbolising why he and his wife Maree chose to join the network five years ago.
“From a financial point of view the flat fee was appealing but that wasn’t the reason we joined,” says Lawler. “It feels like we are part of something more than just a brand name; it’s more like family, that we are amongst friends.”
Lawler was invited to be involved in the most recent rebranding to coincide with the company’s 160th birthday, one of a number of principals who worked alongside Amanda Ward in the process.
“It is lovely to have been part of it and though it was a huge decision to make a change we are raving fans.”
Extremely proud raving fans, within an extended family that’s happy to celebrate 160 years and looking ahead to the future knowing that they have each other’s back.