With 21 years of experience with the CENTURY 21 brand, new CEO Miedler knows the brand's unique selling proposition well. Find out what growth initiatives he's most excited about, his advice to real estate professionals who are concerned about a slowing market and how he plans to continue the leadership's progress in growing the franchise.
Listen or read the full podcast interview below.
This is Tracey Velt, editor and publisher for REAL Trends. Today, we're interviewing REAL Trends' game changer, Mike Miedler. He is the CEO of Century 21 Real Estate, and Mike is no stranger to Century 21 and was most recently promoted from chief growth officer to CEO. In this podcast, he'll give us a glimpse of the company goals, his path to leadership and his take on current trends.
Congratulations and welcome, Mike.
Awesome, Tracey. Thanks so much for having me today.
You've obviously been in real estate for a long time, so just give me a brief history of your time with Century 21.
Yeah, absolutely. Literally, next month will be my 21st year at Century 21, and I tell a lot of folks that I got started at the ground level right out of college and have had the opportunity to learn a ton about the industry, about franchising, about the great real estate around this country through just meeting and talking and being inquisitive with conversations with a lot of brokers and agents across the country, and so not only from a business perspective, but I've learned a ton from a personal perspective.
I've met professionals from all walks of life, and I think it's part of ... My favorite part of the business is really being out there in the field and talking to these folks and getting to know their story. I mean, there's just so many great entrepreneurs not just in our Century 21 system around the globe, but just in the industry as a whole, and so, today, in this new role, I got here by basically listening to customers, by talking to brokers, by being out there with the agents and understanding what it takes to be successful, and they do the same, and I think that's part of the power of this iconic brand, but I've literally been in every nook and cranny across the country talking with real estate professionals.
Most recently, I was involved as the chief growth officer for the organization, which allowed me to focus on some creative growth strategies for the company, but, generally, my track record is in business development, so I worked with a great team of people where we were responsible for growing into dark and underserved markets and helping our existing affiliates grow through recruiting strategies or merger and acquisition, which I know REAL Trends has a real finger on the pulse of, and it's been a fun, learning process and something that I really truly love, which is my interaction with the people in this industry, so it's been a fun ride. That's great.
I love that it's your 21st year and now you're CEO of Century 21, so that works. Talk to me a little bit about the biggest opportunities for the industry and for your company in the coming months. Where do you see the bright spots?
Yeah, that's a great question, and I think there's a lot of [bright spots]. I've always said that this industry is such a great industry because the sky is the limit. It's just a matter of how far you want to push yourself from an agent perspective or a company perspective. I think there's a lot of bright spots for housing in general and real estate. A lot of the key factors that we're seeing that impact housing such as unemployment, and the consumer confidence index are strong. The affordability index continues to be good. You got folks like Freddie and Fannie and the Mortgage Bankers Association and National Association of Realtors all expecting more units in 2019 than they did in '18. I think the demographics are really in our favor as an industry, and so I'm excited by the opportunities for growth for the Century 21 brand and the industry as a whole. I think it's going to be a good year for listings quite candidly.
I think we were at an all-time low over the last few months and maybe even year, but I think 2019 could be a very big listing year for people, and so I think you got to start focusing your efforts in that regard. I don't want to make any predictions, but I think if you go out and focus on activities and you bring a relentless mindset to your strategy for gaining business, you're going to have a good year.
One of our missions here is focusing on the consumer, and I think if you really focus on the consumer and their expectations and that whole experience, you can have a great year because you're going to continue to be top of mind and you're going to continue to win repeat and referral business, so I think there's a lot of opportunity coming up, and I'm excited to be part of it.
I realize you just came on as CEO, but you've been working on growth initiatives for Century 21 for a little over a year and maybe even longer than that, so tell me what some of those initiatives are and how your focus will shift as CEO?
Yeah, good question, so, from a CGO perspective, I was ... as I told you earlier, mostly business development where we were looking into dark and underserved markets. As I got announced as the chief growth officer, we started expanding that into other business development opportunities for the brand, but, as I said, my main focus has been working literally with our affiliates and other companies and agents that want to or have the same mission that we have, which is bringing companies in that are looking to defy mediocrity and really serve the consumer.
We've also really focused on helping our existing affiliates grow, so, I say this all the time, one of the things that is a fantastic thing about this network is that we're always looking for our franchisee offices and agents to be more successful, and about 50% of the business that my team did was really focusing on mergers and acquisitions, recruiting, setting up offices in new key markets. In fact, over the last few years, we brought in about a 158 new companies into the system, and this is domestically, and probably helped affiliates execute on nearly a 120 M&As across the country, which equated to about almost 400 new office locations to Century 21.
Plus, we did one of the largest deals, actually, was the largest deal on franchise history in the last three years, and what's really interesting is that 65% of the companies that we brought in, those unaffiliated companies that I'm referencing, grew faster than the national average, so it's something we're really proud of, and then, obviously, we're a global company as well. On the global front, we're up to 9,400 offices and 127,000 agents, which are both double-digit increases from 2017, so, I mean, we're excited about some of the growth that we've seen as an organization and, candidly, as a CEO, when I switched gears, it's really going to be a growth focus, but maybe just in some different categories, but that's where we will continue as an organization, to continue focusing what we're doing here as a brand.
Okay. Makes sense. Are there any big changes coming for Century 21, or is this time where the focus will be on the many incremental improvements that you want to make?
Yeah, I think that's a great question. I mean, look, if it helps us grow our agent base and it helps those professionals close more deals and put more money in their 1099, then we're going to be working on it over the course of the year and into the future. Right now, we've laid the groundwork on a project that's started back about two years ago, and it culminated with executing an award-winning re-brand as you might know last year, and, literally, we have the entire team from a corporate perspective, as well as the network rallied around this growth mindset and taking hold of our rallying drive, which is, again, to defy mediocrity in the real estate space and deliver an exceptional experience to the consumer.
We did a lot of heavy lifting I think last year, but, at the end of the day, we're going to continue to focus on the basics and, with our size and scale from a Century 21 perspective and our brand recognition in the consumer's eyes, I think it's a matter of at this point sticking to the process, sticking to our systems and continuing to execute out there at the field level with all of our agents.
We're a 48-year-old company built by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, professionals that want to build their business and grow their business and help consumers buy and sell, and that's where our focus will be, really on the basics of the business.
As you know, real estate is all about building relationships, so talk to me a little bit about some interesting or inspiring connections you've made along the way.
Yeah. This is a good one because there's been so many. I mean, when I walk into the Madison Building here in New Jersey, I'm surrounded by so many smart and influential real estate leaders and professionals, but beyond that, folks like Alex Perillo, who was a mentor of mine, or Mike Ferry, I mean this industry has been terrific to me from that regard. In fact, I've even worked with Steve [Murray] on projects where I got a lot of tutelage from him on some really complex deal structuring. I mean, my experiences and the people I've run into in this industry are one of the things I hold near and dear to my heart, but I think, to get that perspective, you literally got to be out there and, again, speaking with agents and brokers out in the front line.
Real estate success in my mind is all about building and keeping those collaborative relationships. I say it so often. The best thing about the Century 21 network is literally the network of people because they're out there. They're sharing best practices. They're always pushing one another forward. That's where the answers are. These folks are the ones on the frontline who know how to do business and how to serve the client, and I think, in order for you to really learn in this business, you got to be speaking with people and listening, listening to what people are saying
I think all great people in this business, if you're an agent, you're listening to what your consumer wants and you're providing on that and, if you're a broker-owner or a CEO at a global brand like Century 21, you're listening to what your brokers and agents need in order to help them improve their business, so I think it's all about listening and, like you said, keeping those relationships in place because this is a small industry. As big as it is across the country, it's small in a lot of regards.
Yes, it's definitely all about the people, so let's talk about trends. What type of trends do you see having the greatest impact on the real estate industry going forward, and this is not specific to Century 21, but just the industry in general?
I think there's a lot of different trends, but I also think a lot of different distractions in the space, but I think the great opportunity is really to, like I said, continue to stick and focus on doing the basics really well. In my mind, real estate success and sales success, no matter how you say it, it's built around the fundamentals. For me, it's your behavior, sticking to your plan, blocking time, prospecting, working on your sphere of influence. It's your attitude. I mean, no matter what you do, you got to be mentally strong and have a great outlook.
This business is a tough business. We get no a lot, and you got to continue to work through that. As the saying goes, every no is another step closer to yes, and I think your technique, and this is where I think you see a lot of trends happening. Whether they be through technology or lead generation or other things that are happening around the real estate industry, I think, at the end of the day, you got to continue to sharpen your skills and your talk track and your ability to serve the customer, plus, of course, building relationships.
I know there's a lot of things that are happening, a lot of noise in the space. I like to say to our sales professionals and the folks who are out there trying to build business that you got to focus on the core elements, the things you can control. You can use technology to be more efficient, to be more effective, to serve your consumer better, but, at the end of the day, I think you got to hunker down and really do the basics of this business to succeed.
We're going to switch gears a little bit and talk about something a little more personal, so what was your aha moment, the moment you realized you had to make a change in business or take things to the next level or reboot?
When I came in and started focusing on growth at Century 21 about seven years ago in the roles that I had most recently, I think it's all about having the right team on the field. The aha moment for me is really making sure that you have people who have bought in to your mission, bought in to your vision and fit the culture.
I think, when I'm around the country, so many real estate brokerages, owner, whether they be Century 21 or unaffiliated, everybody has a specific culture and something that really makes them different, and I think that's what you have to have. You have to have the right people on the right bus who are following the leader and following the vision for what they're trying to accomplish in the local marketplace. To me, the aha moment, something that I think I learned early on, is to make sure you have the right people on the bus in the right seats in order to focus the entire team on that end goal. For me, that's the aha.
Okay. Do you have a specific experience that you had to let someone go or you found ... and I don't need names or anything, but any type of more specific experience would be great.
The way we've developed our team recently is that strategically we're looking at trying to accomplish something that took a real keen focus and putting a player in place who had those expertise and that experience and ability to be in those markets became extremely important and an advantage for us, and they were able to really execute on some growth goals that we had that we, otherwise, wouldn't have been able to do if we had, like I said, the same type or the same set of players to fill out the team, and so I think it's really just a matter of trying to boil down what you're trying to accomplish as an organization and, again, putting the people with the right skill set who believe in that mission into places to go out and execute.
If you could offer one piece of advice to brokers to help them be more profitable other than cutting expenses, what would it be?
Yeah. I think you can never cut profitability, and so my saying would be to focus on productivity. Whether it's coaching, training, lead generation, better technology, like I said, to make your agents more efficient, having more productive agents in your office will allow you to attract other productive agents, and so if you're, again, on the frontline with them, leading them, helping them improve their lives by putting more money in their 1099s, you're going to grow your company dollar.
In this business, like I said, it's all about elevating your game, staying on top and really just continuing to push forward and being relentless in your business plan, and I think, to me, it's all about productivity. There's so many different ways to productivity, but I think that's what it's got to center around is your ability to win and get more business.
Mike, thank you so much for joining REAL Trends. It sounds like we have a lot of interesting opportunities ahead, so if you could just accomplish one thing your first year as CEO, what would it be?
It would be to continue to keep up the growth pace that we had, like I said earlier, double-digit growth from a global perspective in our agent count as well as our offices, but, at the end of the day, we want to be the real estate brand of choice for consumers and the industry, and the way we're going to achieve that is, quite candidly, through defying mediocrity, delivering the experience to the consumer, and the results will follow, so it's all about growth. If we can continue to grow, I'll be a happy camper, Tracey.
Yeah. That sounds great. Thanks so much for joining us on the podcast, and we wish you much luck ahead.
Hey, I really appreciate the time today. Thanks for having me.
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