PropertyGuys.com was founded in 1998 in Moncton, New Brunswick by a group of university students who saw a flaw in traditional, offline real estate and wanted to do something to organize and change it for the better. PropertyGuys.com’s mission is to create clarity around real estate, but buyers and sellers in control of their experience from coast-to-coast, and become a platform that encompasses “everything real estate.”
PropertyGuys.com is Canada’s largest private sale franchise network, with 85 franchisees across the country who have helped nearly 90,000 Canadians discover a smarter way to sell.
Ken LeBlanc is a Canadian entrepreneur, franchising expert and real estate visionary born in Moncton, New Brunswick. In 1998, LeBlanc co-founded PropertyGuys.com. As President and CEO, LeBlanc has overseen the company’s growth from a single Moncton location to an organization with 120 franchises serving over 600 communities from coast-to-coast.
LeBlanc is the youngest person ever named to the Atlantic Business Magazine Hall-of-Fame, and one of the first New Brunswickers. In November 2009, LeBlanc became the first known “honorary dragon” of the Canadian version of the television program Dragons’ Den during an event promoting Global Entrepreneurship Week.
Ken is considered one of the Top 5 people in Canada who are changing Real Estate – http://business.financialpost.com/financialpost-magazine/canada-real-estate-industry-leaders.
Walter Melanson, Lead Market Analyst and Director of Partnerships with PropertyGuys.com uses his disruptive voice to challenge old ideas.
He is excited by consumer-driven change and believes that real estate is ripe for absolute transformation. His commentary style often reflects his groups’ thesis that the industry as a whole is headed towards a real inflection point thanks to advances in technology and a changing consumer attitude towards industries that no longer effectively serve their modern wants and needs. With this customer-centric lens, Melanson champions the needs of buyers and sellers which are at the heart of everything at PropertyGuys.com.
With a background in franchising, internet marketing, finance, and real estate, he brings a fresh perspective to his role that aligns perfectly with PropertyGuys.com’s mission of becoming “everything real estate.”
What was the inspiration behind the founding of PropertyGuys.com?
Over 20 years ago, my co-founder Jeremy Demont and I noticed many people in our hometown trying to sell their homes without a real estate agent. They would go to the hardware store, buy a black and orange FSBO sign, add their phone number, and hope for a call. We saw the need for a way to centralize private sales and home seller efforts with a website and a system in place to make the process easier. Twenty years later, we’re still introducing and innovating ways to simplify real estate to make it easier for buyers and sellers to connect directly.
PropertyGuys.com has been very successful and become Canada’s largest private sale franchise network. What do you believe are some of the strategies that contributed to the company’s success?
I believe three key core strategies have led to our success over the years. First, we’re always asking ‘what’s next?’ This means innovating, adding services, optimizing existing programs, and looking at trends to ensure we’re on the right path to continue to grow. Next, we decided early on to go all-in on the franchise model and to this day we continue to partner with the local, passionate, and entrepreneurial franchisees growing our brand from coast-to-coast. Last but certainly not least, we’ve gotten this far by being customer-centric. We put our sellers at the core of their transaction, surrounded by a team of experts. We’ve been able to develop a network, an ecosystem of real estate professionals who share our vision for changing the industry for the benefit of Canadian homeowners.
Ken LeBlanc, you were mentioned in the Financial Post as being one of the Top 5 people in Canada who is changing Real Estate. Why do you believe that is?
I think it’s largely due to the fact that more often than not, most real estate ‘innovations’ are focused on designing a “better mousetrap” to make a real estate agent’s jobs easier and more efficient. We’ve created a new category within the industry – one that doesn’t rely heavily on the agent. It’s much easier for us to innovate outside of the existing parameters and confines of traditional real estate. It’s not just thinking outside the box, it’s creating a circle and innovating from a different point of view.
How have advancements and new discoveries in the technology industry impacted PropertyGuys.com? What role does it play in the success of the company?
Technology plays a major role in the success of our business. We use it to make a life for our franchisees and more importantly our customers easier and better connected. We consider ourselves a high tech, high touch company. What this means is we leverage a combination of people and technology to empower our users to take control of their real estate experience, with support always only a click or call away.
What do you believe sets PropertyGuys.com apart from other real estate companies? What makes it different?
First and foremost, we firmly believe in putting the customer at the core of the transaction, whereas in the traditional model, it’s the agent. This is important for many people who want transparency in the process, to gain more control, and to get the most out of their transaction. Our services are also based on a flat fee, instead of a percentage of the home’s value. Perhaps you’ve also noticed how we stand out from the crowd with our iconic round signs!
PropertyGuys.com has more than 86 franchises across the country. What has been the biggest challenge in franchising the business?
Like any franchise system, the challenge will always be to find the best people in the right location. Our concept is as unique as our owners are and that’s part of the secret sauce. We hear from our franchisees all the time that they appreciate the balance of proven systems along with the flexibility to adapt campaigns and strategies to fit their personality and community.
One thing’s for sure – real estate is hyper-local. That means that we’re always looking for candidates who are active and engaged in their community, share our vision, and are passionate about helping people.
Many types of people are attracted to and thrive in our business so it’s about finding the perfect (mutual) fit. We do this through an extensive awarding process, which includes calls with our franchise development team, current franchisees, and a profile assessment to name a few. We’ve learned to maintain a full-funnel of potential franchisees and make a point to communicate with them often. As a franchisor, you have to be comfortable with ebbs and flows in the sales cycle, but you can put measures in place to keep a steady pace. Depending on where they are in their journey, some franchisees are ready to roll in a couple of weeks; others can take a year before they officially enter the system.
Layering your marketing activities on an ongoing basis ensures that you always have an active funnel and are onboarding a keen group of new franchisees every quarter.
What advice can you give to entrepreneurs who want to franchise their business? What successful tips can you give them?
First and foremost, you have to prove the model. Once we saw early success as a single operator, we knew we were onto something that could be replicated. That early experience to see that the business works, made it easier for us to create the operations manual that enabled other entrepreneurs to be successful.
I tell entrepreneurs who are getting into franchising to be very selective about their first 10 locations (and franchise owners) as these will be the most important in your entire journey. Get the right 10 franchisees off the bat who share your vision and the rest will quickly fall into place, get the wrong 10, and you’ll be done
. I also ensure they understand that when they start franchising they will essentially have two business divisions – sales and support to attract franchisees as well their direct to consumer offering. It’s a balance of resources, programs, and marketing that need to be deployed for those two different customers to connect with our brand.
On a final note, where do you see the future of PropertyGuys.com? What are some of the projects or initiatives you have planned in the near future?
Our future is all about continuing to expand, especially south of the border. For franchise development, we have our sights set on awarding 10 more Master Franchise agreements in the U.S. over the next 3 years. To put that into perspective, each Master Franchise territory can have hundreds of franchise units to develop.
On the consumer side, we are striving to become a platform for everything real estate. We believe that the ability to visit a one-stop-shop for not only residential but also commercial, rental and vacation properties, is something that people should have access to. A platform where no matter what road they want to take and what services they choose, they’ll always be exactly where they belong – at the center of it all.