The dramatic events of the last year have highlighted some of the major issues facing us in the 2020s. A pandemic brought a laser focus on our social interactions and healthcare system, while also creating an increase in our awareness of our environmental impacts. The drama of an election year raised our greater understanding of social media and how we overcome our differences. And the explosion of social unrest begged us to all ask the questions about equality and opportunity in our communities.
In the ensuing conversation, thousands of voices have decried solutions, and many of us have felt helpless to affect change in the face of what seem like insurmountable odds. Throughout these discussions, I’ve had the unique perspective of sitting at the center of more than 1,100 American small business owners, our independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchises in 176 markets nationwide, and I’m left in awe of the work they are doing to make things better.
Just over a year ago, we had plans to expand our franchise system into a new international market. Then COVID hit, and we, like the rest of the world, were forced to change tack. The months that followed proved to be reaffirming as our franchise network was forced to rely on itself to adjust to the ever-changing conditions 2020 presented, which it did with great confidence. The experience reminded me of how extremely important fellow franchises are to one another when it comes to not only being successful, but also to being inspiring and empowering to each other.
It can be difficult in a franchise organization to balance ambition and competition with camaraderie and cooperation. Rivalry has the potential of cannibalizing market opportunities, while collaboration can improve business and build fulfilling careers. The brand fellow franchises share should provide a level of security that gives comfort to both franchises and consumers alike. A good trademark strengthens your ability to do business. For our franchisees, national brand recognition also helps to support their capitalization. They find that with a trusted name like ours, hard money lenders actually compete to finance deals. Having this kind of shared assurance minimizes potential for negative feelings that could compromise the franchise network, and when franchises feel well supported, they can focus their efforts on the communities they serve.
Additionally, a predictable franchise structure contributes to a healthy franchise ecosystem. This starts with your unique model and how you implement it with your franchise network. We onboard our new franchises with extensive mentoring and training, introducing them to our national brand, our conscientious business practices, and our proprietary tools. Each of our franchises also has the support of fellow franchises in their market, which they can tap into as much or as little as they want to. Having market-specific co-ops that make joint decisions about how to build the brand and drive local motivated leads gives them a sense of accountability and ownership. It’s easy to place blame on an anonymous corporate behemoth’s decisions, but when franchises are empowered to cooperatively advertise the brand, they connect in healthy ways.
This collaboration also makes the network work for the franchises. Last year, as the first markets to face lockdowns in spring, like Boston, adjusted to keep buying houses, those franchises shared their learning across the company. By the time San Francisco entered lockdown, its local franchises were ready. Another phenomenon we saw last year was that as franchises saw market trends or behaviors become the slightest bit predictable, they shared that learning to help other franchises, allowing them to react quickly and confidently.
In not having to fight for resources, franchises can then aspire to do the work they do best, improve communities by creating business opportunities and promoting development. More than 80 percent of the over 110,000 houses we’ve purchased are less than 1,400-square feet and were built before 1980. Often, these are homes that have fallen into disrepair and are no longer viable assets for the local real estate market. Instead, our franchises buy and improve them, reintroducing them as valuable housing for many first-time buyers and renters. We find that this mission of bringing about change in their own communities, making blight brilliant, is a key motivating factor for these entrepreneurs.
Recently, one of our franchises actually made over an entire 44-unit apartment complex that had been a public health hazard shut down by the local city. So far beyond code that apartments were left with no running water, windows or electricity, the city had forced the mostly absentee previous owner to surrender the property. Two of our franchisees purchased it and completely renovated it to not only meet code, but also to reach the highest level of quality in local rentals. The experience reminded me that it takes small business investors to help meet the challenges many of our communities face. Law enforcement, the city and the courts can’t bear the full burden, but local entrepreneurs can invest their attention and capital, treat the neighborhood with respect, and give them what they need, which in this case was 44 quality homes for local residents that were previously not available.
In our case, we say we’re improving neighborhoods one house at a time, or even 44 at a time. But, the truth is, that we all have the opportunity to improve our communities one franchise at a time with the life small businesses bring. With the safe assurance of a proven model, the protection of a trusted national brand, the warm fellowship and support of a network, and a vested interest in our own backyard, we can help build the change we want to see.
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About HomeVestors of America, Inc.
Marking its 25th year, Dallas-based HomeVestors of America, Inc. is the largest professional house buying franchise in the U.S. with more than 110,000 houses bought since 1996. HomeVestors recruits, trains and supports its more than 1,150 independently owned and operated HomeVestors® franchisees that specialize in building businesses based on buying, rehabbing, selling, and holding residential properties. Most commonly known as the “We Buy Ugly Houses®” company, HomeVestors strives to make a positive impact in each of its 176 markets.