jameson in the news
November 5, 2008
Jameson Real Estate:
Change AND experience
by Maureen Wilkey
Chicago – With everybody else sitting on the sidelines, Chris Feurer and Michael Sato decided now would be a great time to make a big play. Formerly with CRF Marketing, a division of Koening & Strey, the two decided to get out of the larger institutional structure to merge with Jameson, a decades-old brokerage and marketing firm with a solid reputation, to make the company their own. Feurer at Sato's 50 employees joined offices with Jameson's 90 employees at a new office at 425 West North Avenue in August, and the firm has meshed well since then, Feurer says.
"We were a perfect fit for each other and shared the same core values. Charley and Harry bring 3 decades of experience and success to the table, while Mike and I compliment them with marketing and technology innovations."
Jameson was founded by brothers Harry and Charlie Huzenis about 26 years ago, but in the 45 days that Feurer and Sato have run the company, the basic values haven't changed, Feurer says.
"Jameson had very consistently been the among the top firms every year," Feurer says. "We sat down with them, thanks to one of our business partners suggesting it, one afternoon this spring and decided it was a good match,that we could take it to the next level."
Now Feurer, the CEO, and Sato, the president with Jameson, have completely rebranded the company, using a team of six internal graphic designers to give the company a new look. From hard plastic business cards to signs that change colors as commuters drive past them, everything about the new brand is designed to attract attention and make potential clients visualize both quality and cutting-edge business acumen.
"We have a strong marketing background and we pictured ourselves coming in and doing a lot of creative marketing for the company," Sato says. "We brought over 10 staff and integrated them with 20 existing employees. In addition, we added over 50 agents in the first month of operation."
Ninety brokers and other professionals already had worked at Jameson prior to the merger, bringing the total current staff to about 140 people. Sato and Feurer aimed to keep the top-producing brokers on board not only through the marketing, but also through supporting the brokers at their firm. Through a staff devoted exclusively to filing and organizing the statistics and paperwork associated with listings and deals, as well as a new "virtual assistant" computer program designed to compile broker listings and other pertinent information into a database.
"We created this enormous, comprehensive program for the industry with all the MLA statistics and everything you would need as a broker right at your fingertips,"," Feurer says. "It allows the brokers to follow up with emails that contain pertinent information and detail and modify the messages as needed."
Feurer and Sato have focused a lot on residential marketing in the past, and the current Jameson portfolio contains about 25 percent single-family homes, 25 percent condominiums, 25 percent office properties and 25 percent retail properties. While the credit crunch is ruining the business of some residential brokers and agents, Jameson is maintaining a strong status by trending towards brokers who have experienced hard times before.
While Feurer and Sato acknowledge that their firm may never be able to compete with a firm like Coldwell Banker, which has more than 9,000 agents across the country, they hope to one day employ about 200 agents who can produce a strong showing in the market. Right now, the average agent produces about $10 million in sales per year, Feurer says.
"Our agents do a great deal of volume as a percentage of the industry," Sato says. "It's important that we bring on quality, talented and experienced agents to be a part of the new company." While Feurer and Sato now run Jameson on a day to day basis, founding brothers Harry and Charlie Huzenis are still on board at the company in advisory roles. Harry Huzenis says he worked with Sato previously and was ready to let the pair take over while he and his brother took a step back.
"With Chris, there's a thousand marketing ideas coming out of his head at once. And Mike is great at dealing with the sales agents, who are very loyal to them," Huzenis says. "There's a lot of common philosophy between us and they're helping to get us a larger platform."
The plan to grow the platform accelerates very quickly, with Feurer and Stao hoping to get 10 new agents on board by the end of October, another 10 by the end of the year and 30 more over the course of 2009. Each agent chooses their own listings, although there are a few developers that the company consistently works with. Hiring and maintaining experienced agents who know their market will help breed success, as well as attract new quality agents, Sato says. Thus, he and Feurer have broken down responsibilities so that Sato deals directly with the agents while Feurer handles duties with marketing and more administrative tasks. Both say, though, that agents feel comfortable coming to either Feurer or Sato for advice, recommendations, or just to vent.
"We've been there, and they know that," Sato says. "Agent services are critical. Anything we can do to help them be more productive in their day, to take up less of their time, will help us succeed as a company. Our agents are our biggest assets."
Even with two well-functioning set of agents coming together making a friendly merge, buying their own company has been a whirlwind, Feurer and Sato say. They hired a firm out of New York to help with marketing and design, implemented the virtual assistant and are working on new ads and placements throughout Chicagoland. Sato says the key to not going crazy in a rushed time like this is to break up the work and get done what you can each day.
"I try to get 10 big things done each day, and then the little things fall into place when you have time," he says. "There never seems to be enough hours in the day to get everything done. But because we have the best staff possible it makes it seem a little easier." Jameson Chief Operating Officer Bob Flannery has been with the company about three-and-a-half years. He says working with both partnerships has been a great experience, and that the merger of the two should bring something even better.
"They bring a lot more strategic planning and professional services to what was already a top team," Flannery says of Sato and Feurer. "They're not super-trendy, but they're keeping the marketing very current and they have a lot of previous experience to build on."
While some companies are cutting back on marketing and advertising budgets due to the recession, Feurer says now is actually the perfect time to start a big push for marketing. With a new company on the rise and buyers more hesitant to move on all kinds of real estate, making a brand recognizable is important.
The new marketing includes a logo with "Jameson." printed in white letters over a red square background. While the logo seems simple, it also merges a traditional look with the feeling of young professionalism, Feurer says. Creating an easily identifiable logo and putting it out in as many places as is appropriate is key ot building the best brand, Feurer says.
"Everyday we are talking with the graphic design department and the marketing department to create custom pieces, templates and branding that will distinguish us in the market place.," Feurer says. "They have a lot of vision and are very progressive in getting this set up for all types of media."
Steve Golovan, president with Chicago Graystone, was the business partner who originally set up Jameson's two management teams. He says so far the team is looking like a great match and he hopes they will continue the strong business they were each doing separately. "It's a good mix of reconfiguration and tradition," Golovan says. "You've got two young, hip, technology kind of guys and two guys who have proven for a long time that they now their stuff." The move also gives Feurer and Sato a chance to move up within the structure of the company without the constraints of a big corporate structure, Golovan says. The natural match between the Huzenis brothers and Feurer and Sato has created a good working environment for clients like Golovan.
"They're easy," Golovan says. "They're already operating like an established firm because they have so many established people." Mike Obloy, partner with Peak Properties, agrees. He says that he's worked with Sato in the past and so far, he likes the way Jameson has come together.
"Jameson seems to be working fantastically," Obloy says. "I think they'll do stable work while the market isn't good, but when the economy improves I think they will be freed up to do really great business."
Feurer says that the slumping economy actually makes for a good environment to start a new business because right now agents are have fewer listings and more time to focus on other issues, like marketing or working together on strategies.
"This is a unique market, it needs time to settle," Feurer says. "But it's also a great time for being proactive and seizing opportunities." And Feurer and Sato are known for being proactive, says Steve DeGraff, an attorney with Much Shelist who has worked with the pair since 2001. They will probably be able to capitalize on good agents looking to grow their listings as the economy continues to slide, he says.
"They've got a fresh start and they're willing to work their butts off," he says. "They look at every obstacle as an opportunity to grow."
Marty Paris, president with Sedgwick Properties says that he's worked with Feurer at several of his previous companies and is now marketing the Marquee Michigan Avenue in the South Loop and the Terrazzio at Clark and Wabash with Jameson. Working with Feurer, he always got a great in-depth analysis of what kind of buyers he should be looking for and how he should market his properties, he says.
"His style is very consistent and evolved," Paris says. "He's got a lot of life experience that should help him with running his own company."
And while several buyers may still be sitting on the sidelines during tough financial times, Feurer says the company's expertise and supported abilities to assist customers will convince people to use their services and help the company grow in its first year under new management.
"We are focused on delivering the right product to people," he says. "Price is just one piece of the puzzle. Buyers are looking for a lot of different things and if we can find the right combination, they're not as afraid to buy."
The opportunities are there, Feurer and Sato say, and now is a time to seize them.