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VOL. 127 | NO. 15 | Tuesday, January 24, 2012

‘Contrarian’ Collins Finds Success in Tough Market

By Sarah Baker

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Doug Collins has always believed that the greatest opportunities are found in troubled times.

The president of Prudential Collins-Maury Inc. Realtors even classifies himself as “somewhat of a contrarian.”

“I like to zig when others zag,” Collins said. “Just because the market is off substantially doesn’t mean you need to be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand.”

Collins co-founded the Collins-Maury franchise of Prudential Financial Inc. in 1987. The full-service residential real estate firm serves the greater Memphis and North Mississippi areas, with four offices in Collierville, Germantown, East Memphis and Southaven.

Amid the dour housing market, Collins has led the franchise to put up even more of its familiar blue and white signs in Memphis-area yards. Since the origins of the real estate market’s struggles in 2006, Prudential Collins-Maury has more than doubled its market share, Collins said.

This year, the firm is projecting a 20 percent growth in market share numbers.

“In 1987, I was chasing a dream of owning my own business,” Collins said. “We opened with 12 agents and one employee. I don’t remember our sales volume but it wasn’t much. Today, we have 98 agents and sales volume in excess of $200 million.”

“I like to zig when others zag. Just because the market is off substantially doesn’t mean you need to be an ostrich and stick your head in the sand.”

–Doug Collins
President, Prudential Collins-Maury Inc. Realtors

Roughly, for 2011, Prudential Collins-Maury agents sold about four times what the average agent sold, said Neil Hubbard, who was promoted to vice president at the first of the year.

“That’s a testament of our agent productivity,” Hubbard said. “And our average sales price is quite a bit higher than the market. We were just above $204,000 last year. The market average is $125,448.”

As part of his new role, Hubbard will do a limited amount of sales and help Collins with his new home construction through Sovereign Homes. The firm also recently hired Jules Wade, former executive director of the Memphis Area Association of Realtors, in an advisory role.

Wade’s title is manager of Prudential Collins-Maury’s East Memphis office, overseeing sales management and growing the office’s business. It’s the firm’s manager-agent support system that Collins attributes each branch’s success to.

“Our managers are full-time employees, where most if not all of my competitors, their managers actually make a living selling real estate,” Collins said. “Because my managers’ mission is to help the agent be all the agent can be, that keeps them concerned about the agent’s sales and not their own personal sales since they basically don’t sell.”

Angie Ware, relocation director at the Collierville office, is another important piece to Prudential Collins-Maury’s puzzle who isn’t out in the field selling houses. Since the franchise’s parent company – Prudential Financial Inc. – announced the sale of Prudential Real Estate and Relocation Services in December to Toronto-based Brookfield Residential Property Services, Ware has been busy preparing the franchise for increased relocation business.

Combined, the new national relocation services doubled, which in theory will provide twice the amount of relocation business available to Prudential’s local agents.

Prudential Financial Inc. projects about 85,000 moves annually across the world in about 125 countries, including the largest contract with government of any other brokerage and relocation unit, with clients such as the FBI, the U.S. Secret Service and Federal Bureau of Prisons.

“A good thing for us locally is the Electrolux move that is coming here to Memphis. Brookfield does their relocation, so that will be a big success for us going forward,” Ware said. “They also do CSX, which was business we didn’t previously have.”

Ware also oversees Prudential Collins-Maury social media platforms on Facebook and Twitter, as well as the company’s postcard advertising campaign. It’s a co-op marketing program that mails some type of discount or coupon to Prudential’s client list every month, with offers ranging from free roses to deals at the Memphis Zoo and Jim’s Place East.

“The idea there is to partner with something of value and offer something of value,” Collins said. “You take that and stick it on your refrigerator, and then whichever agent is sending it to you, they’re right there on your refrigerator door for 30 days. When that expires, you throw it away, but another one comes.”

And it all goes back to Collins’ philosophy to capitalize when others chose not to, Ware said.

“In a time when people are looking to cut back, advertising is a time-consuming thing if you don’t have something set up automatically for the agents like we do,” Ware said. “Because of the expense of snail mail, people think that they can just send an email, but I don’t know that it has the same effect.”

But that’s not to say Prudential Collins-Maury doesn’t participate in email blasts, and even traditional print advertising that includes Quick-Response (QR) codes.

“We’re not targeting one type of buyer,” Ware said. “We’re targeting Internet-savvy buyers or people who have never been on the Internet, so you’ve got to be everywhere.”

PROPERTY SALES 51 328 20,960
MORTGAGES 58 387 24,132
BUILDING PERMITS 170 842 43,435
BANKRUPTCIES 50 288 13,468