Small business: Women entrepreneurs - Sarah Symon

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Sarah Symon, manager of Realsure. Photo / Supplied
Sarah Symon, manager of Realsure. Photo / Supplied

Sarah Symon, co-founder and business manager of the Realsure property inspection business with her husband Bruce, talks to Gill South about the growing franchise, and her campaign to lift property inspection standards.

Going out on a limb

Twelve years ago we went out on a limb to launch Realsure.

Much of the inspiration came from my experience working in real estate, seeing problems caused for buyers by lack of regulation in New Zealand's property inspection industry.

Back then, there were no professional standards for the industry. We launched Realsure, compliant to Australian standards, and with extremely robust processes.

Partly due to our lobbying, we are now proudly compliant to NZ Standards. The NZ Standards for Residential Property Inspection were launched in 2005 and the NZ accredited residential building surveyor system in 2007.

However, the industry still isn't regulated and many people still buy substandard properties based on substandard reports.

The challenges

We are steadily growing the franchise and 80 per cent of our business is by referrals, which is hugely gratifying.

Ironically, our robust systems are our great advantage but it wasn't the easiest route to take for business growth. Highlighting that property inspections need to be more stringent didn't endear us to the real estate industry

Fortunately, while you may not find many real estate agents recommending us, there are an awful lot of satisfied buyers - and also homeowners who have used us to prepare maintenance reports - who are very happy to recommend us.

A national outlook from the outset

We developed Realsure from start-up to be a national company. Processes and systems were critical and we used a brand marketing company to help develop the brand, image and perceptions.

To ensure successful replication of the business model, Realsure has been ISO 9001 registered since 2004. We now have very successful franchisees, and are actively seeking more.

All must be, or employ, qualified competent builders. We provide training to accredited building surveyor standard and franchisees are closely monitored for three to six months before going solo.

We know our strengths and weaknesses and strategically work at them. We have key organisations and business mentors who help us as we grow and evolve. They are an integral extension of our business.

Everyone thinks they can design a boardgame. There are some actually doing it and achieving some success here and overseas.
Tell us your stories - email me, Gill South here.

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