Smart50 Awards 2015

3 Cohen Handler

Revenue

$6 million

Growth

622.85%

Founders

Ben Handler, 31, and Simon Cohen, 30

Head office

Sydney

Year founded

2009

Employees

35

Industry

Property and business services

Website

cohenhandler.com.au

Ben Handler and his business partner, Simon Cohen, were met by a reasonable degree of scepticism when they first canvassed the idea of their property services business to friends and colleagues.

The pair had identified a gap in the booming Australian property industry for the services of buyer’s agents. It was a concept they had seen in action in the US but was scarce on the ground in Australia.

“We came up against a lot of cynicism and had a tough job convincing family and friends of the potential of our business idea,” Handler says.

However, the naysayers could not dint the enthusiasm of the pair and they soon set about working out the finer points of how they could sell the concept to Australian property buyers.

Six years later, Cohen Handler has four offices in Sydney and has opened one apiece in Melbourne and, most recently, Brisbane. The business has also become a regular Smart50 finalist, jumping two spots from fifth place in 2014.

Along with the challenge of introducing a relatively novel concept to a mature marketplace, Cohen Handler also had to fight battles common to many SMEs.

“Growth has been a challenge for us as a business. We started Cohen Handler with just $5000, and have grown the business organically since. We’ve taken care to never raise a dollar of debt,” Handler says.

Handler says an important factor in the success of the business has been maintaining a focus on innovation across the company.

An example of this innovative thinking was the establishment of a training program for buyer’s agents. Cohen Handler realised that because the concept of a buyer’s agent was new to Australia, not many people were properly trained and educated to undertake the role.

Instead of allowing this to stand in the way of its growth, the company came up with a novel solution.

“We’ve found that in Australia the skills of buyer’s agents were not sufficient to serve this growing part of the industry. As a result we’ve launched our own education program, Cohen Handler University, to help our employees and aspiring buyer’s agents develop and perform at optimal levels,” Handler says.

Another example of this out-of-the-box thinking by the pair is the relationship Cohen Handler has established with a leading Australian photographer. This strategic alliance has led to an unusual and memorable piece of value-added marketing.

“The photographer signed many copies of his new photography collection for us, which we give to our clients when we help them close a deal on a property. It’s been one of the best and most successful marketing efforts we’ve had in the past 12 months as our clients appreciate the gift, and it’s something special that they cannot get easily,” Handler says.

Cohen Handler has also looked closely at its day-to-day operations and runs its entire business using cloud computing software and services.

With the initial hurdles now overcome, Handler says the business is eyeing off further consolidation in Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, as well as the potential for offices in Asia and the US.

“Since starting Cohen Handler, we have learnt that buyers do want to be represented properly by someone with the right expertise in the real estate industry,” Handler says.

“In the beginning, Australians were not aware that such a service existed, but our year-on-year growth demonstrates that with the continued red hot market, more buyers are looking outside the box, and coming to buyers’ agents like Cohen Handler to ensure success.”

 

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