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40-year success story

The success story of Engel & Völkers begins with a small villa on a famous Hamburg residential street known as the Elbchaussee. This year, the property company is celebrating its 40th anniversary – an occasion to look back at the milestones of past decades and towards the future.

In 1977, Dirk Engel set up a brokerage firm in Hamburg. Four years later, his friend, the student Christian Völkers, came on board as his partner. Their first office was a villa on the Elbchaussee, the façade of which still graces the brand logo to this day. From here they went on to develop a property company that changed the industry radically.

This year will see the relocation to the new company headquarters in Hamburg’s Hafencity. Photo: bloomimagesThis year will see the relocation to the new company headquarters in Hamburg’s Hafencity. Photo: bloomimages

With innovative marketing concepts and expansion strategies, Engel & Völkers broke with the brokerage practices used up to then in Germany. Today the company is operational in over 30 countries in four continents. More than 10,000 people operate under the brand. Since October 2014, Christian Völkers has shared the role of CEO with Sven Odia, who began his career as a trainee at Engel & Völkers.

“I have always been driven by the idea of building something, developing it and devising a marketing strategy for it,” said Christian Völkers.

Soon after joining the company, he was convinced that strong branding rooted in professionalism and competence was crucial for agents to win over the trust of clients. With this realisation in mind, he set about writing the Engel & Völkers manual: the foundation for a standardised service system. It outlined every step involved in the professional life of a real estate agent – from how to welcome clients to a detailed step-by-step guide of how to conduct property viewings.

Over the years these systemised processes were continually refined and trainings were introduced. In 1995, Engel & Völkers became the first property company in Germany to set up its own in-house academy dedicated to teaching these standardised service processes. Today the academy offers Engel & Völkers real estate agents worldwide around 800 training days a year.

In the mid-1990s, Völkers took another step towards strengthening the corporate identity of the company with the introduction of a standardised shop façade. Exact parameters stipulate the appearance of every single Engel & Völkers location, from the white orchid on the reception desk to the black entrance door.

Following the example set by real estate firms in England, the company has its shops fitted with large display windows, allowing those outside to see both the listed properties and the real estate agents at work inside. This concept, at the time unknown in Germany, quickly proved successful and helped strengthen the expansion of Engel & Völkers.

Christian Völkers, founder and CEO of Engel & Völkers AG. Photo: Engel & VölkersChristian Völkers, founder and CEO of Engel & Völkers AG. Photo: Engel & Völkers

The first foreign office was opened in Palma de Mallorca in 1990, intended to cater to client demand for second homes in attractive destinations. Inspired by the fast food chain McDonald’s, Christian Völkers introduces the franchise system in 1998. It is the definitive breakthrough for the global growth of the brand. In 2013, the Engel & Völkers Group establishes another pillar in its operations with the introduction of Market Centers (MCs). The MCs consist of spacious offices in which a large number of sales advisors can work. The concept pursues a strategy aimed at enabling faster growth in the world’s major cities and acquiring larger market share.  Engel & Völkers is set to maintain its course of growth into the future. The company intends to expand its operations further, especially in its focus markets Europe and North America.

Another development that Engel & Völkers will be concentrating resources on in the coming years is the digitisation of the property industry. “It is our job at Engel & Völkers to offer services that meet the high quality standards of our clients. With this in mind, we apply digitisation to make our service even more efficient,” Mr Völkers said.

For several years, the company has been developing digital solutions designed to simplify the processes involved in property brokerage. The aim is to support both agents and clients, in technical terms and by providing the relevant data. “Despite all the potential of digital advancement, personal consultation with experienced experts will always remain at the core of our brokerage activities,” Mr Völkers added.

The next important milestone is this year’s relocation to the company’s new headquarters. Engel & Völkers worked with the renowned New York architecture firm Richard Meier & Partner Architects LLP for the new building in Hamburg’s Hafencity quarter. The idea of a company building where visitors can experience the Engel & Völkers brand world has been a long-held vision of Mr Völkers.

With this relocation to the HafenCity, Engel & Völkers remains true to its roots – returning back to the banks of the River Elbe, where it all began 40 years ago.  

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