More than just a real-estate agency

More than just a real-estate agency
Steven Tan, managing director of OrangeTee.
PHOTO: The Business Times

WITHIN a short span of 15 years, OrangeTee has established itself as a key player in Singapore's real-estate scene. Differentiating itself from local agencies which typically focus on growing the number of agents and transactions, OrangeTee's approach is to cover more sectors and provide a broader range of services - valuation, research, investment advisory and consultancy.

OrangeTee was conceived by a group of professionals with diverse backgrounds, including real-estate agents, valuation experts as well as information-technology (IT) executives. Today, the company's size has increased more than tenfold, with over 2,200 staff members and agents.

Steven Tan, managing director of OrangeTee, says: "Our vision is very clear since day one: To be the most outstanding and respected real-estate enterprise in the region, focusing on providing high-quality service to customers."

To achieve its ambition, Orange-Tee strives to stand out by branding itself as a local company with Asian cultural elements ingrained in its service. "Even a small thing can affect your brand," shares Mr Tan. This attention to detail extends to the consistency with which its corporate colours are applied - the shirts and ties worn by agents and the colour of corporate gifts is a consistent shade of orange.

This brand consistency is further reflected in the service provided to its clients. The company believes that as it raises its brand awareness in the marketplace, future clients will approach OrangeTee for service rendered with utmost professionalism and quality. By utilising its ecosystem of staff expertise, innovation and advanced technology, the company ensures that clients are well-served beyond what they can obtain using online search portals.

Navigating the residential property market has not been easy in recent years. To begin with, the introduction of cooling measures by the government has exerted pressure on the entire real-estate industry. In the face of such challenges, most agencies have tried to stay afloat by streamlining operations or cutting costs. However, OrangeTee believes that rather than just focusing on current problems, it is essential to maintain a forward-looking approach by identifying and implementing the right growth formula as well as taking advantage of new growth opportunities.

The growth formula rests on three attributes, which can be simplified to "PIN".

The first is "People". Despite the current challenging environment, OrangeTee continues to invest heavily in human capital. Mr Tan emphasises that regardless of good or bad times, OrangeTee must continue to attract and retain talents who share the same vision and are willing to grow together with the local brand.

In addition, it continually provides opportunities for its people to expand their knowledge, skills and abilities. Leadership succession is also planned and executed to sustain the long-term vision of the company and to maintain its relevance in this fast and dynamic business environment.

To create a fun and conducive work environment, OrangeTee formed a "Happy Staff Committee" in 2014, led by only junior and mid-level employees. All of the initiatives such as watching movies together, organising Halloween events, conducting weekly Zumba exercises and celebrating the mooncake festival are "auto-approved" as long as they are within the allocated budget. This bottom-up initiative, which excludes executive management from the decision-making process, has successfully empowered its people and improved engagement of employees.

The committee has also proven to be a tremendous success in increasing employee satisfaction and improving team morale, especially when times get rough.

Essentially, employees who are engaged are more likely to be motivated and are more eager to contribute despite various market pressures. The company believes that monetary incentive is not the only factor that keeps its employees happy. To OrangeTee, what sets a company apart in a difficult market are its engaged, loyal and content employees, which will definitely translate into better service quality and brand value.

The next attribute is "Innovation". As one of the pioneers of IT in the real-estate sector in 2000, OrangeTee has continued to push the boundaries, employing a unique blend of online and offline support coupled with various digital modes of interaction and application.

One example is the provision of the first-of-its-kind online information such as Listing Hub, Project Information, e-Litho and Property Transactions. This has enabled agents to focus on sales, enriched with detailed and updated information generated from the database.

Despite the strong competition and a high cost of maintenance, Mr Tan remains optimistic about the benefits of innovation and technology.

"In today's dynamic market, customers are inundated with information and sales pitches every day. This trend will accelerate when Singa-pore's real estate becomes more matured and competitive. As such, the best way to keep pace of the impact is to enable our people to provide customers with personalised services by offering unique and effective solutions," Mr Tan says.

The last attribute, "N", stands for "Network".

OrangeTee is determined to leverage its growth momentum to capture a larger share of the local and regional market. To speed up the process, OrangeTee has built a strong network with overseas partners since 2011 in countries such as Japan, Malaysia, Myanmar, China and Cambodia.

One example is its partnership with Tokyu Livable, Inc which acquired a 22.5 per cent stake in OrangeTee last year.

"In the next decade, the real-estate landscape in the region will change dramatically. Many of the trends such as globalisation, urbanisation and technological advancements are already evident. We cannot simply ignore the potential threats or opportunities generated by these trends," explains Mr Tan.

"Ultimately, this business revolves around people. We are dealing with people, not properties or markets," says Mr Tan.

He believes that the best way to manage the future changes is to focus on its people. "Make sure our people have a positive attitude towards changes. (We need to) train and equip our people (with the right skills), so that they constantly embrace innovations to value-add their services and, most importantly, cultivate an open and global mindset to establish strong networks through the formation of close relationships," he says.

As a homegrown brand coupled with a clear growth formula, Orange-Tee remains resolute in becoming the most extraordinary and respected real-estate service provider in the region.

This article was first published on November 3, 2015.
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