From the Boardroom Article – Edition 4

As unbelievable as it is we are already in March. I would like to begin by thanking you for your ongoing support throughout 2008. It was a hard year for the Industry but we hope it was a successful year for you all. 2009 is already well under way and we look forward to continuing to help grow your business.

I am pleased to report that many of the changes that I, together with the EAC Board, have been working on putting in place are now beginning to show results. The financial reports presented to the Board for January this year show a turnaround of some $578,000 over the same period last year. This is a significant achievement given the current marketplace in which the Co-operative operates. Every one of the 53 employees at EAC should be commended for their dedication and hard work that has assisted in delivering this result.

Whilst we can be somewhat satisfied with the positive results flowing through as a result of the changes made, the Board and Management remain focused on achieving more for the Members who own the Co-operative and for the Industry for which we exist.
The real estate industry and property market in NSW is currently in a state of flux with the volume of sales, on average across the state, down from anywhere between 35% – 40% on last calendar year. With what has occurred in the past six months to the major economies of the world, their stock markets and banking sectors, I believe things are going to get worse before they get better. Unfortunately, nobody really knows how long this situation will last, or how deep it will go.

To assist with navigating, and in some cases surviving these difficult times, it is imperative that you have a plan. While there will always be things that come up that we cannot plan for or control, you need every step to be deliberate, sure, and effective, and that means a plan that spells out exactly what needs to be done to move forward, what needs to be executed tactically to achieve that, and where your clear priorities lie.

To this end on the on the 24th February 2009, the EAC Board, the Board and EAC Management held a Board Planning Day. For those that are not aware, is a wholly owned subsidiary of EAC but has a separate Board that is responsible for the operation of that company.
During the Planning day we looked at what is necessary to thrive in these hard times in which we find ourselves. From there we looked at our revised Budgets for the second half of the financial year and, as with many businesses today, we revised some of our revenue targets downwards. As a result of cost savings and efficiencies that we have implemented, it is encouraging to note that even with these revised revenue levels the budgeted result will still be significantly better than previous years.
The Board then updated the EAC Board on its objectives and where it was at from an operations perspective.

Having reviewed the budgets we then moved onto a review of the draft strategic plan which is a document that contained some 36 pages. The Plan looked at the current position of the Co-operative and set out items that need to be considered and discussed in order to determine which of these should form part of EAC’s strategic plan over the next 12 – 36 months. From this session we came up with a list of some 40 items in order of importance, and work has already begun on putting the Plan into action.

With decisions having been made on the items/areas that we were going to focus on, the next session then looked at EAC Membership moving forward. As a result of this session we will be undertaking a number of survey’s and focus groups in order to obtain feedback from the actual members on what their “wants and needs” are going forward, to ensure we deliver the necessary outcomes.

The day then ended with Executive and Management Feedback to the Board and vice versa. Overall the day was very positive with some exciting outcomes.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of the day was how passionate everyone was about the Co-operative and the Industry, of which we are a part. It was self evident that there were no hidden agendas, with everyone working towards the same goals.
The past few months has seen a hive of activity at EAC.

The long awaited new version of Red Square has been released and we now have some 2,500 licences of this new version out in the marketplace with the feedback being very positive to date. For those who do not have the new version as yet, it is envisaged that it will be released to all users by the end of March.
Since introducing our Compliance Review Service, we have been busy performing reviews, with reviews of some 10 offices now completed. The Compliance Review service is designed to highlight any problems in your office and office procedures in order that these can be remedied before any inspection by the Department of Fair Trading. It is a small price to pay for the level of comfort it offers. At the end of the day you will be provided with a list of immediate findings followed up by a written report on any compliances issues found and the areas of potential risk. Call to book your compliance review today.

I am glad to report that we can finally put the IPMG matter behind us. In December we saw the determination of costs come back from the Supreme Court and we were awarded some $257,000. This is still some way short of the $380,000 that it cost us to fight the action but it is a small price to pay (although expensive) to ensure that the Illawarra publication remained in the control of the Co-operative and its members.

The paginations of the publications have remained pretty stable over the past few months. The publications that remain in the market place are well supported by the agents. These agents, as a result of working together and resisting the constant offers from the other publications in the respective marketplaces, continue to benefit from the savings.

As a reward from EAC for the agent’s commitment and continuing support, the paper stock used for the Illawarra and Far North Coast publications has been upgraded. This change, which greatly improves the quality of the publications, including the use of a thicker cover, was provided at no additional cost to the agents. This change also further widens the gap in relation to the quality of the publications in these marketplaces as compared to the competition.

December saw a new milestone for Illawarra publication with the last edition for the year reaching 100 pages in size.

January saw the Sydney publication move to a Gloss format from newsprint and the Mid North Coast publication expand up the Coast into the Coffs Harbour area.
March will see the Far North Coast publication move from basket and home delivery to basket delivery only saving the agents some $230 per page.

In my last update I mentioned that we were in the final stages of obtaining recognition as an “Industry Association” in the area of training. I am happy to announce that this has now been confirmed with correspondence being received from the Minister for Fair Trading in January. We have some big news coming up on the training front so stay tuned.

Well that is it for another update. As always we welcome any feedback you might have to help us make our products and services more beneficial to your office as, ultimately, we are about service and not profit at the expense of the industry.

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