Mike Miedler, President and CEO, Century 21 Real Estate
Illustration by Lanette Behiry/Real Estate News

Century 21 CEO: How to grow, even in the toughest times 

C21 President and CEO Mike Miedler says growth is more than numbers, it’s creating opportunities for the future — and being “ready, willing and able to grow.”

March 1, 2024
4 minutes

Key points:

  • In a more challenging market, M&As and efficiency improvements can help real estate entrepreneurs achieve their growth goals, Miedler says.
  • Recruiting, retention and a focus on profitability are critical: “Most small entrepreneurs don’t realize that they have to build enterprise value in their business.”
  • He notes that Anywhere’s settlement in the commissions cases protects C21 affiliated brokers and agents from future litigation, allowing them to focus on client service.

Maintaining a growth mindset is part of the ethos at Century 21. Even more important? Putting the customer first, delivering an extraordinary experience and giving back to the local community. Do all of those things, says Century 21 President and CEO Mike Miedler, and the money will follow.

Miedler has been with Century 21 for 25 years and moved into the top leadership role five years ago. He believes growth is always about moving yourself forward, making sure you're setting good goals — and working to attain them.

Miedler spoke with Real Estate News about his perspective on brokerage growth, the importance of blocking out "industry noise," and what's ahead in 2024.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How would you describe Century 21's franchise growth, even in this challenging market?

Franchise growth has actually picked up. In 2023, we brought 32 new companies into the Century 21 system in the U.S., up from 22 the previous year, which is a 45% increase. As the market becomes more challenging, real estate entrepreneurs look for better ways to do business and solutions for what they want to accomplish. Interest in franchising is still high. 

Is growth always good? 

No, growth is not always good. You have to be in the position for growth: ready, willing and able to grow. Last year saw one of the lowest years in real estate profitability. Company dollars and margins were shrinking for everybody. When the economy is struggling and the market is challenging, many independent brokers are looking for additional support — or an exit strategy. Growth isn't always about adding to the C21 company count. It's sometimes about supporting local brokers by identifying and facilitating opportunities for strategic M&As as a positive way to combine forces and create synergies and efficiencies that can pave the way for future growth.

How do you adjust your growth strategy to adapt to a slower market? 

A lot of times when markets start shrinking like this, merger activity picks up. I think that pace will be ferocious in 2024, because people are looking for a better way to do business. Whether it's teams or smaller mom-and-pop shops, when they connect with a big brand name, with all the tools to serve clients better, it becomes a better financial market.

Does the franchise model make growth more scalable? 

Yes. If you read the book "The E-Myth Real Estate Brokerage," it says you have to work on your business, not in your business, and being part of Century 21 can make that easier. 

First, whether you're an entrepreneur, solo agent, team leader or broker agent, you're always recruiting and looking for ways to bring on more professionals to help you accomplish your goals. Second, you retain those people by making them feel like they're better off with you and you have their back. You have to be constantly training, coaching and elevating people. While this business is not rocket science, it is constantly evolving, and they have to understand how to provide value to be more productive. Third is profitability. Most small entrepreneurs don't realize that they have to build enterprise value in their business. 

Those are a few of the things that Century 21 helps its franchisees develop. 

Have you seen more interest in Century 21 since Anywhere's settlement in the commissions cases?

I've heard great commentary about what we've done from a leadership position, but it has not necessarily come up in conversations. Anywhere's decision to settle protects C21 affiliated brokers and agents from future litigation, allowing them to focus on what's most important: client service. Whether you're a buyer's agent or a seller's agent, C21 affiliated agents offer great value to clients and deserve compensation for it. We will continue to advocate for that.

How are you feeling about real estate in 2024?

We're coming off one of the most difficult years from a units perspective in 30+ years. Inflation is stubborn. But we're seeing inventory increase by double-digit percentages from last year. The economy seems to be moving well, but I don't know what the Fed is going to do. We're so tied to where the mortgage rate is, from an inventory perspective and sales perspective, so the way the rate goes will be the way movement goes in real estate. Consistency in rates would be a good thing.

The commissions lawsuits and turmoil at NAR have shaken the industry. What should leaders be most focused on in this environment?

Work on what you can control: taking care of customers, being that trusted advisor and doing whatever it takes to close deals. The rest will fall into place.

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