Exclusive Q&A: SVN CEO Kevin Maggiacomo Talks Name Change, Diversity and Global Expansion
By now you've heard that Sperry Van Ness has rebranded as SVN. While the brand name has been downsized, the company is bigger than ever, growing and expanding domestically and offshore. We caught up with SVN CEO Kevin Maggiacomo to find out what’s behind the name change and hear about the company's big international expansion plans for 2016.
Bisnow: Shortening company names to acronyms seems to be the modern rebranding tool, but what changes are behind this?
Kevin: While we have been using SVN for years, the official name change represents an opportunity for us to more accurately describe who we are as an organization. The reality is SVN today is very different from the Sperry Van Ness we were even five years ago. The company’s namesakes and founders—Mark Van Ness, who retired in 2010, and Rand Sperry—left its franchise business a year earlier, so we feel the time was right to rebrand and focus on our collaborative and open points of differentiation.
Bisnow: How does the company attempt to differentiate itself?
Kevin: Some examples include open broker forums, weekly national sales webinars open to the entire marketplace, and we have invited our competitors to attend a portion of our February 2016 national conference.
Looking further back, several other milestones have helped reshape our brand. We became a franchise operation in 2003—that provides our managing directors ownership of local SVN brokerages. We’ve found that this change is a win-win for both clients and SVN, providing a truly local business perspective with global resources.
Bisnow: How much of this is about technology and just the way business is done today?
Kevin: As we grew globally, the Sperry Van Ness name was constantly being shortened to SVN, and that along with the three-letter URL was an indication of credibility and stability. So two years ago, when we developed our strategic plan to grow internationally, we also began taking appropriate steps toward making the move to SVN permanent.
Bisnow: What strategic changes are in the works or planned in the short-term, and what does SVN hope to achieve with these changes?
Kevin: Further global expansion. Domestically we have opened more than 50 offices over the past 24 months, and our growth rate will escalate in 2016. Over the last 12 months, we’ve launched offices in Canada, Mexico and Russia. We will announce expansions into the Middle East and Western Europe in the first quarter of 2016 and will launch an aggressive build-out of the SVN brand throughout Latin America, South Africa and Asia in the second quarter.
We have also invested in adviser and managing director training programs that will be another major strategic mechanism for our growth. The SVN System for Growth is an intensive adviser training program aimed at increasing brokerage productivity, while the SVN Elite Program is a multi-platform, year-long curriculum, in which the best and brightest SVN advisers learn from each other.
Bisnow: In your announcement of the name change, you mention that "open, collaborative and transparent" are values SVN shares with clients. How are these values reflected in your culture and affecting relationships with clients and helping to attract new ones?
Kevin: Our creation of organized competition for all of our listings exemplifies both our core values and business strategy. In today's world, where two out of every three US sales transactions are purchased by out-of-market buyers, utilizing the brokerage community to identify likely buyers for our listings is the only way to go. To even think about selling assets without utilizing the 100,000-strong brokerage community reminds me that so much of our industry is ripe for disruption.
Bisnow: I hear you actually include competitors in this collaboration.
Kevin: Last year, we took our culture of collaboration to another level and elected to open up our once-private weekly sales call. These meetings have evolved into a highly interactive webinar, where every new listing procured over the last six days is showcased.
Lastly, in keeping with our shared value approach to growth, we are intentionally focused on diversity and gender-balance initiatives to power our growth going forward.