A number of employees recently became shareholders in one of the largest estate agencies in the country. During its annual conference in August at Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch, Leapfrog Property Group officially handed over the first share options to agents, franchisees and support staff.
At the time of its inception critics slammed Leapfrog with its stated BEE goals and share incentives to its personnel and associates. It is common knowledge that most of the estate agencies in South Africa are family owned and family run businesses. The problem created by this hegemony was that estate agents couldn’t easily become shareholders in the companies that they helped to build and enrich. Going solo also presented its own risks and difficulties. The end result was a climate rich for change.
That change came in July 2007 with the creation of Leapfrog by the New Deal Trust. The Trust is aimed at empowerment and its beneficiaries are all the registered black estate agents in South Africa. During trying financial times, and much incredulity from established estate agencies, the group opened 46 offices across the country and has managed to prosper, building on its reputation and property portfolio.
The culmination of the process was the recent presentation of share options to the first 92 in a line of recipients. The cherry on top of course is that not only estate agents stand to benefit, but also all franchisees and administrative staff.
The concept is actually remarkably simple; share options are allocated based on performance and can be exercised five years after issue, with the proviso that the recipient is still affiliated with Leapfrog.
The New Deal Trust, which owns 25% of Leapfrog, is yearly making 25,000 share options available to support staff, estate agents and to franchisees.
These shares can still be brought to bear after retirement or a career change. This offers beneficiaries the opportunity for real wealth creation, income annuity and proud ownership in the company, with the eventual say in its affairs to boot.
Further innovation includes personnel being given the opportunity of earning on the recruitment of estate agents for the group. These components ensure that both established and up-and-coming agents are given the opportunity to hone their skills whilst building a tangible financial future for themselves and their families – even into retirement. Too good to be true? While this is a great idea with plenty of benefits to employees it also makes complete sense – if you’re looking ahead.
More than that however, research is increasingly showing that employees who feel a sense of ownership in a company work harder, are more loyal and end up increasing the companies’ profits. As such Leapfrog is not only a BEE company but, also one of the fore-runners in organisational management.
Its approach also explains why Leapfrog has so successfully lured away top earners from other large agencies to become Leapfrog franchisees. The bottom line is that Leapfrog and its increasing number of shareholders are here to stay.