John Melo and Larry Matos are living the American Dream. They earned it.
The principals of Century 21 M&M and Associates in just 16 years built a small office in Turlock into the world’s largest Century 21 organization with offices in 23 cities.
Melo was 28 and Matos only 20, when they purchased their first Century 21 franchise. However, the pair had strong work ethics and were not afraid of hard work.
“We were friends and we both grew up in dairy farm families”, said Melo. “We had worked in the same Coldwell Banker office in Turlock.”
“In 1994, the original office had a staff of four Melo, Matos and two other Realtors. The first Realtor we hired is still with us, Teresina Espinola“, said Melo.
Initially, the partners had reasonably ambitious plans for the new venture.
“Our goal was to grow the office and have a handful of offices in Stanislaus County”, said Melo, CEO of the firm. “However, the opportunity to grow presented itself and we took advantage of that.”
Company president Matos said the business has steadily grown.
“The bulk of our growth has always been in a down market”, added Melo. “Our growth came in the late 90s, early 2000s and again now. These transactions occurred in a down economy. You can find a lot of opportunity and ability to relieve business owners without a lot of money.”
“Just like the time to buy a house is when the market is in a slump”, explained Matos. “Its also the time to buy to other realty offices. Our business model is recognizing opportunity when others don’t”, said Matos.
“This year has been significant in the firms expansion with the acquisition of Coldwell Banker Endsley and Associates in Turlock and three top 100 ranked Century 21 offices in San Jose, Sunnyvale and Cupertino. The four new additions added 550 Realtors to Century 21 M&M and also will double its sales volume.”
Four years of recession has been trying for many real estate firms. Some slumping firms, which have recognized Century 21 M&M is in a buying mode, have reached out to the Oakdale-based organization.
“Were getting two or three calls a month from small business owners wanting to sell”, said Melo. “However, were very cautious with our growth, business plan and strategy.”
Part of that strategy is to grow into neighboring markets. The strategy allows Century 21 M&M to slowly spread its brand and maintain name recognition. The partners said they were offered a realty office in Seattle, but felt it was too big of jump and the Century 21 M&M is not known in the area.
Matos said the keys to making successful acquisitions are to maximize economy of scale, eliminate redundancies, and utilize technology. Technology, which the firm embraced in the late 1990s, is the secret to running offices from Solano County to Santa Clara County.
“We realized technology was the fast-moving center of business”, said Melo. “It streamlined costs and speed and maximized communications.”
Matos said in the past four years the firm has invested nearly $2 million in technology. He believes its provided the best return for the money.
“Everyone in the company is provided an e-fax, a mobile site, and an agent website“, said Melo. “All offices have Voice Over IP. An upcoming online platform will allow all escrow files to be available for clients and agents to see the progress and status. You can view files anytime. This is huge.”
Most importantly to Melo, technology allows him to manage a corporation with $2 billion annual sales and still have dinner most nights with his wife and their three children.
“Technology gave me the ability to be 70 to 80 percent more productive”, he said. “It allows me to send an answer to a question no matter where Im at. I can e-mail each of the companys 1,200 associates with just one e-mail. Its very powerful.”
John Piper, formerly of Century 21 Champion in San Jose and continuing as a vice president at Century 21 M&M, said the company was a technology leader.
“At Century 21 M&M and Associates, John and Larry have developed a compelling agent value package through their overwhelming online presence”, said Piper. “Our agents will be able to offer buyers and sellers in Silicon Valley the most advanced online marketing systems available.”
Melo and Matos still find the time to inspire their staff to contribute to their communities. The many community service efforts the firm is involved with include the Cancer Society Walk, local schools, local chambers, and anywhere there is a need.
“Were always looking to the part of the community that needs the help”, said Melo.
“One community service favorite is Coats for Kids & Cancer walk for life. Last year, Century 21 M&M donated more than 4,000 coats to the cause. Our goal this year is 10,000 coats”, said Melo.
The essence of Century 21 M&M is the two individuals that worked tirelessly to achieve the American Dream.
“The secret of our partnership is Larry and I have the similar business and personal philosophies”, said Melo.
While they may share ideals and goals, they have two totally different personalities and bring different strengths to the business.
“Larry is a great communicator. He loves to be in front of people and loves to educate and train. He loves the broker side of the business”, said Melo. “I like the business side. I love numbers, problem solving and finding solutions. I love working the back end of the business and looking at the big picture.”
The pairing obviously works.
“At the end of the day, we come together to build this business”, said Melo.