HR in the Hot Seat: Marcus Chu, COO, ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd

by Lauren Acurantes01 Nov 2016
What is your job title and what brought you into this role?
I am the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of ERA Realty Network Pte Ltd (ERA). I first joined ERA as a salesperson in 1996. Some of my humble accolades include ERA’s Top New Achiever in 1997, inducted in ERA’s League of Honour in 1999 (as recognition for consistent top results from 1997 to 1999), Top Producer for ERA International among 34 countries and 32,000 agents in 1999, and the first ERA salesperson in Singapore to achieve $1M commissions in a year.

Over the years, I took on a keen interest in the company’s growth through recruitment and nurturing talents. I also drove the company’s strategic branding and culture, positioning ERA as the Home of the Elites. In addition, I am a strong believer in developing training programmes and tools to enable people to discover their full potential. Together with other management staff, I am responsible for the daily operations of ERA including human resource, advertising & promotions, communications, corporate marketing and training & development.

What motivates or excites you the most about your current position?
ERA is a leading real estate agency in the world. Being able to grow together with the company, helping to establish it as the largest real estate agency in Singapore with over 6,460 salespersons today motivates me the most. 

The human resource department is a very dynamic arm of the company. One of ERA’s missions is to develop aspiring individuals, aiding them to unleash their potential. 

Currently, ERA has existing internship, training & development and scholarship programmes as we aim to groom young and passionate individuals to excel. Seeing the transformation of newly joined teammates becoming successful achievers and working with like-minded leaders and staff in the industry is my motivation these days.

What is unique about HR at ERA?
At ERA, our human resources team supports the welfare of associates and corporate staff, including freelance contract associates to deliver the highest quality service to their customers. We also develop and manage strategies for employees across: administration & corporate sales, advertising & promotions, accounting & finance, auction, business development, commercial & industrial, IT, legal, property management, project marketing, research, training & development and valuation functions to reach their full potential. 

As a result, our 6,460-strong team of real estate professionals has served more than 400,000 satisfied clients, maintaining our position as the largest real estate agency in Singapore. 

What will HR’s biggest challenges be for the coming year?
The greatest challenges involve mobilising the whole company of 6,460 salespersons for the annual renewal of salesperson license exercise by the Council for Estate Agencies to uphold the professionalism in this industry. 

For instance, fulfilment of continuing professional development, Medisave obligation, online declarations and payment of renewal fees by every salesperson. Unlike other industries, estate agents are entrepreneurs and our role is to facilitate their personal upgrading and business growth.
HR plays a critical role in developing them to be adaptable and acquire skills to meet the needs of an ever-changing real estate market. 

What has been the strangest HR scenario you’ve ever experienced?
We had a very sweet couple aged above 75 join us recently as associates. Their aspiration to learn and improve is a great inspiration to all of us at ERA. On the other spectrum, we do encounter salespersons that do not respect and understand the licensing system enforced by CEA.

If there’s one piece of HR-related advice you could give, what would it be?
Empathy and compassion towards customers and salespersons. We always strive to achieve our vision to be the choice company for consumers and real estate salespersons. The supporting in-house staff are constantly reminded to focus in providing good service to our salespersons. With this demonstration of care and empathy within the organization, our salespersons will feel good and it will become natural that they will treat their customers well.

We also understand that employees are our most important asset. Customers wouldn’t exist without the hard work and dedication of the salespersons and employed staff. Just as our business value customers’ satisfaction, as an employer we should value the salespersons and staff too. If you invest in your people, in return they will invest in the company. That’s the strong culture in ERA that helps us in high retention and performance.

Where’s the best place to go for dinner/drinks in Singapore? Why?
It’s never about the best place, it’s with whom you spend time with that matters. To me, my family matters the most.