ANNA MARIA -- For 13 years, real estate broker Darcie Duncan has been as involved in the people business as she has been in selling property.
Her 14-employee real estate sales and rental business, Duncan Real Estate, exudes the same "fun and funky" atmosphere as its Anna Maria Island location, complete with a pinup girl logo and a recent rebranding along "old Florida" lines. But there's nothing old Florida about the company's business model. Poised to increase the size of its property management division by 15 percent this year and sales volume by 20 percent, Duncan Real Estate has used an up-and-down real estate market to shape itself into a business that can succeed in any economy.
Duncan Real Estate is this year's Manatee Chamber of Commerce Small Business of the Year in the $500,000 to $1.5 million revenue category.
Duncan said the key to her success is a stable team of employees who know the needs of her clients -- whether they be residential, commercial, property management, vacation rental or long-term leasing. Her company survived the 2008 housing market crash because she "swam with the sharks" by becoming an early specialist in short sales. The company is also leaner and meaner than it was. Duncan closed a satellite office she once maintained in Lakewood Ranch and trimmed expenses.
Since then, the self-described boutique agency has boosted dedication to personal service using methods that include sending electronic satisfaction surveys to vacation rental guests and soliciting service comments from sales clients.
Building her agency's appeal is based in making Duncan Real Estate a place where agents and support staff want to come to work. Duncan recently reorganized her business on the advice of a consultant. She revamped job descriptions, shifted work spaces and made sure new hires not only had the requisite skills to do their jobs, but were also compatible with existing staff members.
Duncan describes the agency's office at 310 Pine Ave. in the city of Anna Maria as "bright, airy and organized." Employees are encouraged to express their personal styles at their desks. Reggae is usually the music of choice playing on the radio. All of it, Duncan said, increases employee optimism and morale.
Outside of the office, Duncan Real Estate has boosted its image online and with traditional advertising. The company's website, teamduncan.com, is in the process of being redesigned. Changes will include regular fresh content, integrated social media and features that will make booking a vacation home easier.
Recently, the company did a giveaway that increased foot traffic at its office. Duncan said print advertising and signage at the agency's properties have increased call volume by 50 percent.
Duncan, a lifelong Manatee County resident, said she is dedicated to involving herself and her business in the community. She has served as a volunteer in a number of capacities, including on boards of directors with the Anna Maria Island Community Center and the Manatee Chamber of Commerce. She and her team members can be seen in their off-work time on their float in the annual St. Patrick's Day Parade and at spring training games.
Matt M. Johnson, Herald business reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7027, or on Twittercface fontname="Regular" naxe="0" iaxis="0"/>