Engel & Völkers Licence Partner Vilamoura > Blog > 40 years of Engel & Völkers - the road to becoming a global brand

40 years of Engel & Völkers - the road to becoming a global brand

More than 10,000 people in over 30 countries work for the brand Engel & Völkers - an impressive track record for Christian Völkers, founder and CEO of Engel & Völkers AG after 40 years of corporate history. A short review of the real estate company’s early beginnings and the most important questions for the future:

 Vilamoura / Algarve
- 40 years of Engel & Völkers - on the occasion of the company’s anniversary we are revealing the history of founder Christian Völkers and how he built up a successful real estate company.

The early beginnings in Hamburg’s Elbe suburbs

What did you want to become as a child? For Christian Völkers, it was not a specific choice of career, but an ambition that he already had early in life: “I always wanted to build up something, develop something”, Christian Völkers remembers. As the founder of one of the world’s largest real estate companies, he undoubtedly managed this. But it was a long and winding road. The cornerstone was laid together with his friend Dirk Engel. In the late 70s, Dirk Engel was the exclusive agent of an US real estate company, while Christian Völkers was working for a Hamburg business consultancy reviewing American property funds. The two of them exchanged ideas and decided to start a brokerage firm in the Elbe suburbs of Hamburg. This marked the beginning of the success story of Engel & Völkers. Christian Völkers’ approach at the time was rather unconventional for the tradition-oriented Hanseatic city. For example, he drove through Blankenese and spoke to the owners of beautiful properties, asking them whether they would be interested in selling their home.

Challenging times

A few years after the start of the joint venture, Dirk Engel passed away. For Christian Völkers, this was a heavy blow, both personally and professionally. “I was not in a position to manage the company on my own or handle the sales on my own. A lot of people came to me and said “We will buy your shop - after all, you don’t stand a chance on the market!” But even then, Christian Völkers realised that customer contact is much more successful if supported by a well-defined property viewing process, a well structured dialogue and the right questions at the right time. After the death of his friend and business partner, Christian Völkers withdrew for a few months to draft the so-called Engel & Völkers handbook. This 300-page manual contains the rules and guidelines that are at the heart of the company’s business operations to this day. Updated continuously, the handbook offers advice to brokers in the daily work routine and provides a uniform Engel & Völkers brand experience - for everything from the set-up of a residential property shop to the detailed workflow for a property viewing.

From Hamburg to the rest of the world

This systematic service concept served as basis for the expansion success of the brand later on. Thus, the first international location was opened on Majorca in 1990, and in the late 90s, Christian Völkers introduced the franchise system. A transition that was quite difficult initially, he explains: “The introduction of a franchise system meant that we had to hand over successful shops to the new franchise partners and only earn license fees instead of profits. We quickly learned that you need at least 70 to 80 franchise outlets to cover the costs of the company headquarters. The leap from 30 to 80 outlets was a difficult time.” Today, the Engel & Völkers brand is represented in over 800 locations worldwide.

The future of Engel & Völkers

The biggest structural change of the future according to Christian Völkers is the digitisation. “The questions I am currently asking include: How will digitisation impact us and how will we safeguard our existence and future in the next 20 years?” Would he sell his company? “That is the last thing I would want to do”, says Christian Völkers.

More personal insights on 40 years of Engel & Völkers can be found in the interview with Christian Völkers in GG Magazine. Read the complete interview in the current special issue of the magazine.

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