Forty years ago, Colin Steinert said to himself, I just want to start my own business.
He did and he still has a framed copy of his first bank statement showing a deposit of $30,919.02 in 1976 for the settlement of an inner city house somewhere in Adelaide; a transaction that was the first in Eckermann Conveyancers' settlement history.
Today, 40 years later, his business has grown to be the largest conveyancing firm in South Australia and has just rebranded from Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers to Eckermann Conveyancers, as the next generation takes the helm.
The legacy resulting from the coming together of Colin Steinert and Keith Eckermann, is Eckermann Conveyancers, its two sister firms, Eckermann Lawyers and Eckermann Forms (a Form 1 preparation service for real estate agents and vendors), and the umbrella entity, Eckermann Group.
'Gentlemen' business people
Despite the large staff and four offices around South Australia, Eckermann Conveyancers has the spirit and the ethos of the two founders, Colin Steinert and Keith Eckermann, at its core.
These men could be described as ‘gentlemen business people’ because their approach to business still pervades the company culture, 'we just gave good, reliable ethical service at all times and the business grew from repeat business,' says Colin.
Running counter to some commentary on South Australia's economic plight, Colin recalls how in the 1970s, 80s and 90s, the company benefited from recommendations from past clients and Real Estate Agents and Builders, ‘many of whom also had growing businesses over those years.’
South Australia must have some spirit of endeavour because many of these growing businesses were developing in an era when, 'interest rates were around 18%, a far cry from today’s 5%,' notes Colin.
Keith Eckermann was a banker and then a farmer, so conveyancing was a lifeline for dealing with the challenges of maintaining viability on the land during that time.
He recalls it was his banking experience that allowed him to understand the many principles and procedures of conveyancing, while his contacts among Rural Agents helped open doors because he could ‘talk the farmers’ lingo’.
As can happen in service businesses, Keith found delegation to be his biggest challenge as the company started growing but he eventually worked that out, the firm grew, and now he says, ‘most exciting for Judy and I was the transfer of ownership of the business to our three boys. WOW!!!’
40 years of change and challenge, 40 more to come (at least)
Colin says the main challenges during his time at the reins were the never ending changes to government regulations.
However, he argues the ongoing changes have been, ‘for the good and have resulted in more compliance and greater levels of ethical standards being required from all employed in the Real Estate industry.
On the positive side of the ledger, Colin remains upbeat about the introduction of computers from 30 years ago he believes they ‘made all administration work much easier’.
'Banks and mortgage providers have maintained a rampant pace of change over the last 20 years, which has had direct implications on conveyancers dealing with them on behalf of their clients,' he says.
To prosper through times of change is always demanding on business owners who have family.
Keith says his study in the first three years while working full time to become a Registered Conveyancer, along with time spent on people management as the business grew quickly, led to limited time with the family.
‘I am very thankful for a very considerate wife, Judy, three patient boys and staff that I really did like to treat as family,’ says Keith.
‘I felt our ‘family’ could see the bigger picture and we were able to enjoy some great times together.’
The passing of the baton
Perhaps the final words should go to Colin Steinert. He sums up his closing chapter of conveyancing thus:
'After 26 years in Conveyancing with ten staff, and at age 52 I was tired and was well entrenched into property development. I made the offer to Keith to buy me out.
'He and his family have done a wonderful job since then to grow the business into the empire that it is today.
'I am proud and thankful to the Eckermanns that my name is still today, part of the business name of Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers.
'I don’t expect it will be with their re branding and if not, I will have no regrets.
'I have had and will no doubt continue to have, a great friendship and working relationship with Keith, Brad, Hayden and Jarrod going forward, and wish them continuing success in their Conveyancing business for many years to come,' says Colin Steinert.
Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers has now rebranded as Eckermann Conveyancers.
Attached are two shots of the first settlement statement and logos for all companies.
The Eckermann Group commenced operations in South Australia in 1976 with its first business, Eckermann Conveyancers (previously Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers).
Today the Eckermann Group consists of:
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