Brighter outlook prompts more people to join Century 21 A recovery in the real estate market has encouraged more employees to chase their dreams to establish their own business empires. Luke Ng Kai-man, chief executive of Century 21 (Hong Kong), said more people had joined his company riding on the recent property turnaround. The United States-based company, which has a chain of more than 8,000 offices in more than 40 countries, operates by allowing independent companies to run their own franchises while benefiting from the advantages of joint promotion and training. 'In the past six months, the number of outlets under Century 21 (Hong Kong) has increased by more than 40 to 100,' Mr Ng said. The Hong Kong office was launched in 1994. About a third of the new outlets were set up by newcomers and the rest through expansion, he said. All of the newcomers are experienced salespeople who formerly worked for leading agents such as Centaline Property Agency and Midland Realty. 'In a large organisation, it takes a long time to to be promoted to district manager. People reckon their career path is shorter if they set up their own firms,' Mr Ng said. To join as franchised members, people must prove their financial health - they need to have $300,000 in savings in the bank. Then they must fulfil the training programme before they can use the Century 21 brand to operate their businesses. Mr Ng said individual agents still had a chance of survival even though the two leading agents control about 60 per cent of market share. 'Quality service is key to success in this industry. Small agents can get customers if they can provide professional services. There is no monopoly in the market.' Shih Wing-ching, chairman of Centaline (Holdings), the parent of Centaline Property, said the franchise concept was not a bad idea but so far it was not strong enough to compete with the two market leaders due to lack of resources and network.