Forty years ago, Colin Steinert said to himself, I just want to start my own business.
Little did he know that 40 years later, Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers would span four offices around South Australia and spawn two sister companies, Eckermann Lawyers and Eckermann Forms.
Today, the firm has transformed into Eckermann Conveyancers but the spirit and the ethos of the two founders, Colin Steinert and Keith Eckermann, both of whom I would describe as ‘gentlemen business people’, still pervades the company culture.
Understanding the optimistic, have-a-go spirit of Colin in setting up a conveyancing practice at just 26 years of age, does give some insight into how a business could have such clear ethics right from the start.
The first settlement from 1976
The image you see above is a scan of Colin Steinert’s first Trust Account statement, which interests me on two levels.
Firstly, it has been a long time since I (or many South Australians) have seen the old Bank Of Adelaide logo. In later years, that bank was taken over by the ANZ.
Secondly, the very first entry on the statement is an historic deposit for our firm.
Dated 23 August 1976, the deposit of $30,919.02 was for the settlement of an inner city house somewhere in Adelaide; the first Eckermann Conveyancers settlement in history.
Technically, the firm was originally a Land Brokerage because the term ‘Conveyancer’ did not come into use until some time later.
The poignant thing for me, as I reflect on the old ‘Eckerman Steinert Conveyancers’, is how, at its core, no matter how much new technology we use to keep abreast of client demands and regulatory changes, everything boils down to making sure the right amount of money is ‘conveyed’ to the right place at the right time under the right contractual conditions.
Although we take steps to make sure our planning decisions are grounded in such pragmatic insights, the benefit of looking over historical documents and hearing the stories of our forebears, Colin and Keith, is important at times like this milestone of 40 years trading and a brand new identity and structure.
The Eckermann Conveyancers secret of success: Good, reliable ethical service
As Colin reflected on the success of the firm in the early days, he says the answer is quite simple.
We just gave good, reliable ethical service at all times and the business grew from repeat business.
Interestingly, amid gloomy chatter about South Australia’s future in some sectors, 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.’
And they must have been doing something right because Colin reminds us interest rates were around 18% in much of that era, a far cry from today’s 5%.
Keith Eckermann recalls he was a banker and then a farmer, so conveyancing was a lifeline from Colin due to 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’.
This might also explain why innovation and careful selection of new technology is central to the DNA of Eckermann Conveyancers; it has been in our blood for decades.
Colin also noted how 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.
To prosper through times of change is always demanding and Keith reflects how 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 Eckermann’s 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.
This article marks the transformation of Eckermann Steinert Conveyancers into Eckermann Conveyancers, and my next article will explain the rationale for our name change and what it reflects of this company that we and many thousands of South Australians, have grown to trust and look to for safeguarding their prosperity.