You have likely noticed the new real estate signs for NextHome –
Fredricksen Real Estate. They’re a visible display of the change taking
place in a business that has been in Williston for nearly forty years.
Real Estate has signed on with NextHome, a progressive real estate
franchise with consumer focused branding technology and marketing. The
changes are being driven by Heather Kitzman getting more involved with
the business decisions as part of a succession process in the company
started by her father, Craig McIvor.
Nearly Forty Years in Business
his first love is farming and it’s something he continues to do, McIvor
started Dakota Realty and Appraisal in 1978. Shortly thereafter in
1980, he acquired Fredricksen Real Estate and later bought Golden City
Property Management. The company continues to operate all three
companies under one roof at 719 Second Street West in Williston.
nearly forty years, the company has thrived and survived through a
number of business cycles in the Williston market. As the business
emerged from the Bakken Boom, Kitzman started thinking about the future
of the company, but it wasn’t always that way.
A Different Path
part of a family owned business, many children are involved at some
level and often find themselves pursuing the profession or being part of
a succession plan. From picking up the job site in home building
company, to cleaning rental properties or learning the ropes in a family
restaurant, they get a lot of exposure by the time they graduate high
Not so for Kitzman. “Growing up I didn’t think about being
in the business,” she relates. “Dad didn’t ask about it either.” So
after graduation, she went to school at the University of North Dakota
to pursue her education.
Discovering Special Needs
attending college, Kitzman was exposed to a special needs group home.
The experience sparked her interest and she pursued a degree in special
After a year-long internship for her master’s degree
and upon graduation, Kitzman returned to Williston and began a career
teaching special needs children, You can feel her passion when she
describes the work she did while teaching for nearly seven years.
Discovering Dad’s Business
some point I started thinking about Dad’s business. What’s this all
about?” she explains. “As I learned more about it, I started thinking
about real estate as a side job, a little extra income, the ability to
make my own hours.”
She decided to pursue the idea and in 2006
obtained her real estate license. She found success in her part-time
real estate career, but as things progressed, she determined it was not
viable for her to work full-time teaching and part-time in real estate.
A Decision Point
she would have to decide to pursue one career or the other full-time.
After much deliberation and careful consideration, “I decided to go for
it,” she says. “I was nervous and there was some fear but I felt I could
go back to teaching if I needed to.”
The first year full-time in
2007 was busy, new, and exciting. It got busier each year as the
Williston market experienced historical growth brought about by the
Bakken Shale oil boom.
Her career continued to blossom and in
2010, encouraged by McIvor, she obtained her broker’s license, in part
to cover the risk of McIvor being the only licensed broker in the firm.
Additionally, she began pursuing her appraisal license and is currently
an Appraiser Apprentice in pursuit of her appraisal license.
her time passed along, she began to think about the longer-term. “I’m a
future planner,” states Kitzman. In 2015 she started a conversation
with McIvor about the future. “What’s your plan, Dad?”
responded to her question with one of his own, “Are you interested in
taking over the business?” It led to an ongoing conversation and in
informal transition of management and decision-making.
McIvor remains the ultimate decision-maker and a source of vast
knowledge and experience that the team can rely on to answer questions
and provide guidance, Kitzman has been more involved in the day-to-day
operations of the business and a driver of change.
Next Thing - NextHome
most visible of those changes is a transition to NextHome. Having seen a
colleague join the franchise, Kitzman began looking into the
opportunity in March of 2016. With support from McIvor to research it
further, she quickly determined it to be the direction the company
needed to pursue.
“They had the technology and tools we were
searching for to use in our business,” explains Kitzman. “I was sold,
but needed the team to be as well.” She brought NextHome leadership to
Williston to present the program and get the agents involved in the
process. There was overwhelming support for moving forward.
transition would require a large investment, significant time
commitment, and a steep learning curve. Kitzman’s ultimate pitch would
be to McIvor to pull the trigger. “He could see how excited Heather was
and how excited the team was,” added Kim Semenko, an agent at the firm.
decision was made and NextHome Fredricksen Real Estate was launched on
October 1, 2016. The transition has been a lot of work but the results
have been noticeable and measurable.
The branding is highly
visible through new yard signs, consistency in imagery and a whole lot
of orange throughout the office. Luke, the little orange dog cut out
that stands watch over yard signs generates buzz with clients and
prospects alike. NextHome Fredricksen has taken it a step further with
Luke the real-life mascot. Beyond a strong visual brand, they are seeing
measurable results in activity. “Our lead volumes through online
platforms and locally have experienced significant increases,” shared
“I get excited when the agents are successful,” stated
Kitzman. “We’re setting new goals and seeing the impacts. We like
helping people make Williston their home.”
NextHome transition will continue to be a work in progress for the
foreseeable future. As for what succession of the business looks like,
they’re not sure. “Craig’s not the kind of guy that’s going to just
retire. He likes to work,” Kitzman reflects.
transition occurs, it appears certain she is poised to lead with vision
and the ability to manage the business and execute change.