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Small is the new Big

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Who Are You Rooting For?

Small brokers all over the country are competing head to head with the big brand names. The web 2.0 movement has enabled small brokers to capture market awareness and offer enhanced services at a value compared to many traditional brokerage brands. Small brokers can roll out new technologies faster due to scale and aren’t afraid to be early adopters on beta tools. Many large brokers are on proprietary systems and it takes forever and a day for them to move to market demands. Blogging is also something small brokers seem to ‘get’ more than large brokers. (you’re going to see me use the word ‘get’ often. as I believe there two types of people in our industry, those who ‘get it’ and those who don’t. you just can’t beat hanging with ‘get it’ people.) Would you rather work for a broker who blogs about the community to grow market awareness or one who gets paid to send blast emails to newly licensed agents to grow recruiting numbers?

The Cool Kids are Doing It

It’s great to see successful agents choosing small brokers to hang their license. Way to go Ines Hegedus-Garcia, Kevin Warmath, and Lane Bailey for making a recent change to small brokers! I’d also like to point out some really great small brokers who are making a name for themselves in real estate 2.0: Jay Thompson, Matt Fagioli, and AG’s very own Benn and Lani Rosales. Teresa Boardman has done some pondering on this topic as well. Will she go small broker?

What’s a Brand Name Worth Anyways?

Why pay those hefty franchise fees, or large splits for a brand name consumers may or may not trust. With the corporate scandals and wall street uncertainty of the past few years, consumers trust brand names much less today than ever before. It seems most of America yearns for the small town local touch of service. When you go out to eat…do you prefer the local whole in the wall with eclectic atmosphere, good food and personal service or do you pick the large chain restaurant where nobody knows your name? I know it depends on your mood and location at the time, but doesn’t real estate involve location and emotion? I know I take my clients to Lucia’s and not Olive Garden or the Right Wing Tavern and not Ruby Tuesday’s. So, why do agents continue to pay the large caps and silly technology fees when many small brokers have better splits and no hidden junk fees? Is the brand really worth those extra fees?

If you are considering a fresh start in real estate, more money to spend on your business, or just want to hang out with people who ‘get it’, then you should consider your local small broker. They may very well ‘get it’ way more than your current or next large brand broker and save you thousands of dollars annually.

Seth Godin Agrees

Small means the founder makes a far greater percentage of the customer interactions. Small means the founder is close to the decisions that matter and can make them, quickly.

Small is the new big because small gives you the flexibility to change the business model when your competition changes theirs.

Small means you can tell the truth on your blog.

Small means that you can answer email from your customers.

America loves the underdog!

Chaotic Good adventurer on a quest to optimize the lives of others. Husband & Father to Wolverines. Founder of RETSO + Managing Director at Path & Post.

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59 Comments

59 Comments

  1. Ken Smith

    July 3, 2008 at 2:14 pm

    “So, why do agents continue to pay the large caps and silly technology fees when many small brokers have better splits and no hidden junk fees? Is the brand really worth those extra fees?”

    Depends on the agent and how they get their business. Many live and die by floor time and other methods that revolve around the office generating the leads.

    The best small brokers will innovate, grow, and then be bought out by the big boys. Acquisition has been the way the big brands have grown for years.

  2. Brad Nix

    July 3, 2008 at 2:32 pm

    @Ken No doubt every business model is unique and agents are entrepreneurs (at least they should be). My point was that times are changing and many small brokers are now able to compete with the large brands on lead generation (floor time or web time). Does it matter where the lead comes from? Assume both brokers provide the same # of leads to the agent, should the agent pay more for a brand? How much more? Plus, small brokers can generate more leads than large brands in many markets.

    As for innovation, growth and then sellout (some offers can’t be refused), but I still advise the agents within the companies to give small broker’s a chance – they may should even leave after a sellout. The net dollars to agent after small broker splits can be a staggering vs large brands and the leads may very well be more (there are tons of other factors too – many posts to come in this topic).

  3. Teresa Boardman

    July 3, 2008 at 2:50 pm

    Brad – my whole business philosophy and the philosophy behind the blog and my business model was heavily influenced by Seth Godin’s book, “Small is the new Big”. . . I don’t really work for a big company but a franchise that is controlled at the local level. Not sure if working with a small company is any different than working alone or if working with a bigger company is any different than working alone. My point is I work alone, by choice. Which brokerage I am with only affects my bottom line. it doesn’t change the way I do business.

  4. ines

    July 3, 2008 at 3:06 pm

    Hey Brad – when I saw the title I knew what the post was about, then I clicked and saw the graphic and almost fell of my chair! LOL

    Thanks for the mention, the change feels good!! I was just talking to someone about the advantages of working with a big name and I can see tons, especially for newer agents – they have training, they have systems in place and they usually have good support.

    Once their support, big name and everything they have to offer looses importance and you see more cons than pros…..then a move would be in effect (although it is not at all easy and there are some nightmare stories around).

    **Love the Seth Godin quote – EVERYTHING there applies to us**

  5. Ken Smith

    July 3, 2008 at 3:09 pm

    Brad I understand what you where saying, just pointing out there is another side to the story.

    I actually agree with you 100% and feel there is little to no value in most large brands for me. I brand myself and have no interest in sitting down in a listing presentation and saying “we sell more homes then any other brokerage in the world”, who cares…how good of an agent I am is what matters.

  6. DJ Swanepoel

    July 3, 2008 at 3:35 pm

    Small is the new big – I agree. There are a lot of smaller agencies and solo agents making it because of the virtue of their independence. Without a huge corporate structure to work around, they can often get things take care of quicker, build more intimate, lasting relationships with their customers and create their own personal brand.

    However, even big companies capitalize off of this concept; there are a lot of major real estate brands (e.g. Prudential, ReMax, Century21) that have lots of localized franchise offices all over the nation. Some of these franchises also have a decent amount of leeway in the way they conduct business and promote themselves under the umbrella of their parent company (e.g. an affiliated Realtor can have their own blog or totally custom website, as long as the logo of their umbrella company is displayed somewhere on the site).

  7. Brad Nix

    July 3, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    @Teresa I think you have the perfect approach. You work alone because you are in business for yourself. No doubt you could become a broker, stay with the franchise, move to large name brand, or go small broker. Your bottom line is what matters most. It’s just that today more than ever the small brokers bottom line is better than the large brokers and you gain more than you lose in the move!

    @Ines Glad you liked the pic and even happier to hear how good the change feels for you.

    @Ken Always two sides. I just think the small side is now more attractive than ever before. Agents should shop before signing up for the next MLM. Glad your 100% with me!

  8. Jonathan Dalton

    July 3, 2008 at 4:43 pm

    In January I left C21 for RE/MAX, one mega-brand for another. “If you’re chasing the money,” my manager told me, “go to a 100% shop.” Meaning one without a 5% NAF.

    Except … well, I’m a wuss.

    I could hang my own shingle. I could join Jay locally. I could go to another place. But I want to have the brand behind me. Maybe I don’t need it behind me but it’s nice to have just in case.

    Could I be doing better than $9K to the plus side at a 100% shop? Probably … but I’m still happy where I am, at least for the time being.

  9. Brad Nix

    July 3, 2008 at 5:05 pm

    @Jonathan I think you hit on something extremely powerful in today’s environment. What if you and Jay worked under the same brokerage? Think of the presence you could have on the web together. Sharing ideas, pushing each other, sharing resources…a truly powerful combination. A small brokerage full of local bloggers could kill large brands in local markets. You’d be hiring Buyer’s agents and admins left and right just handle the leads. (p.s. Jay is not paying me to recruit)

  10. Paula Henry

    July 3, 2008 at 6:10 pm

    Brad – This is a timely topic for me! I spoke to my broker last week about the possibility of making a change. My decision is whether to go out on my own or another RE/MAX with lower fees.

    I personally believe the RE/MAX brand is worth the cost here in Indianapolis. Although a big city, people seem to associate with a brand name. I do my own thing, have everything I need at home, rarely go in to the office – no mandatory meetings, don’t do floor time. I feel about as small and independant as one can be under another broker.

    I am also mindful a broker could shut down my blog, whether a small company or a name brand. The only solution to that is to open my own – small does hold some attraction.

    I hang out here to be with “people who get it”.

  11. Mark Eibner

    July 3, 2008 at 8:12 pm

    we’re at it again Small is the new Big: *****Smoking stunts your body\’s growth. NOT cl.. https://tinyurl.com/58wfgm

  12. Rich Jacobson

    July 3, 2008 at 6:14 pm

    Big or Small, to me, it boils down to support and empowerment. I have worked in both smaller, family owned brokerages, as well as larger regional offices. Having a Managing Broker who creates a environment for success, and empowers you to achieve, followed closely with fun, dedicated support staff. If you have those two things, I don’t care what banner is hanging outside.

    What’s interesting to observe during these market shifts is the adjustment of commission splits among offices.

  13. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 3, 2008 at 8:00 pm

    For me, its less about big or small flags flying above my head – and more about the broker himself. If my current broker came in and said “We’re switching flags from REMAX to Country Bumpkin Realty”, I’d say “Where’s our straw hat and harmonica”. That being said, I do think some of the franchise names do carry some weight especially for persons relocating in from other parts of the country. They are more apt to recognize our flag, than some of the local persons. But, for me it comes down to the broker 1st and foremost. Everything else is a very distant and remote second.

  14. Norm Fisher

    July 3, 2008 at 9:32 pm

    I agree that most “brands” have limited value. They’ve actually done very little to protect the integrity of their names. Most major brokerages will hire just about anyone and that doesn’t help them. One of the bigger advantages of being small and independent is the control over who you associate with. I doubt though that going independent brings much in the way of a cost break unless you’re happy to work without an office. I struggled with poor production when I worked from home.

  15. Jay Thompson

    July 4, 2008 at 12:03 am

    Jonathan – listen to Brad. Scroll up and read comment #9 again… 😉

  16. Brad Coy

    July 4, 2008 at 1:09 am

    Brad,

    Could you recruit for me?… I will pay you. j/k but really.. I would.

    Small is the new big is my mantra.

  17. Jim Gatos

    July 4, 2008 at 5:31 am

    Very interesting.. I read all these comments and I just take it in. As for my agency, I work with Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage. Very Very Corporate. Corporate can be good, too..

    First of all, my manager is pretty much a “forward” thinking guy. I run things by him all the time and I sincerely get an impression that, as long as it’s legal and ethical, and cost effective, it’s okay. I was trying to get a company approved as a short sale company so I could do short sales in my office. The way the short sale company had their agreement was unacceptable to corporate. Instead of flipping out I looked at the situation from THEIR point of view. Bottom line; I agreed. My manager actually negotiated with the short sale company until everyone was happy.

    At this point, I “feel” like a small even though I’m with a “big”.. It’s hard to explain it. I suppose it’s a matter of perception and personal satisfaction.

  18. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 5:36 am

    @Jennifer I think out of town buyers buy houses and not agents. We can all agree here that the internet is the place most relo buyers will begin their search. Small brokers can have equal or more web presence with today’s tools. Again, I feel the large brand value has diminished, even for relo. But let’s assume you were talking about the official relo program that large brand broker has across the country. Can an agent really be successful relying on this type of relo referral and then turn around and pay 40% or more back to the large brand broker? Many agents would rather just blog and generate their business, right Teresa?

    @Jay and @Brad – there is a huge opportunity to have many RE.net folks work together in local markets. Someone should work on recruiting to match RE 2.0 agents together with small brokers.

  19. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 6:43 am

    @Jim Corporate can be very good and there are some great large brand managing brokers (Chad Lariscy at KW and Charles Woodall @ C21 come to mind). I just encourage you to make sure you are not paying more than you should for the brand name. It seems you like your CB office because of the people, not the brand. You can get the same great people experience without paying for the large brand with small brokers.

  20. ines

    July 4, 2008 at 7:48 am

    I just want to add that the big dogs usually have more limitations, and I’ve found that the limitations are not so much about protecting the brand (which I would understand), it has to do with where the money ultimately goes (like relocation and referral rules for example).

    I liked my broker and the people in the office, and the environment was great (as a matter of fact I will miss a lot of people), but it’s beyond the people and the brandk…….if your feel your business is being limited and not reaching its full potential as an independent contractor, then what’s the point?

  21. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 4, 2008 at 7:48 am

    @ Brad – While I personally don’t do it to this extreme, there is an agent that I know of in Lexington KY that is getting 150-200 referrals a year from other agents who have customers relocating to the area. And again, I’m not advocating big brand over small brand. Brand is vastly less important than it once was. That being said, if all other factors are equal (reputation, marketing ability, online presence, etc), a big brand does offer, albeit slight, some advantage. For me, its all about the broker. I don’t really give 2 hoots what brand they are with as its not a deciding factor.

  22. Heather Elias

    July 4, 2008 at 7:55 am

    Very timely….I’ve been having this discussion with colleagues here quite a bit. For me, I agree with those that have said that the managing broker plays a large role in whether the big brokerage value proposition does in fact add value. I think each agent needs to look at where their business is coming from. If it’s all self generated and the company isn’t contributing to that (via floor time, internet leads, relocation, whatever) then you have to look at the numbers to see if it makes sense to be there..

    (and I’m thinking that I should go out and buy “Small is the New Big”…still working on “Meatball Sundae” right now!)

  23. Eric Blackwell

    July 4, 2008 at 8:40 am

    Brad;

    Since no one (I don’t think) has said it yet…you deserve some props for that graphic. Nicely done!

    Eric

  24. Jennifer in Louisville

    July 4, 2008 at 8:45 am

    @ Eric – not to rain on the compliment, but that graphic has been on the web for a while. But still, its a nice use for this particular topic. 🙂

  25. Bill Lublin

    July 4, 2008 at 9:06 am

    Brad; Right out of the Box and I have to disagree, but with respect. Our business has always had periods of contraction and expansion, and agents have typically started new brokerages as small indpendent offices. Though I do agree with you that some of the tools available now make marketing to a wider audience even easier.

    As others have pointed it out, its really not about size or brand as much as it is about business. I don;t like some franchises (for myself) because their business models don’t make sense to me. When I opened my company (in the front 1/2 of a store front) I don’t think you could have started much smaller. Me, My wife, 1/2 a store, and a couple of desks. And we sold our size- :Professional Service with a Personal Touch” was (and is still our motto) The Broker is involved in your transaction (I was involved in everything including taking out the trash and cleaning the office). But then, if you do your job right as a broker, you grow your company. And as the company grows, you sell the growth, the size, the aggressions, but always the quality.

    After 11 years as an independent we grew to 2 offices, then did a merger/acquisition and went to 4 offices with a National Brand as a franchisee. No one from that franchise (Century 21) has ever come into my company to dictate how we do what we do. That is my decision with the partners I have brought into the business (because in my world that’s what you do with hard working agents – not all of them but some special ones). And I have to say that my growth from two offices to 8 was facilitated by having the resources of the national brand to help me do what I wanted to do. And then I still did the things I wanted to do that differentiate me from the other members of the franchise.

    When I was small we bragged that we had the same technology as the larger brokers. When we got larger we spoke about how we still maintain communication and personal contact with our agents and buyers and sellers. I don’t think its about large or small, independent or franchise, I think its about commerce. If you do well, you want to do better. I like our size (8 offices about 300 agents) and the fact that we operate small agent populations in our offices with an emphasis on training and agent support and technology, but I like that because it was MY vision and I grew it. That said, I don’t think one is better then another, except as it suits the individual’s perception.

    And though I didn’t agree with the post I really enjoyed reading it – I think you made your arguments well. structured them well, and if I hadn’t gone through the process, I would have been right there with ya! I liked the post better then the graphic. 😉

    Oh, and by the way, the cycle is good market, big offices, people open new places, market readjusts, some agents leave, some companies grow, some close, some are acquired by larger ones, and we’re off to the races again 😉

  26. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 9:27 am

    @Bill If I made everyone happy with my first post, then I would have quickly become irrelevant. I’m glad you disagree and welcome the discussion of differences. Congratulations to you and your growth. I am certain there are some offers you can’t refuse in this business. However, I have a few questions for you, Mr. big brand name broker,….

    After becoming a part of C21, do your agents now pay more than when you were small?
    If so, how do you justify the increase to broker/franchise/owner and less to agent?
    If not, then how does C21 make any money from you and your agents?
    (I realize your existing agents may have been grandfathered in, but my hunch is new agents pay more than they use to when you were small broker)

  27. Bill Lublin

    July 4, 2008 at 9:38 am

    Actually, after having been an independent for so many years, when we made the transition, several of my agents came to me with concerns about the royalty fees (in our company they are deducted from the commissions before we divide the commissions) and I said to them – “Since I made this decision, if you don’t make more money net this year then you did this past year, I will pay you the difference out of my own pocket”. At the end of the year, they all found that the brand had added value to their efforts and we never looked back. And I’m a fairness freak – it was all the same for everyone.

    What I found (and I don’t know what anyone else’s experience was) that we grew our business enough that we all made more money- and that’s how that worked. Being a Brand made my independent company bigger and I made it more profitable – but thats as much me as the brand.Its a chocolate and vanilla thing

  28. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 10:00 am

    By your response, I assume it now costs agents more to be with you at C21.

    I just think many agents would prefer to work with great brokers like yourself without having to pay C21. I simply encourage all agents to consider local small brokers (like you once were). They may very well join up with a super-small-broker like @Bill Lublin and have years of quality production (and get the insider benefits if the small broker sells out).

  29. ines

    July 4, 2008 at 10:10 am

    There also a part of the small broker that has not been mentioned in this discussion and it is the “competing broker”. If the broker actually is hitting the streets and competing against you, it will turn off a lot of people from joining your small brokerage. We first signed up with a KW office because we loved the business model and left within 4 months to CB because of the competing broker issue.

  30. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 10:21 am

    @ines we’ll save that topic for separate post. i have plenty of opinions there as well.

  31. Holly White

    July 4, 2008 at 10:38 am

    @Ines – Great point! I’m looking forward to a post from you or Brad on that subject.

  32. Erion Shehaj

    July 4, 2008 at 11:25 am

    The web 2.0 movement has enabled small brokers to capture market awareness and offer enhanced services at a value compared to many traditional brokerage brands. Small brokers can roll out new technologies faster due to scale and aren’t afraid to be early adopters on beta tools…

    …Blogging is also something small brokers seem to ‘get’ more than large brokers.

    There’s one more piece that makes this web 2.0 movement tick and that enables small companies to utilize a mixture of new technologies, common sense and (why not?) a little genius to make a significant stand in this new landscape. I like to call it search centralization. The ability to write compelling content in a real estate blog would be severely undermined if it could not by found and read by your target audience. In a single word this piece is called: Google. Their domination of the web search market combined with outstanding content and smart SEO strategies have become the winning combination that allows us small brokers to generate significant amounts of leads that were virtually untapped before by the large firms.

  33. Sara

    July 4, 2008 at 11:30 am

    In reality consumers pay big money for the brand names, at the same time small brokers are able to provide the same service for much less fee.

  34. Brad Nix

    July 4, 2008 at 11:31 am

    amen @Erion

  35. Marc Grossman

    July 4, 2008 at 12:44 pm

    Brad, So true, but it’s not right for everyone. Some want a big brand behind them, others want some hand holding, etc. I’ve been there and am looking forward to going out on my own in the next couple of months. The big brand doesn’t do anything for me anymore. There was a time in my career that it worked for me, but that time has come to pass. I pay for everything that I produce and generate all of my business. Their marketing does little if any for me. They aren’t selling me, they’re selling their brand. Time for me to do the same, just on a different level.

  36. Bill Lublin

    July 4, 2008 at 12:51 pm

    @Brad, you’re going to have me blushing soon 😉

    I would not disagree that it may cost more to do a thing (whatever it is) but I think the better measure (or maybe more appropriate) question is where did they make more? And I don’t think that anyone model is”right” or “wrong” they’re just choices. And we all need to make the choices that work for us. I would never suggest to any agent that they affiliate with any company because of a brand, or because they are independent, or because they have great offices, or have no offices at all and operate virtually. I think that agents should affiliate with a person, team, company or culture that makes them feel comfortable while helping them to achieve as much as they desire. One size doesn’t fit all, and even when you find a size that does, sometimes you or they grow in different directions.

    My personal prejudices would lead me to technology heavy companies with a strong reputation for integrity and the ability to grow my career. But those are my personal prejudices, and should not be construed as anything else.

    @Erion I agree that technology and its appropriate application really assist the small broker to generate leads, but that isn’t exclusive to small brokers and the fact that a company is larger or smaller doesn’t make them inherently better or worse at executing technology, or generating leads ( I think we do an outstanding job at that, but that is a focus for us) And then, from a business perspective come the issues of recruiting and training and supporting, and paying overhead…so it gets complicated – but as I said above, it ends up with how much money will I have in my pocket at the end of the day – for both the broker and agent- and not each at the expense of the other, but symbiotically

  37. Bill Lublin

    July 4, 2008 at 1:04 pm

    Oh, BTW I forgot to point out that new small start ups are that because that’s where they are in their life cycle- I believe that all of the newer companies you mentioned will grow as large as the owners will want them to – for example Jay is on the way to world domination- and who knows what decisions they will make over the years – for 11 years I would not have thought I would franchise, but franchises do bring more to the table then just brand, but that’s like a sales pitch for them, and I don’t work for free – but they do (lots of stuff we’re not talking about that’s handy for a broker to have so they don’t have to re-invent the wheel every day). Thanks for letting me slip that in after a quick brain fade (I’m in a condo at the beach working on my treo as a modem here for goodness sake’s )
    ;-D

    Oh, and a Safe and Happy 4th to everyone!

  38. Laurie Manny

    July 4, 2008 at 3:30 pm

    I just want a place to hang my license and to not be bothered by all of the political crapiola and hype; a manager who doesn’t try to manage me (not manageable anyway) and to be generally left alone. The brokers brand doesn’t mean diddly to me and most brokers/managers can’t answer the few questions I come up with anyway. It’s really pathetic.

    I don’t go to sales meetings and have explained that it is better that I don’t. They always have some schmuck trying to sell either some inferior product to the agents or are trying to tell them how to pass along the cost of a product to a buyer. I can’t help myself, I just tear them apart. It’s better just to leave me to my own devices, lol…

    I remember a time when brokers here offered training that was actually worth having. I see the training they are now offering and the dismal results of that training and I just shake my head. They are pushing door knocking, taking large groups of newbies out to descend on neighborhoods weekly. After 4 months if one of the 200 or so newbies actually gets a hit they broadcast company wide how successful the program is. Yeah right!

    Up desks have disappeared, all lead calls direct to broker/manager = no leads to any of the starving agents on the floor. Brokers quietly (sneaky) referring those leads to a couple of agents for a large referral fee over and above their cut. Disgraceful!

    A few of the brokers here made attempts at blogging. Didn’t bother to figure out how to do it, just jumped in. Most jumped out in very short order because they didn’t get instant results, I had a good laugh. From the outside everything looks easy!

    I thank the powers that be daily for discovering blogging and for the blessings it brings to the table. Any broker who got in my way would be plowed down instantly. Take my blog down? Never! License would be hung elsewhere in less than a few minutes. And all the referrals going into the office from my blog would be gone with it.

    They leave me alone. lol………..I would too!

    The big brokers really don’t have much value, here at least, I don’t see them continuing forward in the same way as we transition out of this depressing market. So many of us are so very independent and like it that way, they really don’t serve much of a purpose for us any longer.

  39. Kathy Drewien

    July 4, 2008 at 6:54 pm

    A timely post, Brad, and great comments by those whose opinions I value.

    I started with a national franchise in the mid-90s, left to go out on my own about 5 years ago. Just this past week I was approached by my former broker about coming back into the fold. On the surface I don’t see how the change would be beneficial to me, or my clients.

    Perhaps I’ll entertain a conversation to learn what they envision as benefits to me. I know the benefits to them are management fees, desk fees, franchise fees, and fmls fees. Changing one set of overhead costs for another won’t be enough to sway me.

  40. Eric Blackwell

    July 5, 2008 at 6:53 am

    @Ines; Good point… for many agents going head up against the broker is an issue especially if you are in the same niche.

    @Franchises- I think it boils down to what works for you…One thing that helps our agents in our brokerage (RE/MAX) is that the name still carries a national wallop. How do I know?

    I rank #1 for most of the major terms in Louisville (city real estate, city homes, city homes for sale, city remax etc…etc..)

    city remax is our second most popular search term and city st remax is #7…so basically we are eating other peoples’ lunch with the search engines and that brings us buyers.

    That having been said, I do understand the trend to BRAND YOURSELF and go it out there as a broker. I think that may in fact be because many of the franchises are not offering as much as they could to their brokers and agents…

  41. Jim Lee

    July 5, 2008 at 9:50 am

    I believe my franchise offers the best of both worlds.

    Realty Executives was founded by agents for agents. Each one of us pays a share of the office overhead and in exchange gets to keep 100% of our commissions.

    I believe we all pay 10 bucks a month for some sort of national advertising program. Personally I would rather have the 10 bucks to take to happy hour but it’s not a life changing sum each month like some franchise fees are.

    We’re all free to operate our business as we see fit.

    We don’t have sales meetings, up desks, or any that traditional stuff.

    I like my current setup and I wouldn’t change unless someone had something better and I can’t imagine what that would be

  42. Thomas Johnson

    July 5, 2008 at 10:31 am

    “At the end of the year, they all found that the brand had added value to their efforts and we never looked back.”

    I look at this metric all the time and I have a simple formula (for my simple mind) to evaluate the value of the brand. Every year I look at every transaction and evaluate the source of the business. If the brand causes one transaction per year, and I were to allocate 100% of the earnings for that transaction as having paid all the royalties for the whole year, where would I stand? If the brand brings any additional transaction, my payback on the royalties far exceeds the royalty I pay. So far, over the past 6 years, the ERA brand is responsible for 3-5 transactions per year that we would not have received otherwise. I will say that Linda and I utilize ERA’s unique selling proposition and the tools better than most agents in the system. At the margin, 3-5 transactions per year for us, is a life changing number and ample reason to stay the course. That being said, we have always maintained our CRM system apart from the in house tools, and we always strive to be top producing agents in our little shop. Good for us, good for the broker.

  43. Eric Blackwell

    July 5, 2008 at 11:16 am

    @TJ- Good way to measure IMO well done.

  44. Jim Grapes

    July 5, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    I’m fairly new to the Real Estate Sales business, my license is with a large brokerage in Spokane. As an independent contractor I do all my own lead generation and marketing. The brokerage provides me a lot of support services and I don’t worry any about compliance with state regulations. I work hard and ethically. And I feel like the underdog most of the time. Still I have my own successes and I’m working to be nimble in a 2.0 age.

    Jim Grapes is a Realtor and represents homebuyers looking for homes for sale in Spokane, Washington. Before his career selling Spokane real estate he served in the US Navy as a Supply Officer on many ships and stations around the globe.

  45. Holly White

    July 5, 2008 at 1:32 pm

    If there were and easier way for me to track my success based on my brand I would do it, but as of now there really isn’t an efficient way of accomplishing that. What I do know is that I get a substantial amount of traffic from “RE/Max” related search terms. It’s hard for people to remember how they found us specifically on the internet though, which is where we get most of our business. So not knowing which search term brought the eventual closing is tough to track. We do not get an amount of business directly related to our brand from our brand that would substantiate staying with them (In other words, we never get referrals from the office), but the traffic related to the brand makes up for it to some degree. However, if I found a broker that could provide us with referrals that would produce another 3-5 closings per year (all other things being equal, ie. commission split, support, chemistry, etc.) I think I would give up those particular search terms and concentrate on other terms that would prove to provide as much traffic since leads are more tough to convert than referrals. A bird in the hand…

  46. Brad Nix

    July 5, 2008 at 1:45 pm

    @Thomas #41 – I understand your logic, but I think you’re asking yourself the wrong questions (I’ll be posting on this topic soon)

    @Eric #42 – It’s not a good way to measure large broker vs small broker (come back Monday to read what I think)

    @Jim #43 – thanks for your participation, but please be less spammy with your next comment and drop the second paragraph.

    @Holly #44 – you are thinking along the same lines I am. (my next post will address this issue on Monday)

  47. Holly White

    July 5, 2008 at 2:00 pm

    @Brad – Looking forward to it, as I am very perplexed about that subject especially.

  48. Jonathan Dalton

    July 5, 2008 at 3:43 pm

    After spending nearly four years with a hand in my back pocket, I found it interesting that my current office passes leads through RE/MAX.com, the company site and Realtor.com to the agents without charging a referral fee. Here’s the lead, do what you can with it.

    Just got one such lead under contract within the past hour. If it closes, the commission will cover my office fees for the entire year with room to spare. In other words, I’ll be to the plus side for being here based on business generated by being here.

    As Thomas said, that’s not a bad thing whatsoever.

  49. Susan Milner

    July 5, 2008 at 5:32 pm

    I agree. Well I guess because I’m biased. But no, the reality is that you don’t get much by being with ‘big dogs’. Its fun when people believe that or when they go there because of the splits when in reality are much lower than ours because we don’t have franchise fees, etc. Our splits truly are the correct splits. No bogus. Another farce are the referrals. We get referrals too, mostly from other ‘friends’ online. As far as bogus training and sales pitches at meetings, that is irritating as well. My agents love my training, real live stuff they can use. I learned a long time ago that the other stuff irritates agents, I dreaded those meetings at my last company. A bunch of garbage smashed in with some whining agents 🙂

  50. Eric- New Orleans Condos and Lofts

    July 5, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Rich said it earlier its not wheather it is a big form or a small one. Its the one that is responsive to your needs and it provides you a chance to flourish. Big ones will do it sometimes and then small ones will do it. The roles change as the people change. Its how the owner or manager wants to manage. I do not depend on the broker for any leads and try to get them on my own.

  51. Matt Fagioli

    July 5, 2008 at 7:59 pm

    Wow, Brad. Glad you are just easing your way into this whole “genius thing” 🙂

    Thanks for the plug. Of course, we’re pretty biased on this subject here at Diamond Dwellings™

    I guess it always comes down to “how much for how much”. Do the benefits outweigh the costs?
    That answer will be different for each individual situation
    You can succeed at “Big” or you can succeed at “small” — both solutions have their benefits.

    The amazing part of “RE in a google world” is that SMALL is now on a level playing field with big.
    (and perhaps their is even advantage to SMALL)

    The companies that leverage that properly — and innovate at an even higher level — will win big.

  52. Lane Bailey

    July 8, 2008 at 12:26 am

    Brad, thanks for the mention. I will say that when I was at “big” it was pretty small. My broker has always been a good guy, and sought to leverage the brand for the benefit of the agents.

    But, I think that Matt’s model offers more for what I want to be. And the smaller structure is more flexible. And faster to react. And more fun. And more challenging…

    I am stoked about it.

  53. Lani Anglin-Rosales

    July 8, 2008 at 11:00 am

    I asked a question on Twitter about this very thing to NON-REALTORS:

    @LaniAR: AUSTINITES- do you care if your Realtor is with a big brand like Re/Max? or do you prefer an independent? or does it even matter?

    Two very interesting answers came back that I thought were worth sharing:

    @davidgiesberg: I’ve never dealt with buying/selling property or realtors, but if I was going to, I would probably prefer indie.

    @Grumpicus: Maybe I’m naive, but the person matters more to me than the brand. That being said, if I can’t get a referral, I’d probably go brand.

    What are everyone’s thoughts about this consumer input? Hint: we’re in Austin, the tech capital of the South… is location important, per chance?

  54. Jay Thompson

    July 8, 2008 at 11:59 am

    Lani – that is interesting. And while it’s a small data set, I think it speaks volumes and corroborates what I am seeing too.

    When I left my previous brokerage, and the C21 mothership, the broker said to me, “You need a big brand. People won’t respect Thompson’s Realty”.

    Within a week, we had our first listing. When we met the client, he said, “I want a small ‘Mom and Pop’ shop like you guys. I feel like I’ll get better service that way.” That may or may not be true, but it was this guys perception.

    I can’t tell you how many clients we had when we were at C21 that never even knew (or cared) we were at a C21 office. Countless times we’d hand them a business card after finally meeting face-to-face and they’d say, “Huh, I had no idea you were with Century 21”.

    I’m not saying indie/small is better than franchise/big. But in my experience, it doesn’t seem to matter to the vast majority of real estate “consumers”.

    Incidentally, after 4 months in business our brokerage and its 6 agents are now carrying more listings and have more in escrow than my former C21 broker and his 42 agents. Respect has to be earned and delivered. It doesn’t appear like magic with some name or logo.

  55. Jim Duncan

    July 8, 2008 at 12:11 pm

    I am so tired of echoing Jay. Darn it.

    But … Lani – despite the fact that I disclose my brokerage affiliation as required … I am rarely if ever identified with the company brand; I am my brand, and my clients come to me rather than the company. Frankly, I implement more technology for my business than my broker does, and I like it that way.

    However … (and I’ve said this many times before) If C21 had kept the gold jackets, they would still be dominating that space. They were ugly as sin, but they were brilliant branding.

  56. Brad Nix

    July 8, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    @Lani those are exactly the same results we get on the street here in our market

    @Jay like you said, I don’t think brand matters as much anymore and if there is a trend in this area, then it’s for consumers seeking the indie/local flavor

    @Jim I couldn’t agree more. The gold jackets are brilliant.

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Opinion Editorials

Popular opinion: Unemployment in a pandemic sucks [EDITORIAL]

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) I got laid off during the pandemic, and I think I can speak for all of us to say that unemployment – especially now – really, really sucks.

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Stressed man thinking over laptop about unemployment.

Despite not being in an office for what feels like an eternity, losing my job stung. Holding onto work during The Worst Timeline was rough, considering Rome was burning all around. My job was the boat of sanity I could sit in while the waves of bullshit crashed all around. Pre-pandemic, I had just separated from my wife, so my emotional health wasn’t in tip-top shape. But then millions of people go and get sick, the economy took a nosedive, and well, the world changed. When everything around you sucks, and people are on the news crying about unemployment and potential homelessness, you’re thankful as hell that you’re not with them – until you are.

I was writing for a startup, one that came with a litany of headaches thanks to fluctuating budgets and constant directional pivots, but it was steady work. When the Coronavirus hit, it was a scenario of “we’re going to get through this,” but as we switched gears again and again, I started to get an unsettling feeling: I’ve seen this story before. When you live in Austin and are in the creative field, you’ve worked with startups. And there are always trappings on when something lingers in the air – hierarchy shuffles, people aren’t as optimistic, and senior folks start quietly bailing out. Those are the obvious moves that make your unemployment-related Spidey sense tingle, but with COVID, everything is remote. There aren’t the office vibes, the shortened conversations that make you, “I know what’s happening here.” Instead, you’re checking Slack or email and surviving like everyone else.

We were happy to be working, to see the direct deposit hit every two weeks and sigh, knowing you were still in the fight, that you might see this thing through.

We saw our entire business change overnight. Leadership rose to meet the challenges of an old model rooted in hospitality, restaurants, and events, which died with a viral disease shotgun blast. Because the infrastructure was there, we managed to help out workers, and grocery stores work together to keep people fed across the nation. It was legitimately a point of pride. Like all things, though, the market settled. We bought time.

In July, I had a full-blown depressive episode. The weight of the divorce, the lack of human interaction, my work having less value, my career stalled felt like a Terminator robot foot on my skull. I couldn’t get out of bed, and everything I wrote were the smatterings of a broken man. And to my ex-bosses’ credit, my breakdown was NOT my best work, I could barely look at a computer, let alone forge thoughts on an entirely new industry with any authority, or even a fake it till you make it scenario.

When the CEO put time on my calendar, I knew it was a wrap. Startup CEOs don’t make house calls; they swing the ax. When you’re the lone creative in a company trying to survive a nearly company-killing event, you’re the head on the block. Creatives are expensive, and we’re expendable. Site copy, content, media placements, all that can kick rocks when developers need to keep the business moving, even if it’s at a glacial pace. When I was given my walking papers, it was an exhale, on one hand, I’d been professionally empty, but at the same time, I needed consistent money. My personal life was a minefield and I’ve got kids.

I got severance. Unemployment took forever to hit. The state of Texas authorized amount makes me cringe. Punishing Americans for losing their jobs during a crisis is appalling. Millions are without safety nets, and it’s totally ok with elected leaders.

There are deferments available. I had to get them on my credit cards, which I jacked up thanks to spending $8,500 on an amicable divorce, along with a new MacBook Pro that was the price of a used Nissan. I got a deferment on my car note, too.

I’ve applied to over 100 jobs, both remote and local. I’ve applied for jobs I’m overqualified for in hopes they’ll hire me as a freelancer. There are lots of rejection letters. I get to round two interviews. References or the round three interviews haven’t happened yet. I get told I’m too experienced or too expensive. Sometimes, recruiters won’t even show up. And then there are the Zoom meetings. Can we all agree we’re over Zoom? Sometimes, you don’t want to comb your hair.

I’ll get promised the much needed “next steps” and then a rejection email, “thanks but no thanks.” Could you at least tell me what the X-Factor for this decision was? Was there a typo? Did you check my Facebook? The ambiguity kills me. Being a broke senior creative person kills me. I interviewed President Obama and have written for Apple, but ask myself: Can I afford that falafel wrap for lunch? Do you think springing for the fries is worth that extra $3? You’ve got soup at home, you know.

I’m not unique. This is the American Experience. We’re stuck in this self-perpetuating hell. We keep looking for jobs. We want to work. There are only so many gigs to fill when there’s constant rollercoaster news on unemployment recovery. And as long as unemployment sucks, there’s going to be a lot of people bracing for impact come Christmas. Hopefully, the brass in Washington can pass a few bills and get us back to work. At least get Americans out of the breadline by pumping up what we’re surviving off of – across the board. Working people shouldn’t have to face getting sick to bring in an income, while casualties of the Corona War should be able to look at their bills and not feel like the assistant on the knife throwers wheel.

I’m about to be a line cook to make extra cash till an intrepid manager hires me. Who doesn’t want a writer working the grill who reads French existentialist essays for enjoyment? I’d rather sit on park benches and day dream, but that ain’t reality. I’ve got bills to pay in a broken America. Who wants a burger? Deep thoughts come free but an extra slice of cheese is extra.

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Opinion Editorials

7 ways to carve out me time while working from home

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) It can be easy to forget about self-care when you’re working from home, but it’s critical for your mental health, and your work quality.

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Woman in hijab sitting on couch, working from home on a laptop

We are all familiar with the syndrome, getting caught up in work, chores, and taking care of others, and neglecting to take care of ourselves in the meantime. This has always been the case, but now, with more people working from home and a seemingly endless lineup of chores, thanks to the pandemic. There is simply so much to do.

The line is thinly drawn between personal and professional time already, with emails, cell phones, and devices relentlessly reaching out around the clock, pulling at us like zombie arms reaching up from the grave. Working from home makes this tendency to always be “on” worse, as living and working take place in such close proximity. We have to turn it off, though.

Our brains and bodies need down time, me-time, self-care. Carving out this time is one of the kindest and most important things you can do for yourself. If we can begin to honor ourselves like this, the outcome with not only our mental and physical health, but also our productivity at work, will be beneficial. When we make the time to do things we love, our body untenses, our mind’s gears slow down that constant grinding. Burnout behooves nobody.

Our work will also benefit. Healthier, happier, more well rested, and well treated minds and bodies can work wonders! Our immune systems also need this, and we need our immune systems to be at their peak performance this intense season.

I wanted to write this article, because I have such a struggle with this in my own life. I need to print it out and put it in my workspace. Last week, I posted something on my social media pages that so many people shared. It is clear we all need these reminders, so I am paying it forward here. The graphic was a quote from Devyn W.

“If you are reading this, release your shoulders away from your ears, unclench your jaw, and drop your tongue from the roof of your mouth.”

There now, isn’t that remarkable? It is a great first step. Let go of the tension in your body, and check out these ways to make yourself some healing me-time.

  1. Set aside strict no-work times. This could be any time of day, but set the times and adhere to them strictly. This may look like taking a full hour for lunch, not checking email after a certain hour, or committing to spending that time outdoors, reading, exercising, or enjoying the company of your loved ones. Make this a daily routine, because we need these boundaries. Every. Single. Day.
  2. Remember not to apologize to anyone for taking this me-time. Mentally and physically you need this, and everyone will be better off if you do. It is nothing to apologize for! Building these work-free hours into your daily schedule will feel more normal as time goes on. This giving of time and space to your joy, health, and even basic human needs is what should be the norm, not the other way around.
  3. Give yourself a device-free hour or two every day, especially before bedtime. The pinging, dinging, and blinging keeps us on edge. Restful sleep is one of the wonderful ways our bodies and brains heal, and putting devices away before bedtime is one of the quick tips for getting better sleep.
  4. Of course, make time for the things you absolutely love. If this is a hot bath, getting a massage, reading books, working out, cooking or eating an extravagant meal, or talking and laughing with a loved one, you have to find a way to get this serotonin boost!
  5. Use the sunshine shortcut. It isn’t a cure-all, but sunlight and Vitamin D are mood boosters. At least when it’s not 107 degrees, like in a Texas summer. But as a general rule, taking in at least a good 10-15 minutes of that sweet, sweet Vitamin D provided by the sun is good for us.
  6. Spend time with animals! Walk your dog, shake that feathery thing at your cat, or snuggle either one. Whatever animals make you smile, spend time with them. If you don’t have pets of your own, you could volunteer to walk them at a local shelter or even watch a cute animal video online. They are shown to reduce stress. Best case scenario is in person if you are able, but thankfully the internet is bursting with adorable animal videos, as a backup.
  7. Give in to a bit of planning or daydreaming about a big future trip. Spending time looking at all the places you will go in the future and even plotting out an itinerary are usually excellent mood-boosters. It’s a bit different in 2020, as most of us aren’t sure when we will be able to go, but even deciding where you want to go when we are free to travel again can put a positive spin on things.

I hope we can all improve our lives while working from home by making time for regenerating, healing, and having fun! Gotta run—the sun is out, and my dog is begging for a walk.

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Opinion Editorials

Improve UX design by tracking your users’ eye movements

(OPINION / EDITORIAL) Research shows that the fastest way to determine user behavior and predict their response is by watching their eyesight. Use this data to improve your UX design.

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UX design being created by a designer on a laptop.

By design, an ice cream truck is meant to entice. It is colorful, stupidly loud with two whole songs from the 30s (usually off key because no one is left alive who can service those bells), and lots of colorful stickers that depict delicious frozen treats that look nothing like reality. If you need an off model Disney character that already looks a little melted even when frozen, look no further.

This is design in action – the use of clever techniques to drive engagement. Brightly colored decor and the Pavlovian association of hearing The Sting in chirpy little ding dings is all working together to encourage sales and interaction.

These principles work in all industries, and the tech sector has devoted entire teams, agencies, companies, groups, and departments to the study of User Experience (UX) explicitly to help create slick, usable applications and websites that are immediately understandable by users. Tools to improve utility exist by measuring user behavior, with style guides and accepted theories preached and sang and TED-talked all over.

The best way to check behavior is to observe it directly, and options to check where someone clicks has proven invaluable in determining how to improve layouts and designs. These applications are able to draw a heat map that shows intensified red color in areas where clicks congregate the most. An evolution of this concept is to watch eyesight itself, allowing developers a quicker avenue to determining where a user will most likely go. Arguably the shortest path between predicting response, this is one of the holy grails of behavioral measurement. If your eyes can be tracked, your cursor is likely to follow.

UX design can benefit greatly from this research as this article shows. Here’s some highlights:

Techwyse completed a case study that shows conversion on landing pages is improved with clear call-to-action elements. Users will focus on objects that stand out based on position, size, bright colors, or exaggerated fonts. If these design choices are placed on a static, non-interactive component, a business will lose a customer’s interest quickly, as their click is meant with no response. This quickly leads to confusion or abandonment. Finding where a person is immediately drawn to means you should capitalize on that particular piece with executable code. Want it boiled down? Grocery stores put Cheetos front and center, because everyone want them thangs.

Going along with this, Moz found that search results with attractive elements – pictures and video – are given much more attention than simple text. We are visually inclined creatures, and should never undervalue that part of our primal minds. Adding some visual flair will bring attention, which in turn can be leveraged usefully to guide users.

Here’s an interesting study – being that we are social animals, follow the gaze of others. If you’ve ever seen kittens watching a game of ping pong, they are in sync and drawn to the action. Similarly, if we notice someone look to the left, we instinctively want to look left as well. While this sounds very specific, the idea is simple – visual cues can be optimized to direct users where to focus.

The Nielsen Group says we look at things in an F pattern. I just think that’s funny, or at least a funny way to describe it. We follow from left-to-right (just like we read, and as websites are laid out using techniques first developed for newspapers, it naturally makes sense that we’d do the same). Of course, cultural or national differences arise here – right-to-left readers need the opposite. Always be sure to keep your target audience in mind.

Of course, there are several other findings and studies that can further promote idealistic layout and design, and it should always be the goal of designers to look to the future and evaluate trends. (Interestingly, eye tracking is the first option on this list!)

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