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From Realtor to Broker: determining the model

When Realtors get the indie itch, the most difficult decision faced today is which real estate model to follow. There are three main options, or a combination of the three, and this very personal decision is a major part of your future success.

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An integral part of your brand’s story

When you are a Realtor with the itch to be an indie broker, one of the hardest decisions you will make is in what type of brokerage you want to build. Realizing this early on is going to end up being an integral and huge part of the rest of your story, so pay attention!

There are many number of brokerage models to look at in this choice. From mom and pop (literally, I’ve seen brokerages who are two people working out of home, a drop box for mail pieces (paper) and still have ONLY a home phone to call!), to 2-8 agents, 15-30, or the “let’s recruit anyone with a heartbeat” model with lots of overhead and expenses.

Option one: a traditionally named team

Are you planning on building a team brokerage approach where your own name is the brand (Smith Realty)?

Pro: If you already have a well known name in your area, you could easily expand on a full team and have total control of the company. No one else can build a team within your brand because it’s YOUR brand. If done correctly, there have been extremely successful companies built which produce sales like a well oiled branding machine with 1-3 local locations.

Con: This model can only take you so far, generally speaking. Remember, if the county next to you (or neighborhood) doesn’t know you, expansion may be harder and you’re climbing an already steep hill with opening a new place AND trying to show people why they should work with YOUR PERSONAL NAME. For me, Amanda Lopez Realty or Lopez Realty, just was not even an option for probably obvious reasons – it doesn’t roll of your tongue at all!

Option two: a niche brand

Do you have a specific niche that you will brand (green, über corporate, service focused, modern homes, new construction, condos, a local neighborhood name)?

Pro: while your market may be smaller, you could potentially “own” that niche and be the most sought after expert who no one else can even compete with!

Con: You run into past friends, family, clients, and fellow agents. They say to you “Hi! Its been so long! How’s real estate going?? You sell condos in that one building downtown right? I just bought a million dollar single family a few blocks away!” You: “Congrats! I do sell condos, but I’m also a licensed agent who sells all sorts of homes…”

Option three: breaking the mold

Do you have a vision of a completely different type of brokerage that you feel so strongly about and creating a name that could be scalable and taken to any market and succeed with the right tools? Perhaps there is a little bit of each of these models you like and dislike. That’s ok too! Always think outside of the box!!

Pro: You can spread your wings, not worry about convention and have no potential limits. If branded correctly or with the right timing and people around you, by creating something unique and different, you can create buzz, you could attract agents and clients that also believe in your brand and make them brand ambassadors. The sky is the limt with potential growth.

Con: You are REALLY starting from scratch!! You will most likely need a branding consultant, conduct market research, and maybe even spend more time and money into “inventing” your new company’s business model. You can easily fail if you don’t truly nurture that teeny tiny baby of a brand the right way!

Making your choice

There are plenty of franchise opportunities, brokerages that are unconventional and cutting edge, smaller boutique agencies as well as tradional companies who offer larger splits to allow you rights to brand yourself under a more corporate umbrella of safety and expenses being paid. But maybe there’s a mix somewhere you can find to fuel you as well as create something you have time and passion to grow.

There is no right or wrong. Ultimately, it’s your dream. Your passion. Go for it!

Amanda Lopez is a real estate broker and founder of Style House Realty in Baltimore, Md. She has worked in the real estate industry for over 6 years and prior to that studied advertising, branding and web design. Refusing to believe the real estate industry had to be bland and boring in design and appeal to everyone, she set out to bring some style and technology into the mix. Amanda can most likely be found with coffee that got cold, great shoes, her mind in the sky and her evernote app open.

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18 Comments

18 Comments

  1. jay Great Falls

    March 5, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    if you go indie like I did or are leaning that way you might consider a franchise or license to use a broker’s corporation and/or domain. That can be easier than starting from scratch. However franchises are expensive.

    I’m very interested in licensing out JustNewListings.com Realty out to new markets and the broker could add their IDX to a PR6 google juiced website to get property showing requests fast as part of their lead generation….justnewlistings.com/north-carolina/wilmington.php for example. I’m adding that IDX feed in 6-8 weeks.

    This model could make for a LOCAL broker dominating organic search engine rankings rather than trulia, zillow, homes or realtor.com.

    If anybody is interested find me on my website or linkedin or google+

    So sick of these 3rd party sites beating us at local search.

    j

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Business Entrepreneur

How to effectively share negative thoughts with your business partner

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You and your business partner(s) are in a close relationship, and just like a marriage, negative emotions may play a role in the relationship.

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You and your business partner are in a relationship. Your business was born when you shared a common vision of the future and became giddy from the prospect of all you could do together that you couldn’t do alone. Now, you spend much of the day doing things together in collaboration. The stakes are high; there are obstacles to overcome, decisions to make together, deadlines to meet, and all the stresses of running a business.

It’s no wonder a business partnership can often be just as complicated and emotional as a romantic relationship. If you are struggling with your business partner, you might find helpful advice in resources originally targeted towards troubled couples.

Relationship expert Dr. Jeffrey Bernstein has explored how to share “toxic thoughts” with your partner. In a linked article, Bernstein describes toxic thoughts as distortions of the truth that cause us to overemphasize the negative attributes of our partner.

Some examples of toxic thoughts include blaming your partner for larger problems that aren’t really their fault, inaccurately assuming your partners intentions, or resenting your partner for not intuiting your needs, even if you haven’t expressed them. The defining characteristic of these toxic thoughts is that, although they may be based in the truth, they are generally exaggerations of reality, reflecting our own stresses and insecurities.

Just as much as in a love relationship, these toxic thoughts could easily strain a business partnership. If you find yourself having toxic thoughts about your business partner, you will need to decide whether to hold your tongue, or have a potentially difficult conversation. Even when we remain quiet about our frustrations, they are easily felt in the awkward atmosphere of interpersonal tension and passive aggressive slights that results.

Dr. Bernstein points out that being honest about your toxic thoughts with your partner can help increase understanding and intimacy. It also gives your partner a chance to share their toxic thoughts with you, so you’d better be ready to take what you dish out. It might be hard to talk about our frustrations with each other so candidly, but it might also be the most straightforward way to resolve them.

Then again, Bernstein points out, some people prefer to work through their toxic thoughts alone. By his own definition, toxic thoughts are unfair exaggerations of and assumptions about our partner’s behavior. If you find yourself jumping to conclusions, assuming the worst, or blaming your partner for imagined catastrophes, perhaps you’d better take a few minutes to calm down and consider whether or not it’s worth picking a fight about. Then again, if you’re self-aware enough to realize that you are exaggerating the truth, you can probably also tease out the real roots of any tension you’ve been experiencing with your business partner.

If you are going to get personal, shoulder your own emotional baggage and try to approach your partner with equal parts honesty and diplomacy. Avoid insults, stay optimistic, and focus on solutions. State your own feelings and ask questions, rather than airing your assumptions about their intentions or behaviors. Keep your toxic thoughts to yourself, and work towards adjusting the behaviors that are making you feel negatively towards each other. Your business might depend on it.

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Business Entrepreneur

Zen, please: Demand for mental health services surges during pandemic

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) 2020 has been an exceptionally hard year for many on a mental front. How has COVID-19 changed the mental health landscape?

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Man leaning against tree, affected by mental health.

As the pandemic stretches on, it continues to affect everything from jobs to plastic bags, but one major shift has come with mental health. According to the National Council for Mental Health, while demand for mental health services is up 52%, the capacity of mental health organizations have actually diminished. So…what does this mean?

Mental health startups get a boost

From tele-health to mindfulness apps, venture capital investments for mental health startups have already surpassed what was earned in 2019. And it makes sense; as more people are isolated for long stretches of time, there has become a greater demand for digital mental wellness services.

With COVID-19 predicted to spike again in the coming months, combined with shorter spans of daylight and less welcoming weather, the desire for these sorts of businesses isn’t likely to fade. If you have an idea for a neat app or website to help with mental well-being in some way, now is prime time to release it.

Companies increase mental health options

As the pandemic rages on, many companies have started to partner with mental health solutions for their employees. For instance, Starbucks has started offering free therapy sessions to employees through the mental wellness provider Lyra, and Zoom began to offer mental health seminars.

Of course, while smaller companies might not have the means to provide specific therapy, many companies have gotten creative with how they’re looking out for employees’ mental and emotional well-being. From providing virtual meditation sessions, to increasing self-managed leave, to connecting employees through book clubs or happy hours, there are a variety of ways that any company can help employees manage their psyche during these difficult times.

Resources are more accessible

Although therapy and similar apps do cost money (many apps include a monthly fee for the services provided), there are plenty of low cost alternatives available for those having a hard time. For example, many sites are offering free trials to services. There are also plenty of free or low-cost apps available to help you do anything from track your moods to manage your breathing. Or check out YouTube for videos to help with yoga or meditation.

While these resources are not a replacement for medication or talk therapy, they can help mediate some of the increased strain on our mental state that many of us are feeling right now.

In case of an emergency, there is also the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is available by phone call or chat 24 hours a day. If you or someone you know is struggling, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

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Business Entrepreneur

The success of your business could be tied to your succession plan

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) You can’t spell ‘successor’ without success. In the age of COVID-19, are the two mutually exclusive to your ventures?

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Women at desk with laptop discussion succession.

“Heir” is a weighty term. A fun pun, to be sure, through the beauty of English homophones. But seriously, unless you’re already 10% and up rich, talk of heirs and succession does connote a certain heaviness you may not be used to.

For those choosing successors, it’s the heaviness of accepting mortality. For the potential promotees, it’s the heaviness of accepting a multitude of responsibilities. Or buying ear poison. Either way.

We expect to deal with familial succession. As eldest (assuming he doesn’t outlive me), I’m in charge of flinging Dad’s ashes into a nicer section of the ocean and distributing all of his Cosby sweaters amongst the sibs, and I take the role very seriously.

As a serial-small-business employee though, I’ve only just started wondering what would happen if my boss died. Of all the ‘lose your job’ scenarios I’ve had waking nightmares about, that one in particular only cropped up for me a year ago. And now, with the coronavirus taking up our attention, more business owners than usual might be wondering the same thing from the other side of the desk.

What’s going to happen to my employees if I’m too sick to work? Have I set things up so that this company can survive past me? Does at least one other person know the combination to the safes?

If your business is big enough to have employees and advisors on deck, these are questions you need to have answered… Preferably in written, notarized form to ensure smooth succession.

So where should you start? Probably with a good talk.

If you have a next-in-command standing ready, but don’t have a plan yet, let them know that if the inevitable happens sooner rather than later, that you’d like them to step in. A frank conversation about their future with your brand, and actually asking them if they feel up to taking the reins is a great place to start. Otherwise, consider your network— who you might sell the business to, and who might know someone who knows someone.

P.S. If your VP says they’d rather run off and sail the world if you got hit by an asteroid next week, please don’t hold it against them.

We all know that ghosts stick around because they’ve got unfinished business, right? Don’t let your literal business be the shade that haunts your team! Take a deep breath and get the ball rolling on THIS side of the dirt… Ouija boards can only do so much.

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