The Birth of a Brokerage
It’s been six months since the lovely wife and I launched our independent brokerage, and six months since I wrote my first post on Agent Genius, Your New Brokerage Business Model Sucks!.
It’s been a busy six months…
I thought I’d take a moment to share some of the trials and tribulations of giving birth to a real estate brokerage. I don’t write this to bask in the glory, Lord knows we’ve made or share of mistakes — with many more to come. Maybe someone can take something away from this and make their brokerage launch flawless (I know you are out there…). Maybe someone will decide, “if Jay can do it, so can I”. And maybe some sage Ag readers can say, “Yo! You might wanna try this.”
Fundamental Mistake #1
We’d originally planned to have the brokerage consist of me, my wife Francy and one friend of ours.
So much for planning. We’re currently at eight agents. Clearly that’s not a huge number, and likely someone out there is thinking, “What a pipsqueak. Eight agents hardly a brokerage makes”. But the simple fact is, our agent count is 170% higher than what we’d thought about and planned for.
Enter fundamental mistake #1 — not planning for growth. Even if you don’t think you are going to grow, you just may find out otherwise.
Hindsight being 20-20, we should have laid out contingency plans for growth rather than shooting from the hip. Shooting from the hip on the other hand, leads us to something I think we’ve done right…
My old broker had rules cast in stone. Black and white, no room for adjustment or creativity. This rigidity was a prime factor in our decision to leave and forge out our own shop. If I’ve learned one thing in the short six months I’ve been a broker/owner it is to be flexible. While we have certain standards that will never be compromised (ethics and customer service to name two) you have to be able to change and adapt, often on-the-fly.
Fundamental Mistake #2
Being flexible is good. But systems are important too. Of course we did all the things required by our states rules and regulations. Documents are filed (electronically wherever possible), notices are posted in compliance with arcane rules. Agent credentials are vetted appropriately. Where we erred in the beginning was not having internal brokerage policies and forms for every foreseeable contingency. I still need a “new agent on-boarding process”. Some forms need to be uploaded to our private website. It’s all little stuff, but little stuff has a way of piling up over time. Fortunately, my failure to sweat the small stuff is offset by the single most critical thing we did right…
Hire the Best Agents
I remember my former broker telling me when he first heard we were leaving the mothership, “You’re going to lie awake at night worrying about what your agents are doing.”
Actually, I sleep like a baby.
We hired good agents. Really good agents. Agents that know their stuff. Experienced agents that have the same general customer-centric philosophy we carry through in all aspects of what we do.
I’ve turned down agents that wanted to come to our brokerage. One was quite perturbed, and loudly claimed, “You can’t do that. You have to hire me!”
No, I don’t.
I think the traditional brokerage model of hiring anyone with a license and a pulse has played a significant role in damaging the credibility of real estate agents in the court of public opinion. Sure, I could make more money hiring any John Doe out there. Collect a monthly fee and hope little Johnny sells a home to Aunt Sally or stumbles into a listing. I could go to a real estate school, which continue to crank out wanna-be agents at an alarming pace, and toss out a beautiful “Join Us!” pitch. I could talk the talk. Tell them I’m going to teach them all about the new age ways of Internet and social media marketing and prospecting. Heck, I could probably leverage our virtual office and no sales meetings — tout “work from home!” and pick up dozens of agents practically overnight.
But I enjoy sleeping well. I like not worrying about getting a call or a certified letter from some lawyer or the Department of Real Estate. I love knowing our clients are in expert hands. And I like taking one tiny step toward improving the perception of real estate professionals.
There is Still Much to Learn
Six months clearly does not make me an expert broker/owner. Far from it. I will make more mistakes. Hopefully we’ll continue to do some things right and I know we’ll improve. I am always open to suggestions from anyone — agent, broker, new, experienced, young and old.
Am I glad I did this? Let’s put it this way. I was told by someone I respect tremendously that after six months I’d be saying, “Why did I wait so long?”
They were wrong. It took about two weeks.