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What to weigh when considering becoming an indie broker

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The indie itch

So, the itch has gotten to you. You know, the indie itch… You’ve found yourself increasingly discouraged, just not truly motivated. That spark you had when you first got licensed is gone or dwindled. You just feel something missing. You feel blah.

Perhaps your current brokerage just isn’t helping to fully develop you, you are clashing with another agent in the office, your manager doesn’t seem interested in keeping up with today’s world, your current company was branded fifty years ago as the place to be and the ship suddenly passed it by three years ago, or maybe you just feel like you have so many ideas as to how real estate SHOULD be and you are on a true mission to eradicate and change an industry from the ground up. There are plenty of reasons why the “independent” in you may be rearing its fantastic head! Ahhhh yes!

Dreaming aside…

But really… Dreaming aside…What are your core reasons? Do you feel a passion burning inside that you just can’t shake? If so, please read on. If not, you may exit now!

There are several things to seriously consider when truly thinking about your wants:

  • What do you love (not just like) to do? Do you love to work with buyers and sellers? Do you love technology? Do you love to handle accounting or dealing with agents issues?
  • Do you want to manage a whole office?
  • Do you want to make more money? (note: at first, you will most likely make less, but if done well… who knows?!)
  • Do you crave more control over the brand which your current brokerage offers?
  • Do you want to see your own name on a sign (and no, this is actually a pretty normal characteristic of a successful entrepreneur, so it’s ok if you do!)?
  • Do you want to be a broker that runs a company, a team leader with buyers agents, marketing specialists and admin help, a visionary brander, or an agent that has a better split?
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses? Be honest with yourself! No one is perfect at everything! By acknowledging this, you should start focusing on surrounding yourself with others that possess those missing opportunities.
  • Are you tech savvy? Do you believe a corporate franchise really offers better tools? You would be really surprised at the amount of technology available to small companies that can rival the biggest “big box.” So what if you don’t have billboards quite yet surrounding the world? Let yourself think that could someday happen! In today’s game, I would say that if you don’t have a real knowledge or at least someone on your team that does, being a branded team under another company may be the way to stay.

Other considerations before jumping ship

Do you need extra classes for your brokers license? How long does this take? In my market, it typically takes six months to wait for all the needed classes to be offered in one location. I’m personally not known to be the most patient person, so I decided it would be a good idea to take all my classes in three months… traveling all over the state (two hours each way) to catch each series as it came. Oh, and did I mention I was a single mom with no financial support and still an active working agent? So no excuses here, people!

But seriously, if six months works better, that’s perfectly ok too. Even after I finished my full time job as “real estate student,” I still took another six months building a small reserve budget, getting legal paperwork together and finalizing the “brand.”

Realize that owning your own company doesn’t mean you will make more money, have more time or be able to take weekends off. You’ll most likely work more, have ten times the amount of bills and be responsible for employees, agents and expenses!

It is a tough decision, and while it is a move I personally made, it is much more complicated than slapping up a “hiring agents” sign and sitting back to collect residual income. Becoming an indie broker is a major responsibility, but with great risk can come great reward – carefully consider your personality and your goals before making your final choice.

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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14 Comments

14 Comments

  1. Lainie Ramsey

    February 28, 2012 at 1:16 pm

    Great article! I would say my decision to pursue becoming an independant broker really comes down to just a few things: I am a mobile agent that works out of my car and my own house, I do all my own marketing, I pay for my own signs, lockboxes and I have a very prominent web presence. I do not have a desire to become a big company or have many agents working under my license. My goals are simple – I want to have my own company that is branded around me and I want to keep more of my own money. People work with me because of my expertise, not because of my company. It is a daunting task, but I know I can do it!!

  2. Grace Walter

    February 28, 2012 at 1:51 pm

    Great article Amanda! Although I am not in this industry, this is solid advice for anyone that is thinking about entrepreneurism! You are right, you have to really want it and be willing to work hard to get it.

  3. Charles Mackenzie-Hill

    February 28, 2012 at 2:20 pm

    Great article! The indie Broker has a nice ring to it. Pretty sure working from smaller units and cars will be far more likely now with the internet. We also feel as small units that videos will pay a huge part in ones marketing. Also believe if one can get the videos right your clients can be viewing listings as if they were there in person silting in the comfort of their own home or office be it in front of their own 42 inch plasma or on a bus with a smart phone. All the technology is there to provide answers to the entire necessary question in an easy to understand format.
    Absolutely , a great time to be, as you call it and Indie agent

  4. Lisa Heindel

    February 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm

    My partner and I made the jump to indie broker just a few short weeks ago. After spending 3 years branding ourselves, generating our own business and basically being on our own anyway, it was the next logical step. I had no desire to build a team within someone else's brokerage. Currently, it's just the 2 of us and any agents that we end up bringing on board will be carefully vetted, because we don't want anyone to screw up our vision of what our company will be.

  5. Amanda Lopez

    February 28, 2012 at 9:58 pm

    Congrats to you ladies for making the switch! There is always a lot to think about and whether you decide to be a small team or brand, the feelings of it being your own are the whole reason it's worth it!
    Charles, you are right that the technology is there for those who chose to embrace it. It's also great to know how many solutions there are to compete with any of the bigger budgeted companies. Besides nationwide branding reach, the tools are there and often better utilized per local agent to obtain leads from website from SEO than a majority of large brokerages (notice I didn't say third party non brokerage sites! I still think they are the main ones which the agent or brokerage can compete with. At least in my market, large brokerage sites often come up page 5-6 of search results. One being trulia, zillow, Redfin then it's about 6-7 smaller companies, then corporate)

  6. stephanie crawford

    February 29, 2012 at 7:06 pm

    Great job! I am considering going indie – I already work at a boutique brokerage. Would LOVE to see more “how to” indie articles. Perhaps interviews with the Jay Thompsons and Krisstina Wises of the world.

  7. Amanda Lopez

    February 29, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    Stephanie, please stay tuned! I’m glad you enjoyed 😉 I guess some of these points rang true if you are considering it while at a boutique now!
    Krisstina has several outlets I am sure you can tap into to learn from and I’m not sure about Jay but perhaps you can ask around. There are a lot of people who can offer solid advice, experience and perspective too that may hit a different type of chord for each person. Best advice I ever got from a competing broker…
    “There is enough to go around for everyone. Don’t ever lose sight of that or let anyone make you think different.”

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Business Entrepreneur

How to choose the right software for your business

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) What are the best software options for your company? Well, we have a list of suggestions and questions to help you determine what is best for you.

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software products

It’s almost impossible to run a successful modern business without some kind of software to help you stay productive and operate efficiently. There are millions of companies and even more independent developers working hard to produce new software products and services for the businesses of the world, so to say that choosing the right software is intimidating is putting it lightly.

Fortunately, your decisions will become much easier with a handful of decision-making rubrics.

Determining Your Core Needs

First, you need to decide which types of software you really need. For most businesses, these are the most fundamental categories:

  • Proposal software. Customer acquisition starts and ends with effective proposals, which is why you need proposal software that helps you create, send, and track the status of your sales documents.
  • Lead generation and sales. You’ll also want the support of lead generation and sales software, including customer relationship management (CRM) platforms. These help you identify and track prospects throughout the sales process.
  • Marketing and advertising. Marketing and advertising platforms help you plan and implement your campaigns, but even more importantly—they help you track your results.
  • Finance and accounting. With finance and accounting software, you’ll track accounts payable and receivable, and countless variables influencing the financial health of your company.
  • Supply chain and logistics. Certain types of businesses require support when it comes to supply chain management and logistics—and software can help.
  • Productivity and tracking. Some software products, including time trackers and project management platforms, focus on improving productivity and tracking employee actions.
  • Comprehensive analytics. Enterprise resource planning (ERP) software and other “big picture” software products attempt to provide you with comprehensive analytics related to your business’s performance.

Key Factors to Consider

From there, you’ll need to choose a software product in each necessary category—or try to find one that covers all categories simultaneously. When reviewing the thousands (if not millions) of viable options, keep these factors in mind:

    • Core features/functionality. Similar products in a given niche can have radically different sets of features. It’s tempting to go with the most robust product in all cases, but superfluous features and functionality can present their own kind of problem.
    • Integrations. If you use a number of different software products, you’ll need some way to get them to work together. Prioritize products that make it easy to integrate with others—especially ones you’re already using.
    • Intuitiveness/learnability. Software should be intuitive and easy to learn. Not only will this cut down on the amount of training and education you have to provide employees, but it will also reduce the possibilities of platform misuse in the future.
    • Customizability/flexibility. Out-of-the-box software products work well for many customers, but they may not suit your current or future needs precisely. Platforms with greater customizability and flexibility are favorable.
    • Security. If you’re handling sensitive data (and most businesses will be), it’s vital to have a software developed with security in mind. There should be multiple layers of security in place, and ample settings for you to tightly control accessibility.
    • Ongoing developer support. Your chosen software might be impressive today, but how is it going to look in three years? It’s ideal to choose a product that features ongoing developer support, with the potential for more features and better functionality in the near and distant future.
    • Customer support. If you have an issue with the app, will someone be available to help you? Good customer service can elevate the value of otherwise average apps.
    • Price. Finally, you’ll need to consider price. The best apps will often have a price that matches their quality; it’s up to you to decide whether the extra expense is worth it.

Read about each product as you conduct your research, and pay close attention to reviews and testimonials from past customers. Additionally, most software companies are happy to offer free demos and trials, so you can get some firsthand experience before finalizing your decision. Take them up on the offer.

Finding the Balance

It may seem like purchasing or subscribing to new software products will always improve your business fundamentals, but this isn’t always the case. If you become bogged down with too many apps and services, it’s going to make operations more confusing for your staff, decrease consistency, and drain your budget dry at the same time. Instead, try to keep your systems as simplified and straightforward as possible, while still getting all the services you need.

You won’t find or implement the perfect suite of software products for your business overnight. It’s going to take weeks, if not months of research, free trials, and in-house experiments. Remain patient, and don’t be afraid to cut your losses on products that aren’t working the way you originally intended.

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Business Entrepreneur

‘Small’ business was once a stigma, but is now a growing point of pride

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Small businesses make up the majority of companies, employers, and money makers of the American economy, that’s something to be proud of.

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American small business

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, all businesses were small businesses. Independent craftsmen served communities with vital services. Small merchants opened shops to provide the community with goods. Lawyers, doctors, and other professionals hung out a shingle to offer their services to neighbors. Small businesses were the norm. Some of the most beloved American companies started out local. John Deere, Harley Davidson, and King Arthur Flour, all got their start as small businesses.

Business changes led to a attitude change

It wasn’t until manufacturing allowed businesses to scale and produce more efficiently that the idea of big business became more important. Post-World War II, the idea of a small business became derogatory. It was the age of big government. Media was growing. Everyone wanted to be on top. Small businesses took a back seat as people moved from rural to urban communities. Small business growth plateaued for a number of years in the mid-20th century. Fortunately, the stigma of small business is fading.

Small businesses are the backbone of the economy

According to the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council, the “American business is overwhelmingly small business.” In 2016, 99.7% of firms in American had fewer than 500 workers. Firms with 20 workers or less accounted for 89.0% of the 5.6 million employer firms. The SBE also reports that “Small businesses accounted for 61.8% of net new jobs from the first quarter of 1993 until the third quarter of 2016.” Small businesses account for a huge portion of innovation and growth in today’s economy.

Modern consumers support small businesses

According to a Guidant Financial survey, the most common reason for opening a small business is to be your own boss. Small business owners are also dissatisfied with corporate America. Consumers also want to support small businesses. SCORE reports that 91% of Americans patronize a small business at least once a week. Almost half of Americans (47%) frequent small businesses 2 to 4 times a week.

Be proud of small business status

Small businesses are the innovators of tomorrow. Your neighbors want to support small businesses, knowing that their tax dollars stay in the community, and that they’re creating opportunities within their own city. Your small business status isn’t a slight. It’s a source of pride in today’s economy. Celebrate the fact that you’ve stepped out on your own in uncertain times. Celebrate the dirt under your fingernails, literally, or figuratively, that made you take a risk to do what mattered to you.

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Business Entrepreneur

Will startups ever fully return to offices?

(BUSINESS ENTREPRENEUR) Founders Forum survey seeks to understand how early-stage startups are changing their workplace strategy to adapt to our new COVID-19 controlled world.

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founders survey

Startups in the tech industry are notorious for growing their businesses from their bedrooms, coffee shops, and mom’s basement. What more do you need when you have a phone, a computer, and a strong Internet connection? Besides of course, an idea and a lot of nerve.

Evidently, a lot more, hence the burgeoning coworking space industry that has surged in the United States in recent years. Founders have flocked to shared workspaces to find employees, mentors, and exchange ideas and resources with other startups. Creating a shared space to build community amongst like-minded individuals makes a lot of sense.

Unfortunately, the entire premise of the physical setup of this community has been challenged by the coronavirus. Founders have been driven back to their homes and basements, but have not lost their hunger for community.

That’s why the UK-based entrepreneur community Founders Forum is conducting a comprehensive study about the future of work for startups. “Founders are having to make critical decisions about their return to work strategy in isolation,” Founders Forum Executive Chairman and co-Founder Brent Hoberman told TechCrunch. The survey seeks to understand what founders are thinking about remote work strategies and, use of office space going forward.

As we begin to grapple with the increasingly real scenario where people will have to endure waves of quarantine as we wait for an immunity breakthrough, startups, SMBs, and tech giants alike are reconsidering their daily work structures to adapt to a new reality. Large companies like Facebook, Spotify, and Twitter have announced sweeping changes like indefinite work from home options for certain employees. This survey seeks to gather the yet-to-be-explored ideas from the early stage startup community.

In the entrepreneurial spirit of community and collaboration, the fundamental question at play here is, “How are other founders changing their workplace strategy?” The survey will also attempt to shed light on how employees’ various remote work environments may influence their point of view on strategies for moving forward.

Founders can take the survey here. TechCrunch will publish the results.

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