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Communicating the Right Message: Tami Bonnell, Exit Realty

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By Maria Patterson

RISMEDIA, May 2009-Power Brokers from across the country recently partcipated in RISMedia’s 21st Annual Power Broker Survey. Here, read how Tami Bonnell, president of U.S. Operations, EXIT Realty communicates the right message through education so that her agents can provide their clients with the tools they need to succeed in any market.

Maria Patterson: How did business turn out in 2008? What led to those results?
Tami Bonnell:
In two-thirds of the states we’re in, we grew in office count, agent count, productivity and transaction count. In looking at this current market, there are a couple of things that we do differently from anyone else – we step outside of the industry and talk to economists and business people from other industries. We’re not just looking at the real estate industry. The other difference is how we have faced this market. We went in before the recession hit and prepared for it so that by the time it did hit, we can recover a little bit faster. We weren’t blindsided. We’ve been watching the cycles for a long time and paying close attention.

MP: What’s your approach to leadership in today’s market?
TB:
All of the people in leadership at our company meet on a regular basis at the beginning of every year and then quarterly throughout the year. We focus on the possibilities and opportunities in the market. We don’t talk about the problems. We don’t sit back and say we have to cut everywhere. Other companies are just going out there and cutting costs…but how can you cut everything and still grow? We invest in the human element and the intellectual property of our company.

I go out and give a state of the union to our franchises so that they see the bigger picture. And we just don’t go out once or twice a year. Last year, I spoke in 46 states – to cut the records you have to play more gigs. More than anything right now, we need to connect and communicate. When the market shifts, a lot of people duck and don’t take responsibility. We focus on how to get the most out of our people, and not just REOs and short sales-we look at everything to see what’s working and what’s selling and put good, accurate market knowledge in front of them all the time.

MP: What strategies were critical to keeping your company afloat in the turbulent market?
TB:
People that produce will always be out there producing. We educate, educate, educate from every angle – webinars, teleconferences, live training, interactive training. And every single bit of our training gets posted to our internal site.

In any business, you want to focus on being lean and efficient, but we’re a production driven company and we don’t just take 5-10% off the top. We focus on getting the best out of our people and to do that, you have to come out and connect with people in the way they want to be connected with.

We do not focus on problems; we focus on solutions. There’s something good going on somewhere all the time. Sometimes it’s just about trying that one more thing, making that one extra connection so you’ll be able to excel.

MP: Have you been able to turn this market to your advantage?
TB:
Everybody is getting more efficient and the market shifting is forcing you to be more creative. We’re actually becoming more effective communicators and figuring out where we can get the biggest bang for the buck-like our webinars. This market is forcing us all to become better.

MP: Were there any areas where you increased spending?
TB:
We increased spending on education and technology, even at corporate headquarters-we did not eliminate a single job. Our entire focus is on growth.

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