RISMEDIA, March 10, 2009-“The more things change, the more they stay the same.” We’ve heard that old phrase many times, and nowhere does it apply more graphically than in our own industry. Markets change, the economy changes, and so do public perceptions. But some things-particularly good, sound business strategies-need only to be tweaked a bit to stimulate success in any market.
NAR Power Broker Roundtable Moderator:
Virginia Cook, Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations, NAR
Jim Gillespie, President and CEO, Coldwell Banker Real Estate LLC;
Brenda Featherston, Vice President, RE/MAX Premier Group, Dallas
Virginia Cook: NAR offers online tools and resources at REALTOR.org and in its monthly REALTOR® Magazine to assist members in making these adjustments. From education and business research to certifications and designations, everything is available to help set agents apart from the competition. For this month’s Roundtable discussion, we ask industry veterans Jim Gillespie and Brenda Featherston how they are tweaking their proven success strategies to survive today’s business climate. Jim?
Jim Gillespie: To begin with, broker/owners will always focus on recruitment, retention and well-trained sales associates to positively impact profitability. That is a strategy that never changes and is especially vital in times like these.
Brenda Featherston: I agree. At RE/MAX, we are very targeted in recruiting. We don’t want everyone. The new agents we take on are very focused, have great learning potential, and really want to build a business. Those are traits that are imperative in any business climate. Then, we have the brand name, the international focus and the market share to offer both new and experienced agents the technology and management strategies that really work.
Jim Gillespie: At Coldwell Banker, we’ve also refocused our consulting model. Our executive business consultants aggressively work with affiliated companies on such critical issues as profitability, desk occupancy, business planning and effective marketing strategy. The focus is on metrics that allow management to correctly gauge strengths and weaknesses. That is important when times are good, but perhaps even more relevant today
Brenda Featherston: Consistency is key in any market as well. Our people are encouraged to keep to the basics, like maintaining past client contact, which is a goldmine for referral business. When it comes to prospecting, we believe in relationship marketing, in growing your sphere of influence through networking every way that you can.
Jim Gillespie: And of course it’s necessary to be on top of your market and to keep your customers educated about what is really going on in your region.
Brenda Featherston: All the negative media about the real estate market has made buyers timid. We know how vital it is to get the real picture out to the public. They need to know, for instance, that in our Dallas area, while foreclosures are up, property values are still appreciating by two to four percent every year.
Jim Gillespie: Good point. Our clients as well as our affiliates have to be making decisions based on facts and not emotion.
Virginia Cook: In watching overall market activity over the past year or two, what do you see changing most, and how do we accommodate these changes using the best of our proven strategies?
Brenda Featherston: We see a trend toward less brick and mortar and more officing at home. We will always need office space to be available, especially for top teams. But as today’s agents become more mobile and technology-driven, they are comfortable – and efficient – about conducting business from home. Even traditional e-mail is becoming passé in some quarters, especially with Generation Y. We have a young agent who was texting almost exclusively with one young couple and she had them under contract within four days. You’ve got to make everything about the customer, and that includes how to communicate with them in the way they prefer.
Jim Gillespie: With brick and mortar offices, staffing is a major issue all around the country. Most affiliated companies are making hard decisions on how essential certain positions are. We are encouraging them to make certain the right people are in the right jobs – and if not, to make the necessary changes.
Brenda Featherston: Also, agents, like broker/owners, need to question every expense. In our region, print advertising has gone almost to zero in favor of Internet strategies, which are more client-targeted anyway.
Jim Gillespie: The fact is that sound business strategies never really change. You need to develop a rigorous business plan and, when applicable, be able to maximize the tools and systems offered by the brand.
Brenda Featherston: And let’s not forget the importance of flexibility. We need to adapt the ‘common knowledge’ to our own businesses and be alert to changes in our marketplace.
The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS® and Virginia Cook, NAR’s Special Liaison for Large Firm Relations. Watch for this column each month, where we address broker issues, concerns and milestones.