Editor’s Note: The RREIN Broker Spotlight Series offers industry insights from members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), an elite network of leading real estate companies united behind the belief that Information Share Equals Market Share. In this interview, featured in the September 2010 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine, RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central Owner Tom Skiffington, shares his insights on adapting and succeeding in a changing marketplace.
RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central
Maria Patterson: First, please synopsize your career path and tell us how you came to lead RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central.
Tom Skiffington: I started in real estate back in 1988 and joined RE/MAX 440 and my partner, Marian Fraticelli, in 1991. Marian had been running our Quakertown office since 1987, and we opened our Perkasie office when I joined her in ’91. A couple of years after I had been running the Perkasie office, I started running Quakertown as well. Now, we have 10 locations—we are the largest RE/MAX company in Pennsylvania and Delaware. We started with one office and 20 agents in 1988 and, since then, have grown to 10 offices and 200 sales associates.
MP: How would you characterize the firm’s positioning in its respective marketplaces?
TS: We are the number one office in almost every market we’re in as far as productivity. So while some of our competitors have a larger agent count, we are the leaders in productivity. And that’s what customers care about—that your firm can get their house sold, not how many bodies are in your office.
MP: How has RE/MAX 440 and RE/MAX Central evolved and grown over the years to adapt to changes in the marketplace?
TS: One of the reasons why we’ve done so well is that we’ve been able to read the market throughout the years. First of all, I’m not just a broker—I’m one of the company’s top producers in terms of individual agents. That means I’m out there in the market, doing this business every day. So when I do something in my individual business that works, I then implement it for the entire company so that our agents can learn from it, too, and I can help all of them become more productive. They can get good advice from someone who’s actively selling real estate versus someone who hasn’t sold real estate for 30 years and doesn’t understand what they are going through or their needs.
MP: What would you point to as your competitive differentiation in the marketplace?
TS: One of the things that sets us apart is that we are very technologically advanced. We have our own IT department within our office, which really helps our agents. We will step in and guide our agents through the technology as much as they need. For example, we have a paperless system. Our vendor trained our management team and our staff how to use it first. Once we got every file online and the system was perfect, we introduced it to the agents and showed them how to use it. But, if they don’t want to use it, they don’t have to. Our staff will do it for them. Other companies leave it up to the agent and offer no alternative—therefore, it fails.
MP: How do you educate consumers as well as your agent force?
TS: We do a lot of different things to educate the consumer and our agents. You have to approach people the way they want to be approached. We have many face-to-face meetings in our office, and offer training twice a week on different topics—any agent can go to any office. We have e-mail distributions all the time, webinars, computer training and individual training. You can take all of our educational classes anytime. We also have social events, because sometimes you can get through to an agent better through socializing, either inside or outside the office. We use social media, a company intranet and text messaging, too. And we just signed up with RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) to provide agents and consumers with even more relevant information on a daily, weekly and monthly basis.
MP: How are you retaining top-producing agents?
TS: There’s no company in the area that provides the level of service we do for their agents. Commission splits have dwindled in our industry, therefore, so has service at many companies. A lot of real estate firms are trying to make their agents operate independently and while agents like to be independent in some aspects, in certain aspects of the business, they like and expect services from their broker. Very few of our agents need assistants because we do it for them. When they sell a property, we do everything—from the agreement of sale to the closing. If the agent leaves and goes to another company, they lose all that. No other company is going to give them that whole package.
MP: What are your plans for continuing to grow the company?
TS: We just purchased a new office in Allentown that we’re currently remodeling. Our immediate focus is to grow that location and our presence in the Lehigh Valley. We have also expanded a New Construction Division and Commercial Division.
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