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Properly Navigating Mergers and Acquisitions in Today’s Market

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By Nick Caruso

RISMEDIA, June 23, 2011—Mergers and acquisitions was a hot topic for broker members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) during an exclusive members-only panel at RISMedia’s 2011 Achieve! Conference last month. Held in Rye, N.Y. on May 24 and 25, the conference was bolstered by the expertise of its esteemed speakers who gave members deeper insight and tips on how to successfully approach and complete an acquisition in the current market.

Held as part of a special educational track for RREIN members and brokers, the panel discussion “Reshaping & Restructuring Your Business for the Future” was moderated by RREIN Member Ed Krafchow, chairman of the board for Better Homes and Gardens Mason-McDuffie Real Estate. The session focused on key areas of external and organic growth for brokers seeking to expand their reach in the current business climate.

In today’s world of real estate, growing and developing your business is the key to success. According to Tami Bonnell, president of U.S. Operations for EXIT Realty, when it comes to mergers and acquisitions, you have to know why you’re going to acquire another company and should always revert back to that reason when in doubt. “When we get close to something, we want to do it. But you have to be humble and know your strengths and weaknesses,” she says.

Getting to know people is also an important part of the process. Get to know the target company and find out what’s important to them, recommends Bonnell. Find out if you have a common ground in your business philosophies to build your relationship on. The more you know about them, the more likely they are going to be honest with you about what’s actually going on.

“If it’s not going to be profitable, be prepared to walk away,” she said.

“We enjoy the opportunity to get to know other companies and see what really makes them tick,” said RREIN Member Dan Durochik, general manager of McColly Real Estate. “If their culture fits with us, smaller companies with five or six agents work better under us, but can still maintain the management of that core group. It takes the burden off their back, such as liability and accounting. It works out better for everybody.”

As a broker, constantly talking to other brokers in your market is a must, said RREIN Member Matt Rand, managing partner of Better Homes and Gardens Rand Realty. “You’re either growing in this market or you’re shrinking. There’s no staying the same,” he explained.

Building relationships and maintaining a common culture were recurring themes throughout the session. “Many people come on too strong,” Rand said. “Build a relationship over time and try not to sell or pitch to them. If you pitch, you have one meeting, they say no, and it’s over.”

Rand, like Bonnell, stresses that a merger or acquisition must be a good fit. If brokers get caught up in the excitement of the deal, they may start to offer an exceedingly larger number and it may get to the point where it’s no longer a good deal. In these scenarios, resist the temptation to close for the sake of closing a deal. “It has to be about their belief about them being stronger under your umbrella,” he explained.

RREIN Member John Reinhardt, president & CEO of Fillmore Real Estate, urged brokers to pay attention to organic growth in their business. “Our theme is ‘Be the change you want to see’ and we’ve changed our company accordingly.”

With the company’s “Fillmore Pro Program,” Reinhart was able to “trim the fat,” separating the top agents from the non-producing ones, all to incite change and growth in his company. “The best place to start growing your company is from within,” he said.

“What is going to happen to my company over the next four to five years?” That is the question today’s brokers need to continuously focus on, said RREIN Member Dick Schlott, chairman & CEO of Gloria Nilson REALTORS®, Real Living.

“You’re either growing or getting smaller. If you’re not growing, why don’t you find someone to acquire your business?” Schlott asked. “Go back and look at what your company is built on, as objectively as you can, and ask yourself if that is going to be adequate for the future.”

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