By Barbara Pronin
How is your company utilizing technology? “We are accustomed to doing virtual tours and YouTube auto-loads that help bring new clients to us, and we recently created a video to introduce our new brand,” says Christy Budnick, Executive Vice President with Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Florida Network Realty. Read on as Budnick and Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices President and CEO Linda Sherrer discuss how they set their winning brand apart.
President and CEO
Executive Vice President
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, Florida Network Realty
Barbara Pronin: Linda, you were one of the original 10 members of the National Advisory Council of Prudential Real Estate Affiliates back in 1988. How difficult was your decision to affiliate with this new brand?
Linda Sherrer: Not nearly as difficult as it might have been. We briefly considered going independent, and were approached by several other brands. But Berkshire Hathaway, with Warren Buffett at its helm, is one of the premier names on the planet—a global presence recently cited by Barron’s Financial as the world’s most respected brand, ahead of powerhouses like Disney and Apple. In addition, this is the first time Buffett has allowed the Berkshire Hathaway name to be used as a consumer-facing brand. That speaks volumes to us about his commitment to growing and supporting the real estate segment of the brand. But perhaps most important to us, Berkshire Hathaway is totally in sync with the qualities that have always been uppermost for us: integrity, leadership and operational excellence.
BP: When did the changeover become official and how will you handle the marketing and promotion for the new brand?
Christy Budnick: We officially converted in January 2014 with some fun and exciting community involvement as the new signage went into place. We’ve hired new public relations staff to help us get the word out with an advertising and public relations campaign. The goal is to assure our clients, the media and the public that the new franchise not only gives us a greater global presence, but enhances our passion to be the very best at what we do.
BP: What is it that differentiates your company?
CB: Above all, I would say it’s the quality of our agents. We are extremely selective, and as a result, the agents who represent us are verifiably the most productive in the area. And second, we’ve earned the honor of being the luxury leader in northern Florida. We have the most coveted listings, the highest price point, the lowest days-on-market averages in the region and a solid reputation as the go-to company in the area.
BP: So how would you characterize your position in your marketplace?
LS: After 34 years in this business, I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing that, but we certainly rank among the top companies in our market, with some 300 agents in eight offices. Our average sales price is higher than the MLS average, our agents are more productive in both units and volume, and we’re coming off a great year. Last September, for example, when business generally falls off a bit, we were actually 45 percent higher in volume and units over September of the previous year.
BP: How are your sales associates meeting the diverse needs of so many different buyers and sellers?
CB: By staying on top of the recovering market and being expert negotiators. We are, and will remain, the Network Realty that Linda created, building solid relationships and constantly networking with a wide swath of buyers, sellers and lenders so that we can negotiate the best deals.
BP: How is your technology evolving to help your sales force meet today’s changing needs?
CB: We have a full-time social media expert and we recently hired a talented webmaster to ensure that all our platforms and programs meet and exceed industry standards. We are accustomed to doing virtual tours and YouTube auto-loads that help bring new clients to us, and we recently created a video to introduce our new brand.
LS: Real estate has always been, and will always be, a relationship-building business. It is still important to be nose to nose and toes to toes with your clients, and even in today’s technology-driven society, you can never undervalue the impact of a handwritten note. Our goal is to hit on all cylinders—to be as tech-savvy and contemporary as possible, but without ever losing sight of what our clients want or the value of a personal relationship.
BP: In taking on your new brand, will the company remain committed to community service?
CB: Absolutely. Giving back to the community is as vital to the philosophy of Berkshire Hathaway as it has always been to us.
BP: What, if anything, may change, and what are your plans for continuing to grow the company?
LS: We will continue to be open to expansion opportunities that fit into our company culture. But the values we have always held are closely aligned with the values that have made Berkshire Hathaway such a sterling and respected brand. Our leadership goals and our own operational strategies will remain local and unchanged, as will our long and proven commitment to innovation. If there is a secret to our success, it is that we have always made an effort to look ahead, anticipate change and reinvent our approach to deal with current market problems and opportunities, whatever they might be.
For more information, visit www.BHHSFloridaNetworkRealty.com.