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Raising the Bar on Real Estate Success

When brothers Nimesh and Minesh Patel decided to go into business together, they leveraged their rich backgrounds in technology, finance and real estate to take over Sugar Land, Texas-based RE/MAX Fine Properties in 2009. Since then, the firm has consistently improved upon its numbers year-over-year, with remarkable accomplishments in agent productivity. The secret to the Patel brothers’ success? A hands-on, business-focused, supportive relationship with each of the firm’s 180-plus agents. Read more about the pair’s mindset for success in this exclusive interview.

Maria Patterson: Please briefly describe your career path and how you came to lead RE/MAX Fine Properties.
Nimesh Patel:
Before real estate, I was in IT and moved out to San Francisco to work with some big firms in the area. Dot coms were doing really well in the late ’90s and early 2000s, but I was missing my friends and family, so I moved back to Texas. I got my real estate license in 2002 so that I could create some investments for my future. I ended up being fairly good at it and joined RE/MAX Fine Properties. There are still people here now that taught me real estate back then.

Minesh Patel: We were both born in London and raised here in Sugar Land. I went to college in Houston, and in 1999 moved to California to join my brother in searching for a career opportunity after graduation. I majored in business and finance and landed a great job with Barclays Global Investors on the hedge fund side. I came back in 2007 to be with my family, but stayed in my industry and signed on with another hedge fund. Then in 2007 and 2008, the world collapsed. I was laid off and the industry went down the drain for the next several years. Opening my own business was always a lifelong dream of mine, so I decided to partner with my brother. By January 2009, we bought RE/MAX Fine Properties.

MP: That must have been an interesting time to get into real estate!
Minesh Patel:
There were a lot of concerns. We were buying into an industry that was collapsing and hemorrhaging rapidly. No one wanted to buy a house. Everyone was scared. Real estate had come to a grinding halt and the subprime market collapsed. Agents were leaving the industry in a mass exodus. The positives were we were coming into a business that was distressed. We were buying in a down market as opposed to an up market, so it was easy for us to negotiate a lot of important variables.

Nimesh Patel: We knew that if we got into the business at a discounted price, and put our energy and effort into it, we could build it up and stay on the positive side of things right off the bat. I liked the fact that this was going to be challenging, but if we worked hard, there was a lot of potential.

MP: How many offices and agents does the firm currently have?
Nimesh Patel:
We have one office and 185 agents. For two years in a row, we’ve been the largest single office RE/MAX in the country. Our parents are involved here, too. Our dad is our accountant, and when I got my license back in 2002, my mom also got hers. And to this day, she is still active.

Minesh Patel: We’re No. 1 in the country and No. 5 in the world in terms of agent count for a single office. In addition, we’re in the middle of expanding via a satellite branch. One of our fastest-growing teams wanted the opportunity to open their own office in Katy, so we’re currently helping them build out another office, which will open very soon.

MP: How does being affiliated with RE/MAX help support your success?
Nimesh Patel:
RE/MAX has always been known as the home of top producers who have been in the business for a while. We like that aspect of the brand. We’re not going to teach people how to sell real estate; we’re going to teach people how to be long-term business owners. If you’re an agent who made $100,000 but netted only $30,000, that’s not good. Because of my brother’s background in finance, we’re going to say, “Let’s go over your P&L and see how we can make you more profitable.” We’re changing the language of how we talk to agents and treating them as mini businesses under us. As RE/MAX, we’re going to attract solid producers, but many need help on the business side of things to get to another level.

Minesh Patel: When we decided to get into business together, we looked at 15 or 20 businesses that year, and all kinds of franchises, from Subway to car washes to daycares. RE/MAX was the No. 1 global leader in real estate in terms of transactions and sales, but also carried global brand recognition. It’s ranked with the likes of Coca-Cola, GE and Microsoft.

MP: Why have you chosen to stick with one main location?
Nimesh Patel:
A big part of our culture is that Minesh and I are always here. We found it difficult to see how we would run other offices as successfully if he and I were absent. We didn’t want to have a landlord/tenant relationship with our agents. We’re here; we’re your family. If we start spreading ourselves too thin with other offices, it’s not going to work. There’s no magic pill—you have to be there.

MP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace?
Nimesh Patel:
Last year, we did $770 million in sales volume with 180 agents. The second closest real estate firm in the area has 380 agents and did $650 million. We’re more productive per agent than any of our competitors. Our agents are breaking records in every single category—from listings to buyers to new construction, our firm dominates. Our agents keep increasing our numbers month-over-month and year-over-year. We have a family atmosphere—a serious family atmosphere—with competition and cooperation. We believe that you’re the average of the people you surround yourself with.

MP: What is your approach to recruiting? How do you ensure you’re bringing in and keeping such productive agents?
Minesh Patel:
Most brokerages out there take anyone who has a license—they recruit constantly. Our approach is unorthodox. We have minimum standards in place to be hired and we go after seasoned agents. We want six-figure producers who are serious about a long-term career in real estate. And we recognized early in the game that it’s about retention first—training and educating and making the agents we have more productive. That, in turn, leads to our agents doing the recruiting for us. We don’t make recruiting calls, and on average we turn down 10 – 15 agents per month. People see how we’re doing things differently and they want to be part of a place like this.

Nimesh Patel: We’re also an open book. For example, we wanted a really big producer in the area to come join us, but we didn’t like his overall demeanor after several interviews. He wanted a “deal” to come over to our firm, and we don’t play that game. We treat everyone the same. The firm found out we turned him down and it ended up being the most positive thing we’d done in a long time. It gave our agents a tremendous sense of pride to know we won’t compromise our standards.

Minesh Patel: Our hierarchy is very flat. Most brokerages only cater to top producers and forget everyone else. Our top producers are as important as our up-and-coming producers. We like to treat everyone fairly because you never know when the next superhero or rock star is going to emerge. We see it every year—unexpected, break-out agents who take over a No. 1 spot at our firm.

Nimesh Patel: From our staff perspective, we rarely have turnover. We promote from within. Our most senior manager started out as a weekend receptionist. We’re all about recognizing employees with opportunities they wouldn’t have elsewhere. They’re integral to our success.

MP: How do you involve your agents in the company’s growth?
Nimesh Patel:
We’re very analytical and use a lot of bar graphs and charts. We like to make sure our agents know what’s going on. They’re a part of this growth and it’s important for them to see where we’ve been and how far we’ve come.

MP: What is your approach to coaching and training?
Nimesh Patel:
We teach our own classes—only one per month and only when we really see the value in it. People understand that and it’s why they come to the classes when we have them. It’s my brother and I providing a market snapshot, educating agents, and hopefully teaching them something they didn’t know before.

Minesh Patel: We were one of the first RE/MAX owners to use Momentum training, which was developed by David Scott. We also use Brian Buffini and will quickly adopt any other coaching and mentorships we think add value.

MP: What’s your strategy for effectively marketing the firm?
Nimesh Patel:
We’re big on social media. My brother and I actually run our own Facebook page. We market the success of our agents and firm constantly.

Minesh Patel: With Nimesh’s background in technology, and also being some of the youngest owners at every RE/MAX convention, we’ve been in touch with millennials, and, therefore, were quick adopters of Facebook and other social media outlets that had the largest worldwide traffic possible. We like to let clients know that since we’ve taken over, the firm has had its best year, every year, nine years running. We were one of the few firms growing in the worst recession real estate had ever seen. While most firms were struggling until the market started recovering at the end of 2012, our sides were doubling every year.

MP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology?
Nimesh Patel:
We don’t adopt every single piece of technology that comes out. I’ll be the guinea pig for every new piece of technology we consider, taking the time to learn it and teach it. And Minesh will go to a company and leverage our numbers to get great pricing for our office.

MP: It also sounds like you’re often the guinea pig for systems adopted by RE/MAX corporate.
Minesh Patel:
Yes. For example, BackAgent (online transaction management software) is one of the most widely used systems among brokerages today, but Nimesh was one of the first agents to use it. We found the developer who created it for a local company here and we asked if he could create a custom version for us. After our success, RE/MAX corporate picked it up and promoted it.

Nimesh Patel: We have a great relationship with RE/MAX and we want to be the first ones to do everything. We want to see RE/MAX do well as a whole. When we first got into the business, people reached out to us, so we’ve always had a pay-it-forward mentality when it comes to helping new owners launch their brokerages.

MP: You recently suffered through Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath. How did the company fare?
Nimesh Patel:
We turned our 3,000-plus square-foot training facility into a distribution center for building large totes filled with food, masks, gloves, bleach, box cutters, water, toiletries, Clorox wipes, towels and anything and everything we could find. Partnering with Operation: Rebuild TX and The Church TX, we were able to make over 1,450 huge bins and distribute them all throughout the Fort Bend County area to many of the affected families. We had eight of our own team members severely affected, yet our whole firm, community, business leaders, friends and family came together to assist in rebuilding. As for future business, we’re very confident in our agents and our community; we’ll be on our feet and on top very soon.

MP: So where does the company go from here?
Nimesh Patel:
We want to make sure we don’t remain stagnant and stale and lose marketshare and agents. Someday, someone is going to come along and do what we did. The challenge is, how do we stay out in front of changes and technology? It’s our job to be knowledgeable about everything, so when we hear something about Zillow or Redfin or Amazon, we’re not going to dismiss it. As long as we know what’s happening and coming, we can prepare.

Minesh Patel: Information is the most powerful commodity in the world. We have our ear to the ground on what’s happening so that we can be prepared and act on the information quickly.

For more information, please visit www.remaxfine.com.

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at maria@rismedia.com.

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