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Paving the Way for Agent Success

For JP Piccinini, devising a concept for the ideal real estate company was easy. A former top-producing agent himself, he just thought about everything he would want from a brokerage firm…then built it himself. Clearly, Piccinini’s vision was on the money, as six short years later, Dallas-based JP and Associates REALTORS® (JPAR) has become home to 1,100 agents in 16 offices throughout Texas, an RISMedia Top 500 Power Broker, an INC5000 company with billions in sales, and expansion beyond state lines in the company’s not-so-distant future. The secret to the firm’s rapid growth? Productivity and service, says Piccinini. Find out more about the culture and mindset that drive the company’s success in this exclusive interview.

Maria Patterson: JP, please begin by telling us how you first got into the real estate business.
JP Piccinini:
I started in real estate in Columbia, S.C., at Russell and Jeffcoat REALTORS®, which was recently bought and rebranded as Coldwell Banker. I had been a project engineer and entered real estate cold turkey at 28 years old. I figured, what the heck—if it fails, I can go back to what I had been doing. But I wound up never looking back. I fell in love with the business. Real estate allowed me to help people, it allowed me to put deals together and it allowed me to run my own business by finally being the master of my own destiny—all the things I had been passionate about as an engineer could play into a real estate career. I wasn’t from Columbia, but I became Rookie of the Year, then the No. 1 agent in the office in year two. Shortly after, I became the No. 1 agent in the market for several years in a row before moving back to Texas.

MP: With that degree of success, why did you switch to the brokerage side?
I wanted a new challenge. You can say I learned at an early age that I was an entrepreneur at heart. I wanted to grow a company and help fellow agents with their business by seeing them succeed like I did, so I pursued my broker’s license. I also wanted to move my family back to Dallas—I’m from North Texas and went to school there.

In October 2011, instead of buying into a franchise model, I decided to do my own thing and opened JP and Associates REALTORS®. I designed the concept of the company on a barf bag while on an airplane. I put my REALTOR® cap on and thought, if I was to leave, what kind of brokerage would I wish for? What would I look for? I created the company from the viewpoint of a top producer—I drew up a formula that included 100-percent commission, the support of leadership, and all the technology and training that I wanted as an agent. This is how JP and Associates REALTORS® was born. I figured if I could get 20 or so agents, that’s all I would need to make it work. We started with three, which became 25, which became 75 then 150. Now, we’re 1,100 agents in 16 offices with a few billion dollars in sales behind us. I would be lying if I told you I thought we would be here today.

MP: That’s impressive growth! So what regions does your firm serve?
We are all over Texas, but predominantly in DFW, Austin, Houston and San Antonio. We had a little setback in Houston due to Hurricane Harvey (at press time), but it’s a very aggressive, very vibrant real estate market that will bounce back quickly. Both San Antonio and Houston are brand-new markets for us, and we’re looking to grow them as quickly as we did DFW and Austin.

MP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace? What sets you apart from the competition?
We’re focused on productivity and service. From a cultural standpoint, we’re different from most other brokerages out there because we don’t typically retain agents who haven’t sold six homes in 12 months, nor do we sponsor agents who have sold less than six homes in the last 12 months. We don’t hire part-time agents. We want to focus on agents who understand that real estate is a full-time career—agents who focus on productivity in their business and their responsibility to service the community. As leaders, we service agents and get involved in all levels within the brokerage. We believe in what Zig Ziglar said in the famous quote, “You can have everything you want in life as long as you help other people get what they want first.” That’s how JP and Associates REALTORS® started—we decided to give agents everything they wanted in a brokerage, and the rest just followed. Honestly, it’s gotten even better since the beginning. My job is to keep making this brokerage even better than it was yesterday.

MP: How would you describe current market conditions in your area?
It differs from market to market, but the Texas market has been extremely hot since 2011. Dallas, North Dallas, Fort Worth, San Antonio and Austin are all in the top 20 markets across the nation. Our numbers are up 60 percent from last year and 700 percent from 2013. Even with the natural disasters, the economy is still pointing to Texas to be a leader in job creation and real estate for years to come.

MP: What has been your approach to evolving and growing JPAR?
The company was designed for a top-producer mindset and attracting the right agents who have a passion for selling real estate. We’re about attracting agents who get our values and focus, without the ancillary distractions. They’re focused on one thing, and that’s selling real estate. “Exceeding expectations” is our tagline. There’s a secret in real estate: clients do business with agents because they like and trust them. Very few people choose an agent because of the brand they work for. While we built a brand people recognize, it’s all about the agents here. Agents first. Our management team strives to exceed our agents’ expectations, and agents, in turn, strive to exceed their clients’ expectations.

MP: What are the biggest challenges currently facing your firm and its agents?
When you’re opening offices as fast as you can and growing exponentially, talent acquisition is a challenge, not just in terms of agent count, but from a management standpoint. Attracting top talent to the management team is not easy, but we must attract management and staff to support our growth—put people in a key position to lead.

Another one of our biggest challenges is to expand to other states, which will be the focus in years to come with our licensing expansion efforts. Of course, those talented people we seek will be the key to our success.

MP: Where does the greatest opportunity for increased business lie?
Our biggest opportunity continues to be in Texas, of course. We want to capitalize on the other remaining areas of Texas and the 27 million residents who live here. We would also like to expand to New York, California, Florida and South Carolina; however, there are still billions of dollars in real estate marketshare to be had here in Texas, so we will continue to strive to be No. 1 in the Lone Star State for years to come. Shorter term, our goal is to be No. 1 in DFW by 2025. There—I went on record to say it…now it’s official! That’s a fun challenge, as we compete with some incredibly well-established brokerages.

MP: How will JPAR’s plan for expanding outside of Texas unfold?
We’ve hired a national expansion director, whose primary role is to drive expansion in other states. We get inquiries weekly from brokers who are interested in our model, and have begun the screening process. With the licensing model, brokers can own the brokerage and fly our flag without having to carry the overhead and deal with operational headaches all on their own like a franchisee would have to. We become partners—sweat and cash equity partners essentially. It’s a win-win for all parties. If anyone is interested, they can email USA@jpar.net for more details. We’re actively looking for broker/owners that want to join our journey.

MP: How are you attracting and retaining top agents?
JP and Associates REALTORS® has one of the highest retention rates in the industry—over 90 percent stay and thrive here. In an industry known for its turnover, we’re very pleased with those numbers—it proves we’re onto something with our model. Our productivity, our management team, our culture, the support, our offices, the tools and technology, the mentorship and training make it hard for agents to go anywhere else. We have a career development director whose sole responsibility is to manage and update the training curriculum. At any given time, there are multiple training sessions available to our agents. All those are just part of the support and services agents can expect from our brokerage. We’ve officially coined and proven the term “a full-service brokerage at a transaction-fee cost.” While there are several 100-percent commission brokerages out there, not many can say they’re a full-service brokerage with brick and mortar offices, training and everything else we offer.

MP: In your opinion, what is most critical to your firm’s success path forward?
We want to continue to attract great agents and continue to attract talent in management and staff. It’s also critical that we protect our culture of productivity and service. As we grow, we don’t want that to get diluted. I’m a scholar of other companies, and there are two companies I strive to emulate: Chick-fil-A and Southwest Airlines. They grew from 40 to 40,000 and managed to keep their culture intact.

MP: What’s in store for the future of JP and Associates REALTORS®?
We’re going to continue to expand in Texas and start claiming beachheads in other markets as we move into other states. We want to selectively acquire other brokerages that are of like kind for rapid expansion. That will help us continue to grow exponentially. We recently acquired Private Label Realty’s Texas assets and operations. It was our first acquisition. We’re looking to invest aggressively in other markets in the years to come by doing the same thing over and over as resources allow us to.

MP: What advice would you give to anyone wanting to start their own brokerage?
If your passion is to serve, lead and leave a legacy, go for it. But don’t do it for the money. Do it for the passion and thrill of being an entrepreneur. If you love selling homes, being a broker/owner is not for you. If you love building a business and helping others build their business—go for it.

MP: Finally, can you tell the audience a little trivia about yourself?
Oh wow, there’s lots of material out there! I always like to remind people, as we say in Texas, “I wasn’t born here, but I got here as fast as I could.” I immigrated to the U.S. from Italy at the age of 13. I was a freshman in high school and didn’t even speak English. I finally became an American citizen in 2016 after six different visas. If I can do it…you can, too.

For more information, please contact USA@jpar.net, or visit the corporate site at www.jpar.net.

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

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