By Lesley Geary
RISMEDIA, May 2008–When Ronnie Matthews and his wife Cathy started their real estate team 20 years ago, the team concept was so unusual that it helped them stand out in the business. To help them stand out today, they rely on their 26 full time team members and the professional brand they have cultivated over the years in the Greater Houston area.
The Ronnie and Cathy Matthews Team
Years in real estate: 20
Years as an agent team: 20
Number of team members: 26 full time; 2 part time.
Region Served: Greater Houston area.
I formed an agent team because… My wife and I went into real estate together and we were a team right from the get-go. That’s just the way we started out in the business.
How have you grown your team over the years?
Our team tends to grow in spurts. When we started out it was just my wife Cathy and me. Cathy filled the role of buyer’s agent and was responsible for showing houses, while I negotiated the contracts. Eventually, as the business grew, we began adding people to take care of individual tasks such as paperwork and “pending work.” Today, our team is made up of three buyer’s agents who are responsible for keeping in touch with our sellers and two seller’s agents. The remaining team members act as a support staff.
How do you compensate team members in order to treat their position within the team as a long-term career?
As a business we have to create stability, so this is something that is very important to us. Most of our group has been with us for at least five years so I provide each of them with medical insurance and a 401K program that I instituted within the last year. This is how you get people to join and stay with your company-you pay them well, you treat them fairly and you give them the opportunity to advance within the business.
How do you market and brand your team as its own business entity?
Since day one we have used uniformity to market and brand our team. Teams weren’t in the spotlight twenty years ago, so when we came along and advertised the Ronnie and Cathy Matthews Team, we really stood out. To keep this message consistent, every piece of marketing that goes out from our office has this same brand on it.
Do you have a mission statement or team guidelines for all to follow?
We have no written guidelines in place for our team to follow. Instead, we lead by example. We focus on the client and put their interests first. If you are constantly doing the best job that you can, your business is going to grow.
When and why did you choose to break away from your brokerage to truly run your team as its own business? It was really a mutual agreement between our former broker and us. When we bought our franchise four years ago, we had 16 people on our team and were working within another brokerage. The office’s space limitations were hurting us and we were putting a strain on their resources as well.
Do you have a succession or exit plan in place? Over the next ten years, my wife and I plan to start fading out of the company with our employees slowing buying us out.
How do you deal with difficult clients? If a particular client is going to be very difficult to deal with, we wish them well and tell them that we can’t help them.
What is your best competitive advantage? We communicate as best as we can throughout the entire process, while also trying to understand the client’s needs and desires.
Our team is different because… Everyone in our group really cares about everyone they are working with and for.
I reward the team… By treating them with respect and paying them appropriately. We also have a lot of office get-togethers and give Christmas bonuses. And you certainly can’t discount the fact that I take care of them like family.
My philosophy for a successful life in real estate: If you always put your clients’ needs first, then everything else takes care of itself. My general philosophy in life is to do the best I can at all times and not worry. I try to instill this in all of our team members.