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Editor’s Note: The RREIN Broker Spotlight Series offers industry insights from members of RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN), an elite network of leading real estate companies united behind the belief that Information Share Equals Market Share. In this interview, featured in the November 2010 issue of RISMedia’s Real Estate magazine, Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate President Dick Christopher and General Manager Joe Pluscht, share their insights on adapting and succeeding in a changing marketplace.

Dick Christopher
Joe Pluscht
General Manager
Patterson-Schwartz Real Estate

Stephanie Andre: How did your career begin and how did your company grow to what it is now?
Dick Christopher:
Well, I just celebrated my 50th year with Patterson-Schwartz in September. I started with the company right out of college and only 10 people worked here at that time. We’ve grown that to about 400 today. We have three owners: Chris Patterson, Charlie Schwartz and myself. They are the sons of the original owners—Bill Patterson and Charlie Sr.
Joe Pluscht: I also celebrated an anniversary in September—my 25th with the company. I started out as the company’s accounting manager, then became a sales manager in 1997 and five years ago was named the general manager.

SA: How would you describe where you are today?
While our market has been pretty rough, we have grown in marketshare and we have the data to support it. We are growing—especially in listings sold. We’ve focused heavily on that for the past two-and-a-half years and it’s served us extremely well.
JP: The market is what you can’t control; however, we can control our performance in it. We focus on two things: the pricing of our listings and keeping our agents informed and educated about everything real estate related in our market.

SA: What’s your overarching company philosophy?
We’ve always maintained a strong focus on the education and professionalism of our agents. We complement that with a commitment to excellence in customer service. It’s something that we espouse from the first day they join us. Our agents clearly understand that this is our mantra.

SA: How do you ensure that your agents’ customer service is exceeding expectations?
We encourage it in all of our training and our managers consistently reinforce it. We also reach out to every single customer once settlement is complete and ask them to provide feedback via an automated survey. As the results come back, I review each one to determine if our salespeople are meeting and/or exceeding customer expectations, and I reach out directly to the agent and share what was said by the customer.

SA: How hands-on are you with your agents?
Because we are privately owned, we don’t have a lot of layers or hierarchy. That allows us to adapt quickly to the changes in the market. We are able to provide current information to our agents before the competition. Dick and I are hands-on leaders, too. We don’t separate ourselves from operations. We have built credibility with our knowledge of the market and our assistance to our salespeople with pricing. We even meet with sellers if necessary. All of this together allows us to accomplish the end result.

SA: How do your sales associates meet consumer needs?
Since 2008, our focus has been to provide data and talking points to our salespeople to allow them to show sellers—not just sell them—on why they should work with us. We help our agents by providing an online resource for data and marketing materials that are presented to the seller.
DC: It’s important that we use education and data to help our sellers have a successful partnership. Sometimes we think, “Is there something else we should be doing?” We are very focused on education, but we continue to look around, research and talk. That’s what the market needs.

SA: How are you retaining top-producing agents?
People stay with us because they understand we work together in partnership. I try to add value wherever I can. I like to catch people doing something right and congratulate them on a great job. We are always striving to find an area where we have an impact and can help them grow their business. Agents love our environment; they like how we make them feel and like being part of a real team. They know we’re in this together.

SA: What are your growth plans for the future?
Our focus today is on new salespeople and those who share our philosophy and way of doing business. That’s where our growth will come from.

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