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“A big portion of any business is not just understanding what your market is, but what the market will give you,” says Ed Dolinksy, President of Coldwell Banker Hunter Realty. Read the following interview between Dolinsky and RISMedia’s Maria Patterson to find out how to connect with consumers and build business in any market.

Maria Patterson: How did you get into real estate?
Ed Dolinsky: I was in banking for over 20 years. I was a senior vice president and the bank I worked for opened up a real estate company, along with an insurance and securities division, as part of a complete financial services program. The bank eventually divested the real estate company. However, I decided to stay with the real estate firm and officially started the company in 1981; we became a Coldwell Banker franchise in 1990. Coldwell Banker brought us brand recognition, innovative technology, training and marketing. We merged with Coldwell Banker Routh in 2009. Combined, we now have 17 offices and 375 agents. We serve 10 counties in Northeast Central Ohio and North Central Ohio, including Cleveland and Sandowsky.

MP: How have you managed to survive in the business over the years?
ED: A big portion of any business is not just understanding what your market is, but what the market will give you. We’ve been through a lot of difficult markets and, during each of these periods, we went in the direction of what the market would give us. We are an unconservative conservative company. In other words, we always look to create benefits for the consumer, but nothing we do puts our primary business—real estate—at risk.

MP: How has your company evolved since the market downturn?
ED: Like everyone else, at one time, we had more offices, but today, we’ve consolidated some. In Cleveland, we started early; we saw the market start to decline in July 2005. Our downturn was quicker than the rest of the country. In this different market of today, you have to look at how the consumer is different, too. We need to understand and respect that consumers already know a lot before they even contact an agent. Whenever we look to try something new, we look closely at what it can do for the consumer. If you can help the consumer, then, ultimately, you will be helping your agents and, therefore, helping your company grow.

MP: What do consumers want in a real estate professional?
ED: There are two things the consumer wants their agents to have: a sense of urgency and a sense of tenacity. The old salesman concept of “it’s all about me” doesn’t cut it anymore. If your approach to this business is centered on how you can offer more to the consumer, that mindset alone will allow you to succeed in a difficult market.

MP: What programs have you already instituted on behalf of the consumer?
ED: RISMedia’s Real Estate Information Network® (RREIN) is a great example, especially RREIN mobile, which makes it easier for the consumer by allowing them to get instant information about a listing on their mobile devices. Mobile technology is critical because providing consumers with instant gratification is essential. We are getting a lot of positive feedback about RREIN mobile.

MP: What do agents need to do to effectively connect with and serve consumers?
ED: They need to have a good website. They have to be out there blogging and using other social media. Agents have to find out how consumers want to be communicated with and they have to respect that. You have to respect how consumers want to partner with you. You have to find a way to give the consumer what they want. Consumers keep growing, so you have to be able to grow with them.

MP: What is your strategy for building business in today’s market?
ED: Challenging markets like this one provide us with opportunities that most overlook. We seek those areas that the competition doesn’t in order to help the consumer. For example, we’re doing some things differently in the commercial arena that we think will be interesting.

You have to work harder to do more for the consumer and offer things to consumers that may not be initially economically rewarding. But you’re building for the future—it’s there for the taking if you’re willing to put in the hard work, time and effort to work those markets that no one else thinks are viable.

There is a paralysis in our country today—an inertia. Nothing happens in a vacuum—you have to break the vacuum. How do you do that? You do something for the consumer. You bring them something positive to talk about, like interest rates or the very affordable housing stock, and you start turning inertia into energy.

MP: What’s your best advice for agents who may be struggling?
ED: In today’s market, there’s no boardroom management. You have to be in the trenches. There’s one phrase I use with the team all the time: “Just ask.” No one can presume what someone’s answer is going to be. If you offer the right vehicles to make things possible for real estate consumers, then sometimes you can change their answer to a “yes.” You have to be in the trenches putting options out there for consumers, making sure they’re aware of what’s available to them. You have to create positive experiences for consumers because this will lead to more business.

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