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Maximizing Brand

Many of today’s brokers are making brand changes that they believe will better align their firms with the needs of today’s real estate agents and their consumers.

“I’ve been in the business for 30 years, and made four brand changes,” says Ron Croushore. “I wasn’t planning on making another change.”

However, the opportunity to affiliate with the new Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices brand was too enticing for Croushore to pass up. Operating and maintaining business while transitioning his firm to the new brand took careful strategy and strong leadership.

“The brand change got me energized,” says Croushore. “The whole organization got charged. It was a two-and-a-half year process from the time the new brand was announced. I focused on staying in front of our agents and in contact with our clients. We have a 35-year history with our contact database and it was important to get agents mobilized and in touch with those contacts.”

Croushore employed a systematic strategy to transition to the new brand that included podcasts, letters, training sessions, webinars and more for successfully adopting the new brand. Croushore himself took on a heavy travel schedule to get out in front of agents and get them energized about the new brand.

According to Croushore, it was also important to make the transition fun, including engaging agents with contests and humorous, informative videos.

Another critical part of successfully transitioning to a new brand involves deflecting the slings and arrows of competitors. Croushore’s response to various criticism, such as “Ron’s retiring,” was not to defend, but rather inform.

“I heard all the negative comments and didn’t answer,” he explained. “Instead, I Fed Ex’d every one of our broker/owners my full schedule so that they could see exactly what we were doing and come straight to me if they had any questions. They didn’t have to deal with the rumors because they were being constantly updated.”

Ultimately, the advantages of the brand change far outweighed any bumps in the road, reported Croushore. “The brand change energizes people,” he explained. “The way we’ve approached it has given us a new opportunity to reach out to people and recruit more people. The curiosity gives you a chance to re-engage.”

Fostering Productivity

For Scott MacDonald, instituting a culture of productivity begins during every agent interview, where prospects are asked to put together a business plan. This allows MacDonald and his team to determine what kind of effort an agent intends to put forth, regardless of their tenure or status in real estate.

“Doing this prevents us from wasting time on agents who are not going to be successful,” MacDonald explained. “We’ve broken down what it costs us per agent, per month; agents who are not productive are costing us $2,145 per month. Recruiting is a big piece of productivity and profitability. We need to be selective about who we’re bringing on board.”

MacDonald strongly advised brokers to “look at where you’re spending your money. Analyze your numbers and know what it costs you per agent. Look at every expense—toilet paper, vacations, staffing—and know what you need to do to be profitable.”

MacDonald backs up his productivity-focused recruiting with a strong retention campaign, which includes a lot of small but important gestures: holiday parties; monthly agent appreciation; happy hours; personal notes congratulating someone on a success; birthday celebrations; etc.

From a larger business perspective, MacDonald ensures retention with a strong lead-generation program through affiliated business arrangements. He also offers weekly “soup-to-nuts” training in each office along with higher-level training opportunities, such as an entrepreneurial summit, a team summit and a business-planning summit.

“If for some reason, an agent can’t make it to any of those, we also have quarterly meetings where we have a national speaker come in, such as Dave Stevens from the CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau), Joe Niego (from Buffini & Co.), or Dr. Steven Thor, a local economist from our association. Everything we’re doing is focused on the education of agents.”