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In order to think big for your real estate business, it’s important to focus on the pillars that strengthen your company. In the following interview, Jeff Sposito, the President of J. Rockcliff REALTORS®, talks about the importance of focusing on your agents in order to strengthen your overall organization, and how his company has had a record-breaking year during a time when many others were faltering.

Maria Patterson: How is J. Rockcliff REALTORS® currently positioned in your marketplace now that the real estate recovery is underway?
Jeff Sposito: Things have changed dramatically over the last year-and-a-half. From the fall of 2012 on, it’s been a record-breaking time for us and we’re really excited about that. Last year was our best year ever. We closed $2.6 billion in sales and this year seems to be on pace. During the downturn, we closed two offices but are now looking at opening offices in new markets in the East Bay (San Francisco area).

The market has taken a few slow-downs in 2014 so far, but we’re still very optimistic. For the past three years, we’ve been named by the San Francisco Business Times as the No. 1 real estate firm based on closed volume for all of the East Bay—which is surprising because we only have six offices in the East Bay, whereas some of our competitors have 20 to 25. So we’re very happy about that achievement.

MP: To what do you attribute this level of success?
JS: We’ve basically been the No. 1 firm in our area for the last 20 years—and that’s not a small feat. We’ve been very consistent with very little turnover in agents and we have the most experienced management team in the business. We have both managers and agents who have worked with us for over 20 years. Being able to hold it all together and keep everyone on board is the key.

MP: Why do you think agents and managers have stayed with you for so long?
JS: Everything I do and have done for over 27 years has been geared toward making agents more successful. Agents realize that and see that daily. We’re a traditional, commission-split company and agents stay with us because they realize they will ultimately end up making more money. We had 10 agents make over a million dollars last year, with one making over two million, and our top agent made over three million.

MP: What resources do you provide to agents that enable them to achieve such success?
JS: Our legal team, our marketing department and our technology resources put us at the forefront in each of these areas. We have a director of Risk Management who interfaces with agents and clients to resolve issues before they ever get to an attorney. We hired a full-time marketing director and also brought on a videographer. We will do anything we can to knock down hurdles for our agents, whereas some of our competitors seem to be putting up hurdles.

MP: What strategies have you put in place to stand apart and maintain a competitive edge in your market areas?
JS: We just rolled out a “white label” set of Client Relationship Management (CRM) tools in order to give our agents a better product and an opportunity to be more successful. We really got into video and, in our market, we are the only company that created a green room where—for free—agents can set up an appointment with our videographer and create a video about a listing, a report on market conditions, etc. All of these state-of-the-art tools practically guarantee retention.

MP: What does today’s successful agent look like?
JS: The most successful agents are focusing on listings. Northern California is the epicenter of inventory shortage and successful agents know that listings are gold. The successful agent has evolved into their own company and agent teams are getting larger, which a lot of brokers aren’t happy about. You can fight it or you can embrace it and make it work. We’ve always been agent-centric at our company, so we’ve embraced it. Agent teams are mini companies and the key is keeping the team together.

MP: What plans do you have in place as you look to continue to grow the company?
JS: We have been contemplating and have had people encouraging us to franchise, even though we’re a local company. I’ve had a number of brokers from as far away as Florida want to franchise our name. We started the process four years ago, but then we backed off due to market conditions. Now that the market is growing, we’re seriously looking at starting up the franchise process again and heading in that direction. I’m optimistic about the market and excited for everyone out there. I think we’re in for a number of good years.

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