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The real estate industry is constantly evolving. Fine tuning your approach to growth and change can, for many, draw the line between success and failure. In the following interview, Gary Scott and Ron Clark of Long & Foster Real Estate talk about making the market changes work for them.

Gary_Scott_Ron_ClarkeGary Scott
Ron Clarke
Senior Vice President;
Regional Manager,
Philadelphia region
Long & Foster Real Estate

Barbara Pronin: How many offices and agents do you currently have and what regions does your firm now serve?
Gary Scott:
We now have over 10,000 agents working in the company’s 180-plus office locations stretching from Virginia and the Carolinas to the New Jersey shore. In the Philadelphia Metro market alone, we have nearly 2,000 agents in more than 25 offices serving customers from Central City Philadelphia through New Jersey and the Delaware suburbs.

BP: Why did Long & Foster and Century 21 Alliance decide to join forces?
Long & Foster is strategically focused on expanding operations throughout the Northeast, and growing our presence in the Philadelphia region is one of our top priorities. The partnership with Alliance emerged as the clear choice for accomplishing these goals.
Ron Clarke: As our leadership team looked for the best business partner to help us grow in the future, we found that Long & Foster was a great fit, and we recognized the value of working with a trusted and independent, family-owned firm. We shared not only common goals, but also important values like giving back to the communities we serve through volunteerism and charitable giving.

BP: What sets your firm apart from the competition?
As Ron mentioned, Long & Foster Real Estate is a family-owned company. That has helped us create a family-like feel throughout our organization and to establish an open environment where all our agents and employees not only know the company’s founder and leadership team, but also experience first-hand our agent-first philosophy and our commitment to their success. That family-like spirit begins at the top, with our founder, Wes Foster, who still interacts with our people on a daily basis.

BP: How has your company evolved over the years and survived the challenges of the downturn?
In the early years, Long & Foster grew by capitalizing on the surge of new housing developments in the region and by acquiring a number of small firms. We continue to grow via strategic acquisition and by growing our ancillary services, such as mortgage, title and insurance. That diversified approach has helped us to thrive in any market environment.

BP: How is your approach to growth changing now that the market is rebounding?
For the past few years, we have focused on what we call “smart retail,” creating strategic retail locations that offer smaller office space with an emphasis on the technologies and mobile platforms that help our associates do what they do best—bring buyers and sellers together.

BP: How are you serving the needs of today’s more informed, more tech-savvy consumer?
With massive amounts of data available to consumers, the role of the agent as a trusted advisor is more critical than ever. With professional guidance, complex data becomes both meaningful and actionable. A good agent helps the consumer navigate through and make sense of information as it applies uniquely to them.

RC: Our agents are more mobile than ever, receiving and transmitting information as their customers prefer and using social media to their advantage. At the same time, they never lose sight of that face-to-face element that builds lasting, personal relationships.

BP: In your opinion, what is most critical to your firm’s success path forward?
What’s important for our success—and for everyone in the real estate business—is to remember what we learned from the last economic downturn. Maintaining financial discipline is crucial, as is rigorous and strategic decision-making. At a high level, it means being fiscally responsible, recruiting and retaining the best teams in the business, and ensuring effective communication across your organization so everyone is on board with your vision.

RC: As CEO at Alliance and in my new roles at Long & Foster, one of my highest priorities is growing the company so that our sales associates do not outgrow us.

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