“In real estate, we understand it’s all about ‘local.’ But it’s also all about ‘global,’” says Dan Forsman, president and CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties. Read the following interview to glean Forsman’s top business strategies.
President & CEO
Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties
Barbara Pronin: Dan, we last spoke a little over a year ago just as you were preparing to rebrand to Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices. What motivated you to take a new look at your operation?
Dan Forsman: The timing of the rebranding had much to do with seeing things in a new light. For one thing, having just come out of a prolonged recession, we had learned the value of diversity—and of the need to differentiate ourselves in meaningful ways as a progressive and innovative company. At the same time, Atlanta was enjoying a rush of new activity. Major corporations and global entities were coming into town. Relocation was becoming more of a priority and there was revived competition for listing good properties at nearly every price point. It was a thrilling time to be in real estate, and it seemed like the right time to take a good look at all aspects of our operation and push for the next leap forward.
BP: Where did you begin?
DF: We had just become familiar with the “red ocean/blue ocean” approach that W. Chan Kim and Renee Mauborgne had written about—that you can choose to fish in the same red ocean with other fishermen, all fishing for the same fish, or you can throw your line into a blue ocean with new approaches in an uncontested market. Clearly, with all that was happening in Atlanta at the time, it made a lot more sense to fish in a blue ocean, so we began drilling down into various segments of our business to find the new approaches to fish with.
BP: What were among the first strategies you adopted?
DF: In real estate, we understand it’s all about “local.” But it’s also all about “global.” To capitalize on that, we became a charter broker for the International MLS (IMLS)—a relatively new listing service that, as its name implies, markets properties all over the world. We also rolled out an elegant, new luxury real estate campaign, which is attracting new clients whose high-end properties can now be featured internationally. Then we focused on new construction, forging relationships with local developers whose properties will also be marketed in over 60 countries via the IMLS.
BP: In what ways are you seeing results?
DF: Our year-to-date pending units are up 17.7 percent compared to the same period last year. Our closed units are up 13.9 percent. Basically, we are outperforming the market in transactions and average sales price. We have grown 26 percent in luxury transactions—in fact, we are growing faster in the market above $500,000 with the highest percentage growth of any major competitor. Our agent count has also increased, from 1,038 to 1,244—a growth of nearly 20 percent from the same period last year. Consumer’s Choice here in Atlanta named us the “most admired residential real estate company.”
BP: In what areas are you still evolving strategies?
DF: We are already the leader in the Greater Atlanta area in resale and new-home sales, but we are now growing in other areas like luxury, property management and commercial, in addition to our affiliated services like mortgage. In property management, we currently manage more than 700 companies and expect to be managing over 900 by the end of the year. Commercial is also a tremendous opportunity and we are putting a lot of energy into that segment.
BP: Dan, what are today’s consumers concerned with when it comes to buying and selling real estate?
DF: Consumers are a bit perplexed about the low interest rates and rising home prices, and what that means for the market long-term. We have a shortage of inventory because people are wondering when is the best time to sell or buy. We’ve added something new to our website—a simple “click here” feature that enables homeowners to find the current value of their home—and a mobile app that offers things like drive-time commute that customers can weigh into the buying equation. Our agents are actively reaching out to bring more consumers up to speed on the realities of today’s market and to encourage more people, especially first-time buyers, to get pre-approved for mortgages.
BP: What is the company doing in terms of training to keep the sales force equipped to succeed?
DF: Training is critical. At any given time, 25 percent of our agents are involved in a training regimen focused on prospecting, target marketing and business planning. At the same time, management coaching ensures that our vision remains uppermost and that we are all on the same page about where we are going and how we are going to get there.
BP: What do sales professionals need to focus on to succeed?
DF: Attitude is everything. You can never define yourself by last year’s achievement. You get a new slate every year, and you must be focused on doing better this year than you have ever done before. At the same time, a balanced life is so very important to success. I am grateful every day for my family and the people I work with. I’m grateful for the agents who choose to put themselves in our hands. I’m deeply proud of the fact that we have brought in things like healthcare, 401(k)s and other benefits, and made them available to our associates.
For more information, visit www.bhhsgeorgia.com.