Kuba Jewgieniew has created a thriving best-of-both-worlds scenario that has seen unprecedented growth. Starting Realty ONE Group in 2005 to fill a void he experienced as a top-producing REALTOR®, Jewgieniew went from sole proprietor to 60 offices across the nation and 7,000 agents in just 10 years, and ranks nationally as the No. 5 firm in sales volume in RISMedia’s 2015 Power Broker Report. How did he make this happen? By creating “the ultimate big, small company with all the benefits of big brokerages plus the intimacy, trust and lower fees of a smaller one,” he says. Find out more about Jewgieniew’s unique growth strategy and how he plans to take that growth to new heights.
Maria Patterson: Please briefly synopsize your career path in real estate and how you came to lead the company.
Kuba Jewgieniew: I made my first million selling homes in 2004. As a successful REALTOR®, the harder I worked, the clearer it became that there wasn’t a company out there to support my success with the tools and technology I needed to thrive. So, I created it. I started Realty ONE Group in 2005 in Las Vegas (which also happened to be at the same time my first child was on the way!). Initially, I was a one-man-band, filling every role until I could afford staff. Now, Realty ONE Group is a multi-billion dollar, family-run franchise business.
MP: How many offices and agents do you currently have and what regions does your firm serve?
KJ: Realty ONE Group currently has more than 7,000 agents and over 60 offices across the nation. Currently, Realty ONE Group’s offering is in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, Washington, Colorado, Mississippi, Tennessee, Utah, Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania, with ambitious plans to be present in all 50 states in the next 12 to 18 months.
Realty ONE Group is No. 1 in Nevada for sales and size, and it is the fastest-growing brokerage in both California and Arizona.
MP: How would you describe your firm’s positioning in the marketplace? What sets your firm apart from the competition?
KJ: Realty ONE Group is built on the guiding principle that it provides top-producing real estate professionals with the education, service and assets they need to succeed, for the best value. Realty ONE Group is not a traditional brokerage; it is a lifestyle real estate brand that makes a difference in local communities by giving agents the tools and support they need to sell houses that their clients then turn into homes, and through charitable giving in local communities.
The culture at Realty ONE Group is unlike any other company. The culture has been built around a philosophy of ONE—that together, all agents and employees make up one family, and that Realty ONE Group provides enough training, education, support and technology for everyone to succeed and grow their own businesses.
Realty ONE Group offers more coaching and educational tools, empowering agents and setting them up for success so they can always deliver a positive experience for their clients.
MP: How would you describe current market conditions in your area?
KJ: The real estate market is gradually returning to what it was. It is stabilizing across the nation and home values are increasing, while sales (units sold) are flattening. As always, there are certain areas and markets that are hotter than others—for example, the real estate market in Austin is growing incrementally. And those markets that were booming before the bust are now starting to experience growth again but at a slower rate than before, for example, Nevada, Florida and Arizona.
MP: What has been your approach to growth in recent years, and how has that changed now that the market is rebounding?
KJ: In the last 10 years, Realty ONE Group has become a leading brokerage. It is ranked No. 5 in the nation for 2014 sales volume, according to RISMedia’s 2015 Power Broker Report, and has been featured in the INC 500 as one of the fastest-growing companies in America for six consecutive years. I was also honored to be ranked in the top 20 of Swanepoel’s 2015 Power 200 list. This success is because everything at Realty ONE Group starts with people. Finding and keeping the right talent who want to grow with the business is vital.
Realty ONE Group constantly monitors the industry and our competition, so we know exactly what homebuyers are looking for as clients, and in turn, what agents are looking for from brokerages. It’s a family business that is big in size, but because it has always been debt-free and has a flat structure, it is nimble enough to pivot whenever needed, to stay ahead of market changes, and consumer and agent needs.
As ambitious as Realty ONE Group is, the rate of growth is also dependent on some external factors (such as interest rates, how the stock market is performing and saturation), which the business is always monitoring and managing, from an internal perspective.
MP: How has your company evolved over the years and survived the challenges of the downturn?
KJ: Although not a start-up, Realty ONE Group is based on the model of a disciplined start-up so that it can remain nimble and flat structured. It has created the ultimate big, small company with all the benefits of big brokerages plus the intimacy, trust and lower fees of a smaller one.
For Realty ONE Group, it is about making change happen rather than surviving change. Growth plans are measured and iterated based on external factors that may affect the company and internal development plans for every department. And, although the brand is growing quickly, it is not reckless with its ambition for future growth. Its strong internal communication has also played a vital role for the business in a constantly changing market.
Everyone at Realty ONE Group is valued, rewarded and given the same level of trust and priority, whether it’s a 50-agent office or a 500-agent office.
MP: What are the biggest challenges currently facing your firm and its agents?
KJ: The biggest challenge is redeveloping Realty ONE Group’s proprietary systems to be more robust and to scale. This is something the business is currently working on, in preparation for future growth.
MP: Where does the greatest opportunity for increased business lie?
KJ: Realty ONE Group is growing rapidly. Over the last three years, it grew by 205 percent. Bringing on our first 1,000 agents in the first three years was a monumental task, which we have now supercharged, increasing our agent count to over 7,000, 1,000 of those being in the last 12 months. In 2014, the brokerage experienced its strongest year of financial growth, with more than 27,000 closed transactions. Last year, Realty ONE Group agents generated $8.5 billion in revenue.
The biggest opportunity for continued growth is expansion into new states. In fact, Realty ONE Group aims to be present in all 50 states by the end of this year. Currently, focus is on growing the East Coast offering, and earlier this year, Realty ONE Group attracted an experienced and esteemed regional manager, Greg Bardell, to join the team and grow the company’s East Coast presence.
MP: How are you serving the needs of today’s more informed, more tech-savvy consumer?
KJ: I come from a technical background. I understand how it’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the technology that is out there, and new tools that are launching each day. At Realty ONE Group, the technological tools we decided to make part of our 360 Agent offering are those that are significant enough to enhance the overall experience. Emphasis is given to the use of video and tools that make professionals’ lives easier—by saving them time or by delivering information to them efficiently when they need it.
MP: How are you attracting and retaining top agents?
KJ: The key differentiators for Realty ONE Group, which enable us to attract top-producing agents who share the same vision, hunger for success and care for the local community, are:
- Cool culture
- Creative coaching
- Crazy commissions
For the business to thrive and continue to grow, it needs to attract the right professionals, those whose attitudes align with the company values and that make a valued contribution to the community. Realty ONE Group is a lifestyle brand, where people are placed at the center of its business model. We offer health benefits—which is almost unheard of for professionals on 1099s—and employees can choose to have a 401(k), if they would like. Realty ONE Group also pays commissions within 24-48 hours, which is the quickest in the industry. Each agent’s intellectual property always remains their own; Realty ONE Group does not take ownership over members’ independent listings or escrows. And, it does all of this for a lower commission fee than its competitors so that members have the opportunity to invest back into their own businesses and the local community.
MP: In your opinion, what is most critical to your firm’s success path forward?
KJ: Realty ONE Group uses a staircase approach to growth. Each year, the company determines a strategy that is actioned, followed by a period of reflection. Reflection time is essential to iterating growth plans, so year on year, they can be strengthened to deliver better results.
The process of growth—much like buying a home—is emotional and should be treated that way. Realty ONE Group creates a positive experience in everything that it does, and celebrating the small wins—as well as the big ones—is important.
MP: What’s in store for the future of the firm?
KJ: Realty ONE Group has ambitious plans for future growth, going from 7,000 to 70,000 agents in the next five years and expanding its presence to every state in the nation within the next 12 to 18 months. Ultimately, Realty ONE Group aims to attract the top 10 percent of industry professionals across the U.S., which equates to 150,000 new members, drawn from the current talent pool of 1.5 million real estate agents.
The company also aspires to become an international business within the next few years.
For more information, visit www.realtyonegroup.com.