Editor’s note: The Power Broker Roundtable is brought to you by the National Association of REALTORS®. Watch for this column each month.
Moderator: James Imhoff, Chariman & CEO, First Weber Group, Madison, Wis.; Liaison for Large Residential Firms Relations, NAR
Panelists: Joe Clement, Broker/Owner, RE/MAX Properties, Colorado Springs, Colo.
David Boehmig, Founder/President, Atlanta Fine Homes Sotheby’s International, Atlanta, Ga.
Rick Haase, President, Latter & Blum, New Orleans, La.
Jim Imhoff: ‘Getting there is half the fun.’ That was the slogan when the first Cunard liners began sailing passengers across the Atlantic way back in 1919. For today’s business owners looking to grow their companies, it’s a slogan that still holds true. Establishing your firm at the top of your marketplace—by whatever means works for you—is at least half the fun of ownership. So today, we are looking at smart strategies for growth in particular; the best, most practical and most fun ways to increase your firm’s size and market position. We’ve invited a few savvy industry professionals who are having tons of fun doing just that! Joe, what does growing smartly mean to you?
Joe Clement: It begins with hiring quality agents— whether they are new or experienced…people who are clearly of high integrity, have a demonstrated passion for helping others, and have had a history of productivity in whatever they’ve done before. Experienced agents come to us from a variety of sources, but we’ve hired any number of former teachers, nurses and, in our area, a lot of former military—people from many walks of life who seem to have the right chemistry and who turn out to be top producers.
David Boehmig: My preference in terms of smart strategies for growth is to hire more agents rather than open additional offices. Like Joe, I look for new people who’ve had some success in other areas—especially those who seem to fit right in with our distinctive company culture—because I have full confidence our training program will get them up and running in real estate.
Rick Haase: Our managers and agents are our best recruiters, and much of our hiring is organic. But when I joined the company five years ago, our chairman, Bob Merrick, and I had a specialized vision for growth. For us, the right mergers and acquisitions are a necessary part of recruiting. Our focus has been on expanding our footprint into contiguous markets, and as a result, we’ve made 11 acquisitions—including two title companies—over the past 60 months…not necessarily because they are the biggest in their markets but because they have strong leadership teams who we feel will represent us well. As a result, we’ve grown from 1,050 agents to over 1,450 during these last five years.
JI: How do you identify companies you might be interested in acquiring?
RH: We look for customer- and community-focused companies with a similar culture to ours. Often the owners are in the last part of their careers and are looking for the right succession plan. We’re a 100-year old company, and they know from our track record that we take good care of the broker and employees after the transaction closes. In many cases, the broker continues to work with us until he or she is ready to retire—and, in any case, they know we will continue to be supportive throughout the discussions, the contracting, and the launch.
DB: Although that’s not a road we’ve ever gone down much, the ID process, in terms of recruiting experienced agents, is pretty much the same. Working agents are either happy where they are or they’re going through some sort of disconnect. Maybe they’ll call because they know our brand and admire our position in the market. Or maybe one of our agents will pop into the office and suggest we talk to a friend. Either way, if the leading indicators are right, we will certainly initiate the discussion.
JC: Something else I’d like to mention, because it works well for us in terms of growth—and that’s hiring teams. It’s a little like an acquisition but not as complicated, because you’re taking on a team of five or six agents—generally a team of high-producers—who are happy to transition together. They’re looking for what we, as a company, have to offer—and we’re happy to have them on board.
JI: For me, networking is the best way to find and identify recruits—and that’s true whether you’re focused on acquisitions or simply on agents or sales teams. What else works in terms of strategies that promote and inspire intelligent growth?
JC: I send out our company newsletter to a select distribution list…and the occasional letter to let someone know, ‘I’ve got my eye on you. Can we talk?’
RH: A smart strategy for growth is always emphasizing the importance of cultural fit. We’ll be pulling together, a family of companies, with the same outlook on life. It’s incredibly important that our goals and our strategies are in synch.
DB: The industry today is back in growth mode. There are plenty of quality people out there. I look for the ones who want to change their lives…who are looking for a new song to sing.