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PB15_panelistsIn an industry that’s constantly changing and evolving, building a sustainable brokerage business that can withstand market fluctuations is not only a challenging proposition, but one that can’t be taken lightly.

As the industry continues to strengthen on a daily basis, it’s more important than ever that brokerage leaders take the time to set their firms up for continued success as we prepare for 2016.

This was the overarching theme earlier this month at RISMedia’s 20th Annual Power Broker Forum, “Building a Sustainable Brokerage Business,” where a panel of industry-leading executives provided 600-plus attendees with an in-depth look into the various strategies they’ve employed within their own firms to set themselves up for long-term success.

PB15_Forum_panel_JEFModerated by John Featherston, President & CEO of RISMedia, and David Romero, President & CEO of CENTURY 21 Award, panelists included Randy Courtney, CEO, Courtney Valleywide Properties; Rick Davidson, President & CEO, Century 21 Real Estate LLC; Howard W. “Hoby” Hanna, IV – President, Howard Hanna Real Estate Services; Kuba Jewgieniew, CEO, Realty ONE Group; Pam O’Connor, President & CEO, Leading Real Estate Companies of the World®; and Tom Tognoli, President & CEO, Intero Real Estate Services, a Berkshire Hathaway affiliate.

Kicking off the forum, Featherston reiterated the importance of coming together during the REALTORS® Conference & Expo. “Not only are we here to learn and network, we’re also here to gather pearls of wisdom to bring back to our respective firms so that we can have an even better 2016.”

PB15_David_RomeroProviding a feel for where things stand in the San Diego market, Romero noted that things are continuing to look bright, a trend he doesn’t anticipate ending anytime soon. “We’re recovering from the recession and on the heels of job creation,” said Romero. “Consumer confidence is up and San Diegans are buying homes again. In fact, we’re on pace to sell about 40,000 homes in 2015, a five percent increase year-over-year.”

Leading with Culture
In much the same way that you can’t build a home without first laying a solid foundation, the key to building a sustainable brokerage centers around creating a strong core, or culture. “My philosophy has always been that everyone has a voice,” said Jewgieniew, who built Realty ONE Group from the ground up a little over a decade ago. “Not only is it important that you lead with culture, but you must listen and take action as well.”

While Howard Hanna Real Estate’s culture shifted in 2009 as a result of the acquisition of one of the firm’s largest competitors, Hanna noted that his grandfather’s practice of welcoming new agents to the family with a handwritten note has remained constant over the years. “We’ve seen tremendous growth in the last 10 years especially,” said Hanna, “but the most important factor in our recruiting and retention process revolves around retaining agents and continuing to develop the culture we’ve created.”

“We’re stronger than ever before,” said Tognoli, who explained that those who were able to survive the recession have seen a true flock to leadership, providing ample opportunity to grow as a company and bring people on board. “People are looking for leadership, to be part of an organization that cares about the success of its people on both a personal and professional level.”

Staying Relevant
As the world continues to shrink, and consumers change right along with it, keeping up with today’s consumer is another area that plays an integral role in laying a solid foundation that will lead to future success.

PB15_Rick_Davidson“One thing that’s certain in today’s market is the fact that the dream of homeownership is alive and well around the world,” said Davidson. “Your agents—and your firm—need to reflect the customers you’re going to serve by understanding their culture, language and purchase process.”

For O’Connor, connecting with people has been a priority since the inception of LeadingRE.

“From day one, I wanted to be more than just dots on a map,” said O’Connor, who went on to explain that the network sent referrals to almost 90 countries last year alone. “The world is shrinking, technology is uniting us and people are traveling like never before. The question now becomes how do we drill into that growth? How do we get to know each other as people? Because at the end of the day, we’re all the same.”

Whether it’s attracting millennials or staking a claim in the international marketplace, in the end, it all boils down to being relatable. “It’s all about understanding who your target customer is, providing them with what they’re looking for and serving their needs in the right way,” added Davidson.

Positioning Yourself for Future Success
With the end of 2015 in sight, the No. 1 piece of advice panelists had for attendees in terms of reinventing their business and setting themselves on the path for growth in 2016 centered around thinking outside the box and staying ahead of the curve.

“I’m always looking down the field in order to set my firm up to take advantage of the opportunities out there,” said Tognoli.

“Learning how we can get better is critical,” said Courtney. “As an independent, we’re constantly testing different products and trying to fine tune and hone in on what is and isn’t working. Staying on the forefront and exposing yourself to as much information as possible is a key part of our strategy.”

PB15_audienceEchoing Courtney’s sentiments, Jewgieniew noted that staying ahead of the curve will be more important than ever over the next five years as more than one million millennials enter the market. “Know your business and don’t conform to change. Instead, make change happen.”

For Davidson, the difference between working in your business, rather than on your business is critical. “You need to have the right plan in place and execute on that plan on a daily basis. It’s also important to surround yourself with people far smarter than you.”

And more often than not, looking to individuals outside the industry is a key piece of the puzzle. “Real estate is leadership, leadership, leadership,” said O’Connor, who pointed to succession planning as an important area that can’t be overlooked when it comes to preparing for the future. “Think hard about your succession plan and be open to inviting people from outside the industry in.”

While staying the course is easier said than done in a world where technology enables real estate professionals to simply chase the market, Davidson advised attendees to be pragmatic. “Understand what’s happening, devise and develop a plan, and position yourself on its path so that you can catch the market when it comes.”

“Be who you are, stick to it, and you’ll find success,” concluded Hanna.

For more post-event coverage from the 2015 National Association of REALTORS® Conference & Expo, stay tuned to