In the following article we speak with Gary Scott and Larry “Boomer” Foster, Presidents of Long & Foster Real Estate, about co-leadership, sustainable company growth and connecting with today’s consumers.
Barbara Pronin: Boomer, I know Gary has over 25 years of industry experience and was a top-performing agent before moving into management. Could you give us a quick recap of your industry background?
Boomer Foster: I was a trial lawyer for eight years before moving into real estate, and I’m proud to say I was a top producer in my first year with the company as an agent. I served as a branch manager for several years before coming into corporate as senior vice president and regional manager for Northern Virginia and West Virginia, one of our company’s largest regions.
BP: How would you characterize the company’s size and footprint in the marketplace today?
BF: We are a major presence in the areas we serve, with over 200 offices and more than 11,000 agents across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions. Long & Foster Real Estate is part of The Long & Foster Companies, which include Prosperity Home Mortgage, Long & Foster Insurance, Long & Foster Settlement Services, a corporate relocation services division and one of the largest property management firms in the United States. Annually, the real estate business in itself has sales in excess of $28 billion.
BP: Gary, how do you and Boomer split your responsibilities—and what’s the secret to successfully co-leading a company?
Gary Scott: It’s no secret. Boomer and I joined Long & Foster’s leadership team around the same time in early 2010, so we had five critical years of working together right through the downturn crisis. More importantly, we have the same vision in terms of where the company is today and how and where we want to take it. We’ve split our duties geographically. Boomer takes responsibility for the Washington, D.C., metro area, including Northern Virginia and Southern Maryland, as well as our North Carolina business, and I oversee Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania along with the Baltimore area, the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Richmond, Hampton Roads and southwest Virginia.
BP: What were some of the initiatives you set out to implement during this first year working as co-leaders?
BF: Our main focus was, “how can we simplify the agents’ lives and give them more time to do what they do best?” We relied heavily on the results of our annual agent satisfaction survey to determine what they wanted, and then we set about giving them what they identified. We focused on automation for one thing, taking many of the administrative tasks online and bringing back a super-efficient help desk. We upgraded our networks and equipment—improvements that are meaningful to the agent. We’ve made our operating platform more efficient and are in the process of developing a new interactive company website, as well as new agent websites.
GS: We’ve also upgraded our luxury-home program through our affiliation with Christie’s International Real Estate, and we’re now the exclusive Christie’s affiliate virtually everywhere we do business. We also introduced Presentation PRO to our agents, an interactive presentation system from Moxi Works that enables them to create dynamic presentations for every listing, selling and marketing opportunity.
BP: What does all this mean for the consumer? What do today’s consumers want?
BF: Consumers today are pretty segmented in what they want to achieve. Gen Xers are now creating families, and many are ready to move up. Boomers are concerned with cost and lifestyle. Millennials are looking for an urban lifestyle. All the new investments we’ve made at Long & Foster, many having to do with our technology offerings, mean our agents are readily equipped to provide consumers with the best service possible, whatever their needs may be.
BP: In your opinion, what do today’s agents—or companies, for that matter—need to do in order to succeed?
GS: They need to take the long view, understanding that success in this industry is all about relationship-building and providing white-glove customer service. It’s also critical that they take a very personalized approach with every buyer and seller. Consumers need to know we are knowledgeable advocates who are here to negotiate on their behalf and help them make the decisions that will best serve their needs.
BP: What are your plans for continuing to grow the company?
BF: Long & Foster is a family-owned company, and our first priority is preserving our family-like culture. Everyone here is part of the family, a valuable part of the whole. So ultimately, our growth strategy is very simple: do what’s right for the agent, because what’s right for them is right for the company.
For more information, please visit www.longandfoster.com.