Listen. Plan ahead. Stay humble and hungry and grateful. These are the words Dan Forsman, CEO of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties lends to budding real estate agents. Read the following interview for more insight.
Barbara Pronin: Dan, you didn’t start out in the real estate industry. Can you briefly trace the career path that brought you here?
Dan Forsman: Sure. I started out as an accountant. I worked as a Big Four CPA, traveling a lot, until my wife and I decided it was time for me to get off the road. I took a job as controller with a small Merrill Lynch realty firm here in Atlanta. I was working as relocation director for the company when it was sold to Prudential in 1989. Two years later, I bought the company with a partner. We had six offices and 180 agents at the time. Ultimately, I became the majority owner, and that’s the way it stayed until I made the decision to sell the company to Berkshire Hathaway three years ago and stay on as CEO.
BP: And that turned out to be a good decision?
DF: Absolutely. We had grown to a little over 1,000 agents when we converted to Berkshire Hathaway in 2014. Today, we have more than 1,400 agents, and we continue to shatter our own production records. We’re the No. 1 residential realty company in the greater Metro Atlanta area, with more than 11,000 transactions and $3 billion in sales last year.
BP: How do you see your role as CEO of the company, and how does that impact your agents and employees?
DF: We’ve come through any number of good and bad times in my 30 years in the business, and we surely will again. We came through the last recession with some big hits in our battleship. While we went into the downturn as No. 6 in our market, we came out as No. 1, largely because a positive attitude is the first order of business in my life. It’s the basis of how I see my job…to find ways to come out of adversity stronger than we were going in, and to keep the troops motivated and positive.
BP: What has been your approach to growth, and has that changed as the market has rebounded?
DF: The basics never change—a commitment to excellence, good planning and organization, and a team culture that recognizes, inspires, rewards and celebrates success. Apart from that, we’re great believers in the Gretzky strategy—looking down the road to determine what’s coming and being there to make it work for you, whether it’s changing technology or changing demographics, or shifting market opportunities. That doesn’t mean looking for the next shiny penny. It means maximizing new opportunity. As the economy has rebounded, for example, we’ve had great success when it comes to expanding our presence in the growing luxury home market. To do that, we focus on a “glocal” strategy, a term that combines a focus on both global and local marketing. We’re charter members of the International Multiple Listing Service (IMLS), and we have a distinct presence in all the high-end global websites and magazines.
BP: You mentioned technology. How are you responding to the changes in this very dynamic area?
DF: We recognize that consumers are not the only ones changing. Agents are changing, too, and so is the way they do business. There’s never been a time when technology and marketing were more fundamentally connected. We’re gravitating to what we call ‘smart’ offices. We have three in place already, kind of Starbucks-oriented, with less square footage but great versatility and more of the mobile technology it takes to do business in today’s world.
BP: What do you see as your biggest challenge?
DF: A great listing priced right sells quickly, so there’s still a need for more inventory. New construction is not growing fast enough and we have a shortage of new homes at every price point, especially in the high-end. The advent of TRID has raised the bar on how we handle some core services, and we’ll need to refine things even more as new regulations come down. Most of all, we need to stay relevant by being on the cutting-edge of what consumers want and expect, and at the same time, provide more of the human element we bring to every transaction.
BP: In your opinion, Dan, what’s in store for the industry and your company?
DF: There will always be dips and hurdles to overcome, as well as evolving technologies, new regulations, and emerging ways to deal with them. While we cannot control the state of the marketplace, we can control our own performance. The day is coming, if it hasn’t already begun, when consumers will rate their real estate professionals online. Successful agents will need to be the most knowledgeable, insightful, well-organized and communicative in order to achieve that coveted five-star rating.
BP: What other advice would you care to impart to new and aspiring agents?
DF: The same advice I give to myself every single day. Listen. Plan ahead. Stay humble and hungry and grateful for every chance to show the stuff you’re made of. Most of all, stay positive and focused. Keep your eye on where the puck is going—and ask yourself what you can do to put a little more sunshine in someone’s day.
For more information, visit www.bhhsgeorgia.com.