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Michael_SaundersWhen Michael Saunders founded the Sarasota, Fla.-based Michael Saunders & Company in 1976, she wanted the firm to be something special. As the firm celebrates its 40th anniversary this year, Saunders feels it’s come to stand for everything she had hoped—especially when her son Drayton became her partner in 2003.

“It’s exciting to look back in our 40th year and know we’re a family-owned company that’s been greatly involved in this community,” says Saunders. “My goal has always been to make a difference, whether it’s making an agent better, truly caring and listening to consumers in order to be the right solution for them, or focusing on areas of need within the community.”

Thanks to sales that topped $2.7 billion last year, Michael Saunders & Company has grown into one of the highest-selling brokerages in Southwest Florida. Although the firm is primarily a residential company, it also has a strong commercial component.

“We’ve been growing our commercial division in terms of agents and areas of the market that we serve,” says Saunders. “We’re focusing on tenant representation, which we haven’t done until this year. We’re also opening a new office and moving our No. 1 office to a very high-profile location with additional space.”

The firm is also growing in other ways that traditional residential firms may not be.

“We’re very much involved in new-home marketing. We have many residential brokerage firms and have a very strong division solely representing developers,” Saunders says. “We’re in the process of finishing one of the highest-profile communities in our marketplace that consists of 141 residences, with an average price of $1.4 million. We’ve launched a very urban downtown community of 157 residences with retail and office, and just launched another phase of the Ritz Carlton residences with 86 units in Sarasota.”

With approximately 675 agents, Saunders believes that the best way to grow the firm’s productivity is through mentoring, coaching and marketing.

“What sets us apart as a company is our culture. It’s about our agents and their relationships with consumers and their involvement in the community,” says Saunders. “We do traditional training and career development with all the normal sessions and are very active building those relationships internally.”

Although building big teams is a popular practice in the industry, Saunders is against the movement, limiting her teams to a maximum of just four.

“I believe that when you build large teams, you lose the human interaction because the division of responsibility is so spread out,” says Saunders. “We encourage small, productive teams. Drayton and I feel very strongly that that’s what differentiates us. We believe our agents are best at developing deep human relationships, and to help that, we take a lot of marketing off of their shoulders with a support staff of about 185.”

Although Saunders notes that the first quarter of 2016 has been flat compared to last year, 2015 was a year of great recovery.

“We had a lot of existing- and new-home inventory absorbed, and I think it was a very strong year that brought a recovery in prices,” says Saunders. “We knew this year would be more normalized. The first quarter was slow, but the floodgates opened at the beginning of April, and it’s been a very strong month in terms of writing contracts. That should lead to another great year.”

Vitals: Michael Saunders & Company
Years in business:
Size: 22 offices, 692 agents
2015 sales volume: $2,732,937,632
2015 transactions: 6,963
Region served: Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte Counties

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