This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable discusses family teaming and succession planning.
Christina Pappas, District Sales Manager, The Keyes Company, Miami, Fla.; Liaison for Large Firms & Industry Relations, NAR
OB Jacobi, Co-President, Windemere Real Estate, Seattle, Wash.
Jason Waugh, President/CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Northwest Properties, Portland, Ore.
Debbie Lupole, Team Leader, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Florida Network Realty, Jacksonville, Fla.
Christina Pappas: I consider myself one of the lucky ones. I grew up in the real estate business, the third generation following my grandfather, who gained control of the company from Ken Keyes who founded our organization in 1926, and my father, who ultimately purchased the company in the ’90s with his brother. While my four siblings followed different paths, l believe there is nothing more challenging or rewarding than a career in this ever-changing business—and while the subject of succession planning comes up regularly for me and my one cousin in the business, there are many ways and many strategies for taking care of business—for us and our producers considering their exit strategies.
Today we’ll be hearing from a few very successful family real estate dynasties to learn how they make it work for them. OB, you are co-president of your family company along with your sister, am I right?
OB Jacobi: Yes, the second generation—and also with Jill [Wood’s] husband [Geoff Wood], our CEO, as the third co-president of the company our dad established. Like you and many real estate kids, Jill and I worked our way up, from sweeping the sidewalks and answering phones as teenagers to sales and then into management. Our dad wanted to be very sure we could walk before we ran, but his goal was always to ensure the longevity of the company and maintain the family asset through succession.
CP: How have you made the succession possible, if you don’t mind sharing?
OBJ: Not at all. Several years before he was ready to retire, Dad sold the franchise company to us on a five-year contract, which is working out well for all of us—and the interesting thing is that 60 of our 325 offices have family teams working in their second generation, as well.
Jason Waugh: My dad, who’s still in the office most days, felt much the same way. We did meet with a third-party consultant to work out the dynamics of succession, but Dad was very clear the business would be mine one day if I earned it. I literally worked my way from the ground up—but once I proved to him that I was up to the job, and that we share a similar vision for the company even though our styles are different, he was very pleased to let me take control.
CP: How does this work in practice, Debbie, when an agent operating under a franchise umbrella develops a family team?
Debbie Lupole: For me, after 35 years as an agent, I had a pretty extensive book of business—and when I began to think about retiring one day, I hoped I could make succession work. My oldest daughter worked with me for a while, but she gave it up when she married and began to raise a family. Fortunately for all of us, her husband—my son-in-law—and my younger daughter love the industry as much as I do. Our company leaders have been very supportive, and it’s wonderful to be working with my family. There’s such a comforting trust level. Also, they are far more tech-savvy than I am, and that’s been a terrific plus.
CP: Are you okay with sharing how you handle the financial details?
DL: We keep it simple. Every transaction is split three ways. They get the benefit of having an instant business, and I know I’ll continue to have an income even after I retire. It’s a win-win for all of us.
OBJ: That’s great—and not uncommon. In our company, we have so much interest in family teaming, in fact, that we created an internship program for the high school and college kids of our agents. They get familiarized with every aspect of real estate, including title and escrow. My son and several of my nieces and nephews have participated in the program, so we have great hopes for the future of the company—but also, it’s been a great way to foster and support the kind of family legacy Debbie is creating.
JW: We, too, see more family teaming in our company. In most cases, these are some of our most highly productive people, and we are glad to provide information and a lot of support to help them transition in the most appropriate way for them, whether it’s bringing in the family or selling their book of business or whatever.
CP: I think that’s the key, actually—transitioning in the most appropriate way for them. As parents, or as the children of successful real estate entrepreneurs, keeping the business in the family is a desirable and understandable objective, and NAR has information available on succession planning for brokers. We’re all going to retire someday; what’s important, I think I hear all of us saying, is that we understand the alternatives for doing so, and don’t put off making the proper and necessary arrangements.
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