“Real estate is not a place where I expected to land. I didn’t give it any consideration, funny enough.”
These are the words of Tom DeWine, someone who did more than just “land” in the business—he is now the CEO of ERA Colonial Real Estate, which is ranked as a Top 15 ERA company nationally with four offices in Texas, from Fort Hood all the way down to San Antonio. Last year the company closed on 2,063 units and half a billion dollars in volume, and their GCI was $10.7 million.
ERA Colonial Real Estate was founded in 1987 by Dennis DeWine, Tom’s father. Tom joined Colonial Real Estate in late 2005 after nearly a decade of sales in the medical and surgical device industry at the request of his father, who was thinking about retirement and wanting to leave his business in good hands. They worked together, father and son, for 12 years.
“I did just about everything, including some sales so I could understand that experience and have that awareness,” says DeWine. “I was doing the minute tasks and also bigger tasks so I could understand the business from financial, marketing, operations and everything else, so I could gain exposure from just about any viewpoint. ”
In 2011, Tom got his broker’s license and became ERA Colonial’s chief operating officer, and, in 2017, Dennis sold him the company.
One year after the transition, DeWine is focused on reimagining growth for his company, while maintaining the core of integrity that was the bedrock of his father’s business.
Working Toward 300
“For many years, our version of growth was not necessarily to add agents; it was to see if we could help our existing agents be more successful—to sell more,” DeWine says. “Because we were selective and because of the support model, we had a smaller office size.”
ERA Colonial Real Estate has always hovered between 75 and 100 agents, and the goal is to have that number rise to between 250 and 300.
“The challenge for me,” says DeWine, “is to not diminish any of the high-touch, high-support services that our agents enjoy, but to actually expand upon that in some additional meaningful ways, while we also add more successful and experienced people.”
DeWine considers himself a firm advocate of “who first”—finding the highest quality people and helping them be successful.
“I like to say we select rather than recruit,” he says. “One of the things that has evolved under my leadership is that we are no longer selecting new agents. We’re only working with agents who are experienced and we define specifically what an experienced agent is to us.”
Balanced but Aggressive Growth
By increasing the amount of experienced, high-quality agents at the brokerage, DeWine is hoping to hit an important target he laid out for his company.
“A couple of years ago, we decided that our threshold for success for an agent was 24 transactions closed in a 12-month time period.”
ERA Colonial Real Estate continues to evaluate that as the threshold. Right now, two-thirds of their agents are doing in excess of 30 transactions per year, and many of them are far above that. The average per-agent productivity across the entire company is about 21.7—not far off from that threshold as a whole, and DeWine and his executive team are working tirelessly to reach their goal.
“We are moving towards a place where we are the go-to place for broker services on behalf of the agent to drive sales,” he explains. “Everything we’re doing revolves around empowering the agent and empowering sales by helping agents be more organized, more efficient, and, therefore, more effective.”
But DeWine, an entrepreneur who is living the be-your-own-boss lifestyle, knows that hard work and success can sometimes come with interpersonal costs, and he’s striving to make his company an even healthier place for people to succeed—what he calls a “balanced but aggressive” approach to growth.
“Our agents and our staff are individuals—they’ve got families, they’ve got other interests, and they’ve got other things in their life that are important,” he adds. “My version of integrity is to help them create balance in their work and personal lives.”
Adapting to Consumer Behavior
“For the first time, we’re in a space of looking at adjacent and horizontal integrations,” DeWine explains. “We are more open than ever before to any business we can partner with or bring in on our own that will add that end-to-end, 360-type of solution for someone who is going to buy or sell real estate.”
DeWine attributes this new line of thinking as a way to meet the consumer demand to have things on-demand and customizable to them.
“Consumer dynamics and consumer demand are changing with Lyft, with Uber, with Amazon—you name it. There are people bringing groceries to our homes now! The dynamic of ‘going shopping’ is different. Real estate is changing too, so it’s been important for us to watch these trends and think about how we’re going to evolve to serve the consumer in a relevant manner.”
A big part of the evolution process involves leveraging the community and network Colonial Real Estate has with ERA and Realogy at large.
“That is an unfair advantage we have over a lot of our competitors,” DeWine acknowledges. “We have access to ERA’s technology, tools and capital to help us meet shifting demands, plus a network of amazing, experienced people all over the country.”
A Legacy of Integrity
While a lot in the past year has changed for ERA Colonial Real Estate, some basic things haven’t. The most fundamental part of Dennis DeWine’s legacy was that of integrity, and, as his son, Tom is proud to carry that on.
A highly-decorated military pilot who served two tours in Vietnam, Dennis was known for his deep integrity that went into everything he did.
“His values are what drove him and what animated him as an individual and led him to accomplish so much,” recalls DeWine. “The most fundamental value was integrity—integrity that is about keeping commitments and doing the right thing.”
The strength of his father’s leadership is something else that he consciously emanates as he leads one of ERA’s top-performing companies.
“Challenging people to be their most successful is core to who ERA Colonial Real Estate has always been,” says DeWine. “It’s certainly what my father created. That was where his heart was and where his energy was and I’ve carried that—while we worked together and now individually.
“I often tell my team: ‘I cannot tell you that it will be easy, but I can tell you that it will be worth it.'”
For more information, please visit www.era.com.