This month’s National Association of REALTORS® (NAR) Power Broker Roundtable discusses disruption in the industry.
Christina Pappas: We are living in the age of the shiny new penny. Daily, brokers and agents hear from peers—via email, via social media—that, “this new software will boost production,” that a game-changing app is “at your fingertips,” that “yet another discount broker is setting up shop in your area.” It’s enough to make our heads spin, and, yet, dare we look away from all these updates lest we somehow miss out, or get left behind, or fail to successfully compete? It’s a good question, and we’re checking in today with three industry veterans to hear how they deal with the hype and the growing wave of business disruptors. Dan, you’ve long been a force in Atlanta real estate. What’s your take on all this?
Dan Forsman: I think so many people get distracted by all the noise that they fail to keep their eye on the prize—and by that, I mean the lead indicators that keep our business running. Sure, we need to be tech-enabled, but we also need to focus in on what is driving our success. How many calls are the agents making? How many appointments are being set? As brokers—even as agents—we can’t be sidetracked by the threat or the promise of every shiny new penny. We need to concentrate on creating a culture that focuses on what we know drives business.
Drayton Saunders: Real estate will always be people-centric. In any environment, and in any competition, buyers and sellers need qualified guides—dedicated, experienced agents who understand the emotion involved as well as the nuts and bolts of buying and selling a home. I don’t think either new technology nor any competing business model can replace that kind of an agent. At the same time, call it a disruptor or call it innovation, I do try to look at and evaluate what’s trending or new in technology. How will it impact our business in the short term? More importantly, in the long term, will it add value to the agent or consumer, because that’s the only measure that counts. I’m always open to something new that meets that narrow criteria.
Joe Clement: We have a business plan. We have a vision. We have a mission statement up on the wall. We try to stick to that and not get crazy about any of these so-called disruptors because, as Dan said, we know what drives our business. We may tweak things a notch now and then, and we do listen, but we also know that 70 percent of our business is repeat and referral. Our agents are dealing most of the time with the people who already love them. There isn’t a cut-rate competitor anywhere that can shake that kind of loyalty.
Bill Plattos: The thing about discounting is, where does it end? There’s always somebody who’ll go lower. What we offer is full service and the strength of our carefully built brand. We depend on our managers—carefully selected managers who are among the best in the business—to build agents at every level so that they, too, are the best in the business, and I think our customers know that.
CP: What I’m hearing from you is to trust your instinct, and I’d have to agree with that. Build the right strategy for connecting, reaching and serving customers with distinction, and those shiny pennies, in many instances, become less of a concern or distraction.
DF: You know the elephant in the room here is the risk of another recession, because we all know it’s bound to happen sometime. But if you stay focused, stick to your plan, and don’t go chasing every new trend, you won’t have to run for cover. Create a culture that drives business. Focus on the things you can control.
BP: In fact, we know from experience it’s when things get tough that we excel.
JC: We’d love to be in a more normal environment. Low inventory is still a challenge, but we’ve doubled our listings since the first quarter of the year, largely because we can count on our base—all those referrals and the repeat business we’ve cultivated over the years.
DS: I think what we’re saying here is, leverage what’s new, but keep your eye on what you do best. What counts most is building a company that excels on its proven merit.
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