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Vitals: CENTURY 21 New Millennium
Years in Business: 20
Size: 18 offices, 875 agents
Regions Served: Central Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.
2017 Sales Volume: $3.1 billion
2017 Transactions: 7,800 units

While attending the University of Maryland, Mary Lynn Stone went for her real estate license between her junior and senior year, and started to work in her parents’ office immediately after graduation. It didn’t take long for Stone to realize the income potential of the job, and she enjoyed the opportunity to work for herself.

She and Todd Hetherington joined CENTURY 21 together in 1998, and the two have led CENTURY 21 New Millennium to the top of the industry, recognized as the No. 1 CENTURY 21 firm in the world for four straight years, serving clients in the D.C. Metro region. Today, as president and co-owner, Stone is gearing up for further success in the year ahead.

What sets your firm apart in the marketplace?
Mary Lynn Stone: Consistency. Teamwork. Singlemindedness of purpose. Since our beginning in 1998, our company has grown, carefully and steadily. We expanded to add in-house core services: mortgage, title, insurance, worldwide relocation and commercial. With the help of strong leadership, we have added some of the best agents and staff in the industry. We are always looking for ways to improve the level of service we provide our clients while maintaining a balanced quality of life for our agents. The successful working of all these things together has helped set us apart in our marketplace.

How did your market fare in 2018? What factors contributed to this?
MLS: The greater D.C. area market has remained healthy, although inventory has been low in some rural areas. There are signs, however, that buyers may have more to choose from in the coming months as the trend for close-in walkable housing is reducing the number of interested buyers in some of the more expensive, established communities.

Are you planning to grow your firm in the next 12 months?
MLS: We will continue to be alert to new opportunities for growth through the addition of new associates and new offices, but we will never outgrow our emphasis on customer service. Our focus will remain primarily in the Maryland, Virginia and D.C. markets.

What are the biggest challenges you’re currently facing?
MLS: Our biggest challenge is to avoid distraction. We need to be able to sift through all the new ideas that inundate our industry. We must be discerning in our choices, and only select those products that are of the most value to our clients and agents. Being able to cast aside the shiny objects, while not missing something of real value, continues to be a challenge.

What are the biggest opportunities for increasing business right now?
MLS: We are fortunate that our market supports 15 active military installations, and we are very excited for the new Amazon HQ2, which will undoubtedly bring new customers to our area. We also emphasize staying in touch with our past client base. We know that our biggest opportunities will be gained through a combination of building relationships with new customers and maintaining relationships with repeat customers.

How are you preparing your salesforce to meet the expectations of today’s consumer?
MLS: Salesforces have always faced the challenge of adjusting to changing consumer expectations. Today’s buyer lives in an online world of information. To meet, and exceed, their expectations, we must also live in that world and speak the language. But, most importantly, we realize the need for immediate response to the consumer. We are continually updating our technology tools and educating our agents to help them stay out front in the fast-paced eRace.

How are you updating your technology and training to provide the resources agents need to succeed?
MLS: At a company level, we’re constantly evaluating potential tools and systems to determine which ones may provide tangible value. This year alone, we’ve established partnerships with a best-in-class real estate CRM platform, a leading SOI-building and email marketing provider, and a system that helps agents become rock stars on social media without lifting a finger. We’ve also introduced the NM Success Center, which offers focused training toward buyer agent mastery, listing agent mastery and admin mastery.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.