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Vitals: ONE Sotheby’s International Realty
Years in Business: 11
Size: 18 offices, 900 agents
Regions Served: From Coral Gables to Melbourne
2019 Sales Volume: $3.1 billion

There’s a reason people in South Florida call Mayi de la Vega, founder and CEO of ONE Sotheby’s International Realty, a “Cuban-American powerhouse.”

Since starting the firm in 2008, de la Vega has grown it from just a single office to 17 offices, and is regularly one of the top 10 highest-producing Sotheby’s International Realty affiliates worldwide.

What is your firm’s unique value proposition in your market?
Mayi de la Vega: Brand, ownership, tools, top agents, support—it’s not just one thing. It’s a spread of solutions, people and strategies that we offer to engage with our agents, allowing them to be successful.

How are you competing against new business models?
MD: We’re playing offense. We’re growing our business through both organic agent recruiting and thoughtful, strategic acquisition. While we are highly competitive in splits, we focus on support, especially in technology, marketing and training. Because our business is local and our owners are here, everyone has a direct line to speak or meet with senior leadership at any time. We’re not a corporation in another state or even country that has investors or stockholders to report to. Agents, at the end of the day, want and need to understand that support at every level is nearby. Our approach is always to be engaged, local and family-owned.

How did the South Florida market fare in 2019?
MD: Overall, our market was far more normal as compared to previous years. Our sales were about 10 percent higher than 2018, and in a market where price reductions are becoming far more common, this is a serious accomplishment. The market continues to offer good deals for savvy shoppers since, for much of the footprint, inventory is plentiful. This is not the case in our northern locations where inventory is very light. Sellers are slowly accepting that the pricing of their properties needs to be leveled to the current market. With interest rates being historically low, and plentiful inventory, “right pricing” will create more traffic, and, ultimately, more sales.

How do you maintain profitability as the market fluctuates?
MD: It’s a combination of things. First, you must be very careful with your expenses: constant vigilance on your spend, and always take the opportunity to renegotiate with your vendors. Significant savings are always around, it’s just a matter of being a detective to cull them and then lower them. Additionally, it’s not just how much, but how you pay. Terms can be very flexible, which offers the ability to manage cash flow. Agent add-ons, such as allowances, should be continually evaluated and aligned to agent production. These can add up to unbelievably large amounts of spend if not managed. The key to any brokerage is its ancillary services. Without these, massive opportunities are lost.

What are some of your most successful recruiting and retention strategies?
MD: It’s all about relationships. You must engage with the agents and create the relationship first. Of course, the environment is highly competitive and slanted toward the agents’ benefits package, but you’ll never get there without a relationship. The same is true for retention. Value, trust, partnership and continuous communication are key in retention of any agent or team. Be proactive with business planning and course correction. Agents need to feel you care only about them, which comes from lots of one-on-one coaching, mentoring and friendly chit chat. All of this helps the relationship, and the better it is, the harder it is for the agent to leave.

Keith Loria is a contributing editor to RISMedia.