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If there’s one thing everyone can easily agree on, it’s that 2020 has seen more than its share of challenges. But for many top brokers, it has also been a year of surprising opportunity.

On Sept. 17, during RISMedia’s 31st Annual Real Estate CEO Exchange, co-presented by the National Association of REALTORSⓇ (NAR), RISMedia gathered more than 50 leading brokers and industry executives for the first-ever virtual version of the storied event. Among the 15-plus sessions offered was a two-part panel of eight Power Brokers—”Strategies for Salvaging Success in 2020″—which discussed the impact of the pandemic on success moving forward.

“Resilience should be the buzzword of our industry. Our industry is built with resilient, resourceful professionals,” said RISMedia Founder & CEO John Featherston, who moderated the panels. Featherston asked brokers to describe their respective response to the coronavirus pandemic and how they have been leading their firms to keep business afloat and, in many instances, well above expected projections.

The following are key takeaways panelists shared:

“Who would’ve thought we’d have the crisis of a lifetime, and the greatest two months in the history of the company (July and August 2020)? I attribute our success to our agents, our brokers and our employees, and to our resilience and mindset. Early on, we had the focus that we were going to have a V-shaped recession—down then up. Turns out, we were right. The reason we popped was mindset, preparation and prospecting. You have to have a culture of discipline—track and measure everything. The best tool we have is a great infrastructure.” — Dan Forsman, President & CEO, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Georgia Properties

Since our inception 10 years ago, we’ve been operating virtually. COVID showed that Fathom was built for black-swan events like this. Offices are the biggest expense for most brokerages; since we didn’t have that expense weighing us down, we didn’t have to lay anyone off. At Fathom…the culture was already built, and I believe that having a strong culture is really key to longevity. We encouraged our leaders to take a more personal approach to how we communicated. COVID demonstrated that you don’t need to have an office to be a successful agent.” — Josh Harley, Founder & CEO, Fathom Realty

“One thing that surprised me was that after being sheltered in place on March 30, we had 10 weeks of week-over-week increased pended activity. The world is in a pandemic, yet we are doing more business than we can possibly ever think of doing. Another thing that surprised me was the resilience of our sales associates. I had one group who changed their business model and really embraced the technology we’ve had for about two years that they never really wanted to. One woman, in a 60-day period of time, sold 17 homes and never left her house. We realized how important and how resilient our sales associates and employees are.” — Rosey Koberlein, CEO, Long Realty

“Fifty-seven percent of our business went away (by April), so I was thinking we’d finish the year 25 – 30 percent off. How do you make up for the three best months of the year: the spring market? We worked on controlling the controllables with our leadership team. We said, let’s work hard on education, certifications and new tech tools, and build that absorption rate. While we were doing those things we could control companywide, on the REALTOR® side, we were building their confidence in technology and the world out there, and it’s paying off now.” — Pat Riley, President & CEO, Allen Tate REALTORS®

“This is the beginning of the end for the real estate office as we know it. Agents need an office, a sense of belonging, but most will continue to work from home and in the field. I’m a big believer in quality over quantity. This is an opportunity to reduce square footage—we can start hoteling desks. These types of efficiencies are going to help us. Technology efficiencies are here to stay, and it’s going to help limit the number of properties agents have to physically show to each client.” — Dava Davin, Principal, Broker, Portside Real Estate Group

“Something we’ve done to help our agents, that maybe we wouldn’t have done before, is coaching them on the art of the video. Video is king in the marketplace. Managers are working with agents to help them figure out things they can post about, like interviewing local businesses to find out how they’re doing, or tips on home improvement and decorating. And there’s no better advice I’d give an agent to improve their business and stay for the long haul than to get listings. With this tight, tight inventory, we have focused on things they can do to expand their market and look for more listings everywhere.” — Marilyn Eiland, Managing Partner, Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Gary Greene

“We arranged to have many speakers from around the country, who helped our agents get through this. I also think we learned how to adapt to what was important in our lives. We always somehow prioritized work over family, and I heard from so many agents that this was special time they got to spend with their family. I think the health of a lot of agents was improved, and when they had to get back into the industry full boat, they knew what to do and when to do it. Trust and relationships and sphere of influence have never been more important. We became the trusted advisor again.” — Charlie Oppler, 2020 President Elect, NAR, COO Prominent Properties Sotheby’s International Realty

We discovered our team had talents we didn’t know they had. People rose to the occasion. A forced (technology) adoption happened, which is one of the blessings out of this crisis. So I was able to go on the offense. We have a dual responsibility right now: We have to ensure the health and safety of our people, but we can’t be so hamstrung that we’re not coming out of this in a position where we’re stronger. I spent the better part of these six months focusing on strategic opportunity and growth. Whenever there’s been a crisis in the past and we’ve doubled down, it’s paid off.” — Chris Trapani, Founder & CEO, Sereno Group 

Maria Patterson is RISMedia’s executive editor. Email her your real estate news ideas to