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Real estate agents are a unique breed of entrepreneurs. They work for everyone and no one—all at the same time. The agents who are the most driven have big dreams about hanging their own shingle. An independent brokerage, after all, is regarded as the crowning success for building a winning team and starting your own company. It signals “you’ve made it.”

Mitch Ribak of Cocoa Beach, Fla., is one such person. He opened his own indie in March 2005, only to find out the business is layered with plenty of challenges.

“I discovered a dirty little secret. If you own your own brokerage, you work long, crazy hours and carry a lot of risk, but you don’t make much money,” says Ribak, leader of Tropical Beachside, brokered by eXp Realty. “This is not something you learn from other brokers because the same ego it takes to be a great salesperson or motivational leader doesn’t easily get shared when it comes to the downside of owning your own brokerage.”

The Boston native is a self-described serial entrepreneur who has owned 22 companies since the 1980s, including a restaurant, a paintball business, flower business, ad agency, dating service, online dating site and affiliate marketing agency—he was also host of a radio dating show out of Universal Studios in Orlando. But once the 1999 dot-com bubble occurred, Ribak turned to real estate and started Tropical Realty Beachside, his own independent brokerage, which he wanted to turn into a string of brick-and-mortar offices wherever there was a beach town—from Florida to California.

In 2017, after 11 years of working 80-hour weeks, facing lots of stress due to risks and liability, and realizing his top agent was making more than him, he decided there had to be a better way.

He started to explore his options, including selling to a franchisor and closing it all down. He was at a crossroads until he met with folks at eXp Realty for the fifth time. While he had resisted everything about eXp up to this point, suddenly, the business model made complete sense. The only problem he had was giving up his brand.

“I knew I was ready for a new model that eased many of the overhead and liability issues that came with owning my own brokerage, but my brand? I didn’t want to give it up,” explains Ribak. “But that’s when they sold me. They told me, ‘Keep your brand. Just be Tropical Beachside by eXp.'”

Ribak had his answer.

“With eXp, I could have the best of both worlds,” he says. “My company would remain intact, and I’d be free of the huge risks because of eXp Realty’s virtual brokerage model and all the tools and support the company delivers.

“As I look back, I’m happier than ever with the decision I made. I went from working 80 to 40 hours a week. I have a life now. I play music with my grandkids. But I still sell about 35 to 40 homes a year and do a bunch of coaching. I have 535 agents in 27 states—120 of them are local to the Cocoa Beach area. And based on what’s going on today, I’m in better shape than most. I feel like I have it all: My company with all its rewards and without the worry and overhead I had when I was an independent broker/owner.

“Also, I can now retire with security behind me. And if I die, I have made sure my family inherits my business. You can say I now have peace of mind.”

eXp Realty, a real estate cloud brokerage, is one of the fastest-growing, global residential real estate companies with more than 35,000 agents in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Australia. As a subsidiary of a publicly traded company, eXp Realty uniquely offers real estate professionals within its ranks opportunities to earn eXp World Holdings stock for production and contributions to overall company growth. For more information, please visit