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Flipping the Model to Put Agents on Top: Realty Group Inc.

(L to R) Long Doan, Broker/CEO, and Mike Bernier, President/Co-owner, Realty Group Inc.

Realty_Group_Cover_300x420For Long Doan, broker and CEO of Minnesota’s fast-growing Realty Group Inc., success is measured by the achievement of his partner-agents. “Every one of our agents is the CEO of their own business,” he says. “They don’t work for me. I work for them.” Doan and company President and Co-owner Mike Bernier are committed to providing a business platform designed to help their agents excel—and the strategy is working, driving the company’s net growth by more than 3,000 percent in the four years since they started growing Realty Group. But an out-of-the-box approach and a commitment to excellence are just the beginning of the story. In this exclusive interview, Doan and Bernier discuss the unique culture at the core of their company’s success and the changing role of agents and brokerages in today’s competitive environment.

Barbara Pronin: Let’s begin with a little personal background, and a brief description of your firm’s history and positioning in the marketplace.
Long Doan:
I have been in the industry for over 25 years, although the first 15 years were spent on the mortgage side. I started Realty Group in 2009 and closed more than 1,000 transactions in our first four years. Mike, who was a top producer ranking in the top 1 percent of Minnesota real estate agents, joined me in 2011. In 2014, when the real estate landscape changed and the market began recovering, we decided to partner and launch Realty Group 2.0 with a grand total of eight agents and some very definite ideas about the way we wanted to run our brokerage.

Mike Bernier: We are grateful to have had remarkable success in these first four years, doubling our net growth year-over-year and expanding from our original eight agents to 250-plus real estate professionals and growing. We currently operate out of three Twin Cities-area offices, and we expect to open two more offices within the next 18 months.

BP: So what approach have you been taking to fuel this kind of growth?
To start with, we recruit very carefully. There is a lot of buzz in the real estate community here because we are ranked as one of the state’s fastest-growing companies with the sixth most-recognized brand—so we get a fair number of inquiries. But most of the agents we take on board are referred by our current agents, so our growth has been both organic and controlled.

LD: In effect, we have 250-plus recruiters, and the reason our agents do the recruiting for us is that we attract, promote, develop and support them in ways that encourage and foster their success as business owners. We provide them with cutting-edge technology and marketing support, coaching and training at every level, and one of the most competitive commission payouts in the industry. It’s a partnership model that works, and it benefits everyone, including consumers, who are getting industry-best service from the most qualified agents in the business.

BP: How would you describe the state of your market? What are the challenges and opportunities?
There is still an inventory shortage in Minneapolis-St. Paul and surrounding areas, but we maintain a proactive and collaborative environment with a high success rate in winning listings and multiple offers in this hyper-competitive market. Our greatest challenge, I think—which is also our greatest opportunity—is keeping up our forward-thinking approach and improving on our own growth rate.


BP: What is it that you do differently to set your firm and its agents apart from the competition?
In a word, it’s our partnership model. Each agent is truly the CEO of his or her own company. We flip the traditional real estate model so that instead of our agents working for us, we work for them. Our job is to bring value to them, which we do by providing a 100-percent commission with a flat fee. Our core purpose is to help them grow their business, which we do via leadership, marketing tools, leads, facilities and, most of all, the culture of success that defines us. We understand that this is a people business—that there is more than one path to success and that one size doesn’t fit all. And we take the time to encourage every one of our agents to find the best path for them.

MB: There are no layers here between us and the agents. We take a family approach to the business and are directly available to our agents when they need us. Taken together, our agents are given everything they need to succeed in running their own business. We must be doing something right because here in Minnesota, the average number of sales per agent is between four and five per year. Our agents are, for the most part, closing between 10 and 11 transactions a year, and our core of top agents will sell hundreds of homes this year.

BP: You’ve mentioned your strategy for attracting and recruiting agents. What’s your retention rate like?
The fact is that Realty Group becomes home to our agents. People retire, but they rarely leave for any reason other than that.

LD: Again, we believe that our central purpose is to help each of our 250 CEOs to grow their business. We provide so much value to them that they don’t unplug and leave us—so we typically don’t lose people, especially the people we don’t want to lose. There is always some friendly competition, of course, but there’s also a lot of mentorship. Our mandate is to help other people achieve their dreams, and in doing so, we achieve our own.


BP: I would imagine that kind of giving philosophy spills over into the larger community. What are your charitable efforts like?
All of our agents are active in the community, from serving on local boards and in our state real estate association to raising funds and volunteering for various local causes—mostly centered around the needs of housing, children and veterans.

MB: Specifically, we support Toys for Joy, a local holiday gift-giving program, Eagles Healing Nest for homeless veterans and Habitat for Humanity, among others. They are all programs that are dear to our hearts and give us lots of opportunity to contribute in many ways.

BP: What are some of your most innovative marketing strategies, and how are they helping you to connect with today’s consumers?
Branding is important. Our obligation is to market our people, and we are gratified to know that our brand is so recognized and well-respected throughout the state. That said, we expect—and train—our agents to market themselves in innovative ways. The fact is that the landscape continues to change, and consumers don’t care what flag you are flying. They only want the best buy or sell experience they can get. Statistics tell us only 4 percent choose the brand over the individual agent—so it’s up to that individual agent, using technology, reputation and personal interaction, to become the agent of choice.

Doan_PQ_p90MB: We do some direct mail, but realistically, our aim is to help our agents brand themselves via effective networking and the innovative use of social media—letting people know who you are, what you stand for, and why you do what you do. It’s the best way to build relationships that matter in the digital world we live in.

BP: How do you stay ahead of the curve on technology, online marketing and social media?
We are very focused on customer relationship management, and we have invested heavily in the effort to help our agents market themselves. For example, we have organized a full-scale production studio, where agents can film videos and other audio-visual marketing aids they can use on social media and elsewhere.

LD: At the same time, we never lose sight of the fact that we are first and foremost a people business. Our objective is to use technology to enhance customer relationships, not replace the personal connection.

Bernier_PQ_p91BP: What’s on deck for the future of the firm?
We surprise ourselves constantly with the rate at which the firm is growing. The road ahead is clear, and I can see us having 1,000 agents on board in the not-too-distant future. I think it’s mainly because we know who we are and what we stand for, and we are scaling organically with passionate real estate professionals who have the same kind of goals and commitment.

LD: Beyond that, we will continue to maximize opportunities in Minnesota to expand both our team and our footprint—and we’ll continue to work to raise the standards of real estate professionalism, one agent at a time. With so many real estate companies out there, both big box and independent, I think our growth will be driven by one overriding fact: We add more value for our agent-partners than any other brand in the industry.

For more information, please visit www.realtygroupmn.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Flipping the Model to Put Agents on Top: Realty Group Inc. appeared first on RISMedia.

How a Gen Z Intern Can Help Your Business Thrive

Did you know that a large portion of Generation Z is already graduating high school and working their way through college? As they do, they’ll be looking for job experience and career opportunities. If you’ve started thinking about hiring help or looking for a business partner, consider another option: hire an intern.

Generation Z will probably make up the bulk of your intern candidates. Born from the mid-1990s to the early 2000s, Generation Z makes up approximately 25 percent of the U.S. population. They grew up surrounded by advanced technology and are the most tech- and social-savvy generation yet. If there’s a technological aspect of your business that could use some help, a Gen Z intern can probably help.

What’s in It for Them
Decide what you have to offer an intern before you start interviewing people; interns may not be in it for the money, but they do expect to receive some benefit for their labor. Some things prospective interns may be looking for from you may be job experience for their resume, something solid they can put in their portfolio, or a letter of recommendation they can share with future employers. Check with local high schools and colleges to learn how to make your internship qualify as school credit. Regardless of what you’re offering, be straightforward and let potential interns know what they’ll gain from working with you.

What’s in It for You
An intern may be able to help you with your social media, website or general marketing goals. Just remember that interns don’t usually work the same number of hours as regular employees, so you should make their job highly focused and include a specific goal they can reach by the end of their internship.

Social Media
Putting the right person in charge of your social media presence can make a huge difference in results—and since most members of Generation Z were raised with social media, they tend to know what they’re doing. A social media intern can help you create a content schedule and find tools to post your content for you at the right times. They can comment on your followers’ posts, answer questions and maintain a consistent presence on your social channels.

Do you need someone to go through to find and correct any errors on your website? Do you need a fresh, new look or new local content? Decide exactly what you need and write an internship job description to fit your goal. Depending on whether you want new features, new content or a new design, you may include that your ideal intern would have a background in writing or web design.

Your intern could also handle other marketing efforts, like designing and implementing direct mail campaigns, creating flyer templates or researching buyers and sellers in your market to discover the best targeting criteria for email lists and ads. You could also enlist an intern to help with marketing events, or to consolidate your contacts into a primary CRM.

Whatever your goals, consult an employment law professional or check with your company’s legal department to learn about the legalities of hiring an intern in your area. Some things you may need to consider include liability insurance, workers’ compensation, and how minimum wage requirements apply to unpaid interns. If you’d rather hire a professional to help manage your social media needs, Homes.com has a program to help.

For more information, please visit connect.homes.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post How a Gen Z Intern Can Help Your Business Thrive appeared first on RISMedia.

Supporting Agents on Their Quest to Build Successful Careers

Pessin_MarkIn the following interview, Mark Pessin, former managing broker and now vice president of Learning at Realty ONE Group in Carlsbad, Calif., discusses agent development, including mentoring, recruiting and training.

Region Served: Laguna Niguel, Calif.
Years in Real Estate: 20
Number of Offices: 1
Number of Agents: 120

What’s your first goal as you transition into the role of Realty ONE Group’s vice president of Learning?
To increase the content and value of our in-house education platform for all agents, and ensure they have access to the best training and resources available. I’m also going to make sure we provide the highest level support to managers and affiliate owners, and ensure they can access our best recruiting, training, coaching and agent retention information so they can continue to grow and thrive.

How will you utilize your experience to develop Realty ONE Group offices into resource centers?
After managing three Realty ONE Group offices in two states, I’ve seen what’s necessary to succeed in that role. With the right team, relevant information and the best tools, we’re able to support our agents with great efficiency. I was also an agent with Realty ONE Group for years, so I’ve experienced both sides of the desk. I’ll combine my experience with ongoing feedback from our team to provide the most timely, relevant, useful resources to our offices.

What’s your most successful strategy for recruiting the best agents?
I use the same methods to recruit that I used to generate clients when I was an agent, which includes consistently working with and maintaining my sphere of influence to generate referrals. I focus on taking excellent care of agents’ needs, and, in return, they promote me to other agents. Another strategy involves contacting new licensees, because I love mentoring and coaching. I show them how our agent training programs and one-on-one coaching will provide the support they need to build a successful career.

How can agents stand out and achieve client loyalty?
To keep clients for life, you have to build relationships that go beyond the transaction. That means getting to know them and their families, understanding their personal goals and making sure that you’re truly delivering what they need. Then, you must stay in touch long after the sale.

For more information, please visit www.realtyonegroup.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Supporting Agents on Their Quest to Build Successful Careers appeared first on RISMedia.

From Body Cameras to Code Names, REALTORS® Prioritize Safety

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 91 real estate-related deaths across the U.S. in 2016, 31 of which were the result of “violence and other injuries by persons or animals.” Although 61 percent of REALTORS® in an RISMedia survey feel “very safe” day-to-day, there are risks when hosting open houses and showing homes, and REALTORS® must remain vigilant.

“My first personal meetings with potential clients take place at my office,” says Sarah Gustafson, immediate past president of the REALTOR® Association of Central of Massachusetts and broker associate with Janice Mitchell Real Estate. “If I am going to their home, I let an agent know where I am and the name, phone and address of the person I am meeting.”

Gustafson doesn’t risk her own safety, or that of her agents. If a fellow agent doesn’t receive a text from her within 15 minutes of arriving to her client meet-up, she expects a phone call. If Gustafson doesn’t answer, that agent is directed to call the police.

Kevin Johnson, associate broker with CENTURY 21 OneBlue in Orlando, Fla., also follows similar protocols, and promotes thoroughly vetting a prospective client before meeting them outside the office.

“We encourage our agents to meet all new customers at our office, where we have a security system and camera in place and we can get a copy of their driver’s license,” says Johnson. “No one is going to a new location alone. We also don’t show houses without pre-qualification documents from a reputable bank or lender, adding in another layer of security.”

Vetting a candidate is not enough. Johnson also has a code name strategy in place should agents feel they are in a dangerous situation. This system ensures that agents remain safe without alerting the threat that they’ve called for help.

“To ensure all agents feel safe, especially when showing new properties, we have a ‘Folder Color’ system in place,” Johnson says. “If an agent is showing a property and feels uncomfortable, they can give an agent at the office a call and say, ‘The red folder for 123 Main Street is on my desk,” so that the agent is aware that assistance may be needed, all without tipping off the ‘customer.'”

Valerie Post, license partner at Engel & Völkers Boston, also does not take chances with her showing protocols.

“From day one of starting our firm 10 years ago, my business partner, Keith Shirley, and myself stressed safety on the job,” says Post. “We had become aware of a suburban agent that was killed at an open house in the basement when no one was around. We encourage and stress the buddy system of helping each other with open houses. In no other industry would you openly welcome a stranger into a home in the late afternoon with only one person manning the property. There is no excuse to ever let anyone put themselves in that position.”

As a precaution, Post asks that her agents follow a series of instructions:

  • Have prospective buyers walk in front of you at showings. Don’t let them corner you in areas such as the attic, basement or walk-in closets without windows or a second door.
  • Understand and know escape routes in all areas.
  • Don’t get into vehicles unless you have vetted out the prospective buyers. Learn about who they are by using social media, Google, LinkedIn, etc., and let someone know who and what is on your calendar on a daily basis.
  • Keep your phone charged and your gas tank filled.
  • Wear comfortable shoes that give you good agility and the ability to run/walk quickly if necessary.
  • Never meet a prospective buyer for the first time by yourself or in a vacant property.
  • Give yourself time to get to know someone before you invite them into your car, if you are working on your own.

In an age when even sellers are taking precautions, some industry groups are looking into other methods to ensure safety. The Orlando Regional REALTOR® Association (ORRA), for example, partnered with Occly, a security solutions company, to offer a discounted rate of $129 for “Blinc” body cameras to its REALTOR® members. These devices work alongside the Occly Safety App to record video, images, audio and location, and provide a panic button that sends an alert to designated mobile devices and a siren that notifies those nearby.

“My focus is REALTOR® safety,” says Lou Nimkoff, president of ORRA. “I know all of us want to help people buy and sell homes, but none of us should be willing to put our lives on the line for it. If a potential buyer or seller isn’t willing to send you their ID, isn’t willing to meet with you at the office, or isn’t willing to take whatever initial steps you and your brokerage have determined is necessary to establish a relationship, then I would question whether you should be alone with them in an empty house.”

The real estate community also has access to myriad resources, especially through the National Association of REALTORS® (NAR). Members can access safety apps, products, webinars, articles, videos and more from NAR’s Safety page. Additionally, with NAR’s Safety Program Reimbursement Grant, each year, multiple state and local associations are able to further invest in safety.

Tools and systems aside, there’s one thing that’s in everyone’s arsenal, according to Post.

“Trusting your gut is your best defense,” Post says. “If you are uncomfortable at any time, get yourself out of there quickly. Awareness is an important part of safety training.”

Dominguez_Liz_60x60_4cLiz Dominguez is RISMedia’s associate content editor. Email her your real estate news ideas at ldominguez@rismedia.com. For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post From Body Cameras to Code Names, REALTORS® Prioritize Safety appeared first on RISMedia.

What Goes Around: Leveraging Your ‘Team’

Last month, I wrote about understanding the power of leveraging teamwork, an article in which I mentioned hiring, and the importance of hiring the right people. While getting the right people on the bus and into the best seat for them is critical, how do we find those people? How do we hire and create low turnover, as well as a happy, healthy and thriving team and environment?

For me, throughout the years I’ve spent running offices and my team, I’ve always found ways to leverage my strategic or allied partners—the people with whom I did business in the industry and those who called on me or did business with me. These are the people that know, love, trust and respect you—and there are more of them than you may realize. Sometimes, we’re so locked into what we’re doing, and working with blinders on, that we’re not paying attention to all of those who are rooting for us on the sidelines. Believe me, it’s not only the ones that you currently give your business to that are rooting for you to have a healthy, happy and successful business and life. In fact, those who hope to earn your business one day—in addition to those who know who you are, how you are and how you treat those around you—are rooting for you, as well.

About a year ago, I posted on my personal Facebook page that I was looking to hire another buyer’s agent for my team. I simply placed an ad that said: Looking for a new buyer’s agent on my team. Candidate must have an active real estate license, and they must be hungry, humble, smart and coachable. That’s all I put, but it caused my phone and private messaging to blow up. I had lenders, title, insurance, inspection and home warranty people sending me the names of individuals they thought might be looking. Not only was I excited, but I was also surprised at just how many people were looking at me from afar and willing to help after all these years.

I called each and every one of them and thanked them for their input. I also asked if I could use their name when I called on the person they recommended—and I respected their confidentiality as I went out into the world to hire that particular agent. That being said, it’s important to note that some of the best people I’ve ever hired have come from referrals from strategic partners already in my business.

Being in real estate is just like being in business in the community doing anything else. You must act like, and do the deeds, of a person interested in those you work with and those in your community—and become an advocate of your community, as well. Letting people know you care not only goes toward the very fiber of your business and your outcomes; it also sets the stage for them returning the favor.

One of my coaching clients, a husband and wife team from Minnesota, set out each year to call all of their strategic and allied partners. They sit down to prepare their real estate business plans with them because most don’t prepare their own. They show them their business plan and where—for example—it says that they’ll give their insurance agent at least three referrals that year, if not more. So, when their insurance agent prepares his business plan, it’s easy to ask him to include only one referral from him to them for that year. Make sense?

In the end, brainstorming, masterminding, helping others and being open is all it takes.

Geha_Rick_60x60Rick Geha of The Rick Geha Real Estate Team began his real estate career at age 22. Over the past 15 years, he’s led more than 1,000 classes and workshops throughout the U.S. and Canada and has presented keynote addresses to thousands of professionals from all industries and walks of life. Rick is currently a coach with Workman Success Systems. Contact him at Rick@RickGeha.com. For more information, please visit www.workmansuccesssystems.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post What Goes Around: Leveraging Your ‘Team’ appeared first on RISMedia.

Become a Top Recruiter of Experienced Agents

So often, management teams set annual recruiting goals with their brokers and sales managers, and hope to achieve them. Maybe you’re a broker or manager yourself, and find that you set the same goals every year, starting out with better intentions, and then agent needs and administrative work become your focus, and you don’t get to the recruiting you intended to achieve. You look at the results monthly or quarterly and, frustrated, think, “How did this happen again? I didn’t recruit anyone, or I recruited some new agents, but no experienced agents to my team.” This scenario generally repeats itself yearly, and you settle for mediocre results and performance.

Most managers don’t have a written action plan for recruiting on purpose, and each month and quarter, review the results, when frankly it’s too late to be able to lead or initiate recruiting activities. You end up reviewing how many new people came on board, instead of driving the effort from the beginning of the process with “This is how many experienced agents I am going to recruit and this is how.” When you adopt this strategy of “leading your recruiting,” I guarantee you will love the results: a thriving, growing, healthy office, with increases in listings, sales, marketshare, revenue, profit and core service referrals.

Effectively driving the recruiting efforts of your sales operation requires that you yourself literally drive the efforts; the energy, the focus, the action steps and the daily behavior is yours. You take ownership and responsibility for making it happen.

Here are five behavioral changes that will ensure you meet and exceed your goal to add experienced agents to your team:

  1. Change your mindset. Recruiting experienced agents to your team is a fantastic surge to your top line revenue, now and for the future consistent growth. If you are driving the profitability and success of your sales team, recruiting is the highest dollar-producing activity you do. When experienced agents join your team, it is a huge message to your existing team that they are at the right brokerage and office. Mentally start to look at recruiting as the highest revenue-generating action you do to drive success and growth to your office. Change in mindset will change your daily habits.
  1. Have a written recruiting plan. If it’s not spelled out in writing, we have a target with no strategy to hit the target with. Write out your business plan, which is an outline of the daily and weekly activities you will commit to do each week to accomplish your recruiting appointments and transferred agents. If it’s in writing, you now have a plan to follow and hold yourself accountable to. Remember, you own the task of recruiting, and you know the benefits when you focus just on recruiting. Write down the goals and the actual action items that have to be done to achieve them.
  1. Make recruiting a daily priority. You have to be laser-focused on the activity and make it a new daily behavior. Block out the time on your calendar or leave the office to make your recruiting calls. Make this a habit after three days of doing it. You will be so happy you do this.
  1. Communicate your value proposition. You have to radically differentiate yourself and your brand, or you look just like every other broker or manager. How can you change the agent’s income and business? Would they have more opportunities with you from your online leads, marketing tools, coaching and/or business planning? You have the ability to grow an experienced agent of any production level by becoming their partner and making an impact on their business. Communicate the value you bring to their business. Show them how you can help increase their business and income, or dramatically lower their expenses. These statements from you, said with conviction and passion, will help them see your value both as a manager and a brokerage.
  1. Build relationships. Recruiting experienced agents sometimes requires that you have a relationship with them, but don’t let that stop you from offering your value proposition to them immediately. You can dance around it, or you can say, “I guarantee you will make more money partnering with us. Let’s meet and I can show you how.” Telling people they are great, and you would love to have the join your team, is great, but at the end of the day, it isn’t in their best financial interest to meet with you. They can increase their business with your tools and personal coaching, and decrease their expenses and increase their lead generation with your online marketing tools. Tell them nicely and politely that it is in their best financial interest to meet with you to see how they can profit more, sell more, pay for less and have more time working on your team.

Adopt these behavioral changes and let’s take your recruiting results to a whole new level. For more tips and a copy of my Manager Recruiting Assessment Guide, email yourock@sherrijohnson.com.

Sherri_Johnson_100x100Sherri Johnson is CEO and founder of Sherri Johnson Coaching & Consulting. With 20 years of experience in real estate, Johnson offers coaching, consulting and keynotes, and is a national speaker for the Homes.com Secrets of Top Selling Agents tour. For more information, please contact coaching@sherrijohnson.com or 844-989-2600 (toll free) or visit www.sherrijohnson.com.

For the latest real estate news and trends, bookmark RISMedia.com.

The post Become a Top Recruiter of Experienced Agents appeared first on RISMedia.

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