CEO Exchange 2016: Barreling toward a Real Estate Revolution

Posted on Sep 20 2016 - 3:29pm by Nick Caruso
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Left to right: Dean deTonnancourt, broker/owner, HomeSmart Professionals; Leonard Steinberg, president, Compass; Vince Leisey, president, Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate

In real estate, every decision a company makes could potentially transform into its competitive differentiator. For some, traditional business methods may suffice; for others, as shared in RISMedia’s “The Evolution of the Real Estate Model: What’s Working and Why” panel held last week at the 2016 CEO Exchange in New York City, abandoning conventions in lieu of fresher, more innovative approaches is the key to staying ahead of the curve…and the competition.

Moderated by Jon Coile, president & CEO of Champion Realty, Inc., the cutting-edge panel revealed how their firms are reinterpreting real estate to start a revolution of their own. Speakers included Leonard Steinberg, President of Compass, Chris Lim, Founder & CEO of Climb Real Estate, Dean deTonnancourt, Broker/Owner of HomeSmart Professionals, John Vatistas, Founder & CEO of Launch Real Estate and Vince Leisey, President of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Ambassador Real Estate.

For many of the panelists, it all comes down to having a sturdy foundation: coaching and culture. Leisey showed that success originates from building an environment that is full of energy and enthusiasm.

“We believe activity breeds activity. Learning from others and collaboration is a critical part of that,” said Leisey, who believes that people are drawn to energy and excitement. His company’s space occupies 55,000 square feet and houses 550 agents, brimmed with funky colors, glass walls, and coffee stations throughout that are adorned with bar tables. It’s an open, inviting atmosphere that encourages agents to have plenty of face-to-face encounters with each other.

“There’s less distraction if they see other productive people there. We expect them to share, collaborate and be transparent with what they do.”

According to Launch Real Estate’s Vatistas, going after top agents with a built-in following gives his company an edge.

“We got 115 agents in the first eight months. We turned down 94 to date. It creates a bit of an allure; we’re an invitation-only company. We don’t advertise for agents,” he said.

Related: ‘We’re Still Here’: Realogy’s Alex Perriello Forecasts Positive Change at RISMedia’s CEO Exchange

Steinberg explained that his company, Compass, is a hybrid one, combining Grade-A technology with a traditional real estate model. It’s a collaborative culture that delivers the “best tools and mechanisms that allow agents to be the best they can be.”

“We are the only tech-focused real estate company who has no intention of replacing agents with machines or computers. We want to enhance agents so they can be the best ambassadors and advisors to their clients,” said Steinberg.

Broker/Owner Dean deTonnancourt’s company, HomeSmart Professionals, grew like wildfire, starting with 38 agents and upping that number to 127 within its first 18 months.

“What we’re doing differently is providing all the benefits that the traditional brokerage has to offer, but at a lower cost to the agents, treating agents as the true entrepreneurs that they are,” he said. “We are not taking responsibility for their business and success…we’re being a part of it.”

With panelists’ newfangled approaches to the real estate game in action, sustainability was a key factor of discussion. Chris Lim, founder & CEO of Climb Real Estate, explained that encouraging mobility was vital to his company.

“One of our offices is an air stream that takes the open house to the consumer. Waiting for someone to come to us is no longer the case. When agents come to the office, we want them to get what they want and leave. We’ve mastered the mobile agent,” he said.

For Steinberg, it’s his company’s full integration that keeps the cogs churching.

“Everything we do is under one umbrella, fully integrated,” he said. “We have 54 full-time engineers and scientists; that level of intelligence brought into the sphere of real estate blows my mind. It’s a different level of technology that is critical to today’s agents.”

Leisey looks to his unique, collaborative space as the answer. With one single location for his agents and only four managers and one receptionist, Leisey claimed his operational costs are “considerably less” than their competition.

And then there was the question on all attendees’ minds: “How do you monetize?” Savvy approaches to real estate are always welcomed, in theory, but panelists assured listeners that they’ve found ways to execute these ideas and make them work.

“Our model is based on volume and we provide 100 percent commissions with a small, nominal fee. Agents are keeping more money in their pockets,” said deTonnancourt, whose strategy certainly helps him retain his top-producing agents. “We help them be more productive than they would be anywhere else…the numbers are a no brainer.”

Leisey also believes in 100 percent commissions, and aims to have his agents join together to take marketshare from everywhere else. “We have 27 percent marketshare, and that’s 8 percent more than we had three years ago,” he said. “Our job is to develop and recruit the agents we do have and take them to the next level.”

Steinberg agrees on creating an environment that will inspire and uplift agents.

“Keep people happy and efficient. When you empower people, they produce miracles. If you try to become a machine, that’s where you run into trouble.”

Be bold. Dare to be different. Innovate. That is the key to market domination.

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