Cover Story: When Did Real Estate Stop Being About People?

Posted on Jun 7 2021 - 3:23pm by Maria Patterson
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ERA Real Estate Is Here to Remind Us That We Are in a Human Business 

Relationships. Loyalty. Taking care of one another. Collaborating to solve problems. These concepts are not fodder for provocative headlines. And they may not be scintillating enough to sell tickets to conferences. But they are the foundation of our industry, and forever will be.

For years, the collective impact of technology, big data and artificial intelligence on real estate have dominated headlines and ignited competitive wars in the industry. These forces have changed the way we do business, and have altered the real estate landscape. During the pandemic, technology has been critical to helping real estate remain an open, essential business for our clients and the communities we serve.

But recent times have amplified a fundamental truth: At its core, real estate is a human business.

For nearly 50 years, ERA Real Estate has built its global network on this fact. In this month’s cover story, ERA® reminds us—in the words of the people who make up the fabric of the network—that now, more than ever, we should remember that.

Learning From Each Other

Neil Walter
ERA Brokers Consolidated 
St. George and Salt Lake City, Utah; Las Vegas, Nevada
600 Agents

We have been affiliated with ERA since 1978. I am a second-generation broker. Despite the competitive dynamics in the industry, I believe people inherently want to work together. We create a culture where agents can benefit from that. It’s front and center in our support, ongoing learning opportunities, recruiting and daily operations.

Owners and senior managers at real estate brokerages are looking for a place where they can be supported. That comes from the affiliation with ERA, but it also comes from firms helping each other. For example, Peter Hunt, one of the great leaders in real estate, shared his firm’s onboarding and learning curriculum with me so that I didn’t have to recreate it—it was extraordinary. Another example occurred last summer when I was in Orange County, California, and I walked into the ERA North Orange County brokerage unannounced. But John Tamulinas took the time to show me their operations.

Agents are able to benefit from the collaborative environment as well. Mindy Fung, a very successful agent in our organization, developed relationships with ERA-affiliated firms in Singapore, Japan and others internationally. She visited their offices and built productive relationships. We choose to collaborate—versus compete—across markets.

Patrick Dauenhauer
Managing Broker & President
ERA Lambros Real Estate 
Missoula, Montana
93 Agents

We have been part of ERA since 2007. Being part of the network helps us benefit from what other people are doing and vice versa. People share resources and ideas that save us time and money and protect us from risk. Although we are in different markets, we are looking at the business through a similar lens. We are all willing to talk and listen, which is rare in a competitive industry. We have anchor companies that are leaders in their markets and up-and-coming companies that will be the leaders of tomorrow—everyone has something to teach, to contribute. And we all have something to learn from each other.

Gus Grizzard
ERA Grizzard Real Estate 
Leesburg, Florida
163 Agentss

Being part of this network is about collaboration, confidence and inspiration. You never want to be the smartest person in the room, or your growth and learning will be limited. I remember an ERA event where I was listening to great brokers like Peter Hunt talk about how they grew their companies. I never would have had the confidence to do mergers and acquisitions without that inspiration—I always thought that was for bigger brokers. Once you stop learning, the value that you bring to your business changes.

It’s up to every broker in this industry to bring a desire to grow and to be excellent to their companies. ERA helps me do that. I am a second-generation owner. We have been part of the ERA network for 45 years—and there is so much ahead of us. Relationships. People. Collaboration. That is where growth comes from.

Jennifer Darby Metzger
ERA Justin Realty Co. 
Rutherford, New Jersey
35 Agents

By being part of ERA, if I need anything to help me run my business, I have access to great leaders and real estate minds across the country. It’s like being part of the most productive co-op workspace: anything you need will be shared.

For example, a couple of years ago, I needed to quickly address an issue that came up on social media. I asked brokers in the network for help and received six different plans in less than 15 minutes. It would have taken me a week of effort to do that on my own or cost me a lot of money with a third party. Because I’m part of ERA, I have the resources of a big company. I listen to voices from all around the country and take the best advice from each.

The Power of Culture

John Tomlin
CEO, Tomlin St. Cyr Real Estate ERA Powered 
Tampa Bay Area, Florida
43 Agents 

We have been in the Tampa business community since 1984, and our name in Tampa is important. We are not willing to make that secondary. And with ERA, we didn’t have to. The Powered strategy is brilliant: you get the benefits of a brand affiliation—technology, marketing, learning, business planning and high-touch service—but keep your local brand. I can grow in and around Tampa and share my insights with other people across the country.

ERA reminds us how important culture fit is when recruiting. We are open and sharing; if you bring someone in who is not open to sharing, they won’t fit well. We are recruiting with more of a longer-term perspective, making deposits into our credibility account and focusing on relationships.

Every person I recruit, I tell them that I am personally committed to making them successful. Within the business and the community, it’s the same principle: helping people, whether it’s the next generation or those looking for a second act.

Having people at ERA and Realogy working on technology solutions on our behalf makes our jobs much easier locally. I can attribute higher sales prices and between one to two more sales per year, per agent because of the learning materials, lead generation, customer-for-life program and resources ERA gives us.

I consider it an honor to be part of people’s lives. It’s not a computer or comps that make that happen. It’s the privilege of helping them figure out what’s important to them.

Julie Dawson Williams
Broker/Owner & CEO
ERA Dawson-Bradford REALTORS® 
Bangor, Maine
75 Agents

We have been part of ERA since 1976. We are one of the longest, continuously operating companies in the system. My parents Jon and Nancy Dawson started the company in 1974.

ERA fits with the culture that has been so important to us as a family, as community members and as business owners. Collaboration comes through in our training, partnerships with vendors, and relationships with agents and clients, and ERA shares that philosophy.

Today, many of us brokers are second generation—we literally grew up with the brand. Working with fellow second-generation brokers helped me learn how to make difficult, but exciting choices that allowed us to grow and modernize. For example, we advanced our use of technology before and during the pandemic, which helped keep our agents one step ahead. But fundamentally, we have succeeded because of relationships: with our agents, the community and the ERA network.

Being part of ERA gives us the flexibility to add services and tools essential to our local agents and markets, as each office is independently owned and operated. The ERA network gives us more brainpower, more research and more implementation than if we were operating on our own. We have technology, learning, support and culture; it comes down to putting those resources together to make a personal connection.

The Network Advantage

Tom DeWine
CEO & Broker
ERA Colonial Real Estate 
Harker Heights, Texas
94 Agents 

Our company has been in business since 1987, and we have been part of ERA for 24 years. I am a second-generation broker/owner. Our purpose is building relationships that empower people, and ERA is a part of that empowerment.

One of the hallmarks of being part of ERA is the time and money we save solving problems and implementing transformational strategies. For example, when we were confronted with the need to change our compensation plan, I asked several brokers for their advice. Having access to information from others saved time and saved me from making mistakes.  If I hired a third-party advisor, I would have spent tens of thousands of dollars only to have them tell me what my fellow brokers did.

Another example is recruiting. I asked a group of brokers about best practices, how they structure incentives for managers, and other questions. I was able to gather actionable information from the ERA network to make my own decisions.

I also partnered with an ERA-affiliated broker, Steve Doty of ERA Doty Real Estate in Jonesboro, Arkansas, on an M&A deal. For the most part, my company handles the back-end operations and his company handles the sales operations. We talked about how to handle disagreements and selected a broker in the ERA network whom we both respect and trust who acts as a tiebreaker.

My firm belief is that we are heading into an evolution of real estate where brokers of like-mind will find ways to share strengths and services. What Steve and I did is a test case that has been very productive for us both.

The pressure on brokers today is multifaceted. When you are part of a network, you have people behind you to help you navigate the ever-changing circumstances.

Kurt Schuler
Broker/Owner, Schuler Bauer Real Estate ERA Powered 
Kentucky and Indiana
264 Agents

We joined ERA in late 2012 and purchased a company in 2013, which doubled our size. Without the backing of ERA, it wouldn’t have happened. We couldn’t have convinced an owner and agents who were part of a franchise to come into an independent company.

Our agents love relationship-building. The connectivity we gain from events like the ERA convention is incredibly valuable. An agent told me he went to one ERA convention and closed three additional deals from referrals that were made there.

We also have access to people who can give us advice when we’re making big decisions. For example, in talking with other ERA brokers, we realized the importance of growing our ancillary services, and partnered with local loan officers to start our own mortgage company. Being part of ERA helps me realize we’re all dealing with similar struggles, but use a range of strategies to achieve a solution.

My hope for the future of real estate is simple. I hope we get back to focusing on the actual consumer vs. focusing on industry competition. We must remember that the work we all do is important, and we should lift each other—and the industry—up.

Denise Strother
CEO, ERA Strother Real Estate
Fayetteville, North Carolina
110 Agents

We just celebrated our 20-year anniversary with ERA. I wanted to build a brokerage business, but it was very difficult to do everything myself. Being part of ERA expedited my growth by 10 years. We use the marketing, the customer surveys, and the brand tools and systems to keep us running. We believe that if we drive our service, our sides will increase proportionately.

We diligently looked at many brands, and I have never looked back from the day we signed with ERA. We have great tools and systems—but honestly, it’s the people I meet that make the difference. ERA brokers taught me how to open ancillary services so I could have more revenue streams. I will always be grateful to every one of them.

As a network, we understand that we have to find new ways to better serve people. Technology is an important tool in that pursuit, but it’s the service we provide—rooted in caring—that transforms our business. We are a service company that happens to do real estate. We care about our agents, and our agents care right back. If we weren’t part of ERA, we could not have achieved what we have achieved so quickly.

Jaime Hensley
Broker/Owner, American Real Estate ERA Powered 
Lufkin, Texas
85 Agents

I joined ERA at the end of 2013, but my company celebrated its 70th anniversary in 2020. Making the decision to go from independent to be part of a network was a thoughtful journey. For me, it ultimately became about surrounding myself with people who knew more than I did. I understood the power of a network.

We did a lot of relocation, so that was also part of the decision. ERA and Realogy were who I needed to be with. The ERA Powered branding choice was perfect for me: leveraging my local history and brand coupled with the national brand marketing, education and tools to strengthen us.

I restructured my relocation division after my first ERA conference because of what other brokers told me. I now have a title company. When I joined, I didn’t aspire to own one—I didn’t know what I didn’t know. These relationships, these people who I now call family, have made me a better broker.

Empowering Growth

Eddie Wilder
President & CEO
ERA Wilder Realty
Columbia, South Carolina
293 Agents

When I started with ERA 20 years ago, I was a $2 million company with 20 agents. Today, I have nearly 300 agents and 10 locations.

Jeff Riber, who was a dear friend and part of the ERA team at Realogy, cared enough to sponsor me at a Top Broker Retreat. I sat between Gloria Frazier and Dennis DeWine, two of the most inspirational people I knew. From that experience, I learned what I needed to do to grow. I also learned that in this business, it’s the people that matter. At ERA, I tell people, “Don’t come with your hand out, come with your heart full. We work through things together.”

I hired Colie Dyson from the No. 1 company in town. He had more agents in one branch than I did in my whole company at the time. He later told me, “I found something I didn’t know I was looking for.” I learned a lot from him. We give the Colie Dyson Always There for You award every year in honor of him.

There are a lot of people out there looking for a sense of belonging. Look at the world: people want community. In a competitive industry, people are tired of being a number. That is why we love bringing new agents into our company, and why ERA loves bringing new companies into the network.

The human element—the community—has always defined our business, and always will. The future of this industry is people who work for the betterment of others, who want to be part of the solution, who want to make a real difference in people’s lives.

Robyn Erlenbush
ERA Landmark Real Estate
Montana, including Bozeman, Big Sky, Livingston and Ennis
65 Agents

The competitive advantage I get from ERA has been the personal interaction. In my mid 20s, I was in a meeting with Mac Heavener, an early leader at ERA. He told me, “Real estate is high-touch. Be true to what you do best. Do not expand into markets you cannot touch. Do not expand into products you don’t understand.”

I use this today in any leadership decision. My company has been part of ERA since 1979. We are expanding strategically. That advice has saved me time and money.

Brenda Casserly, a former CEO of ERA, created the confidence in me that I could do anything. That inspired me to help create the luxury certification for the ERA brand, which was the reason we were able to move into the Big Sky market in a matter of weeks. That can-do confidence never left me, and has made us what we are today. The worldly knowledge you gain when you are part of ERA helps you think differently. It helps me think bigger.

Andrew Linn
Vice President, ERA Davis & Linn and ERA Kings Bay Realty 
Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia
100 Agents

Artificial Intelligence technology will never have a human component; it’s trying to duplicate humanity. Having personal interaction as the cornerstone of your business is incredibly valuable.

When I started in my leadership role, the encouragement I got from Gus Grizzard and his dad helped me immensely. They gave me encouragement to take a successful company to the next level. I look at Tom DeWine the same way. David Moody gave me a different perspective, which has helped me  trust my instincts. He confirmed that ERA is a family and that I would always be taken care of.

These words ring true: “Growth is change. A certainty that hasn’t been tested, can’t be trusted.” Knowing that change is okay empowered me to become the leader I have grown into. I have the courage to challenge things despite how long they’ve been enacted. We changed our comp plans to be more flexible, even introducing a capped model. We did a large M&A, which I never thought we would do. We grew by 25% and strategically entered new markets in a different state. Looking to the future, I am letting go of the traditional day-to-day agent management by entrusting that to the experts on our team so that I can focus on growth and the big picture.

A Plan for the Future
Clearly, ERA’s people-first focus—both internally within the network and externally with consumers—has helped its affiliates achieve long-term growth and sustainable success. As the world continues to confront uncertainty, change and rapidly evolving technology, the many professionals who comprise the network will stay true to the core value that has powered ERA thus far and will continue to do so into the future: human relationships.

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