“The biggest advantage of being an independent is that we can direct funds that we are not paying as franchise fees to market and create tools to better equip our Realtors,” says Riley. “Our brand sets us apart regionally.”

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Pat Riley is president and COO at Allen Tate Companies.

What would you say are the biggest advantages to operating as an independent brokerage versus a franchised firm? What are the biggest challenges?

The biggest advantage of being an independent is that we can direct funds that we are not paying as franchise fees to market and create tools to better equip our Realtors. Those added dollars allow us to market locally and regionally, as well as support our national and international efforts through Leading Real Estate Companies of the World. Our brand sets us apart regionally.

The only disadvantage of no franchise is that somewhere in the world, someone may not know us. But through LeadingRE.com and our network of more than 550 independent brokers, we have excellent positioning for referrals. Franchises are not loyal to their network. Interestingly, we close many out-of-market referrals that come our way from clients who have visited or found one our homes on realtor.com.

What sets your brokerage apart? What makes you different from your competition?

We offer extensive classroom and online training for agents, including our exclusive Winner’s Edge program for new-to-the-business agents. Our Realtors are full-time, dedicated professionals and our leaders are noncompeting. We foster the formation of agent teams if that is the desire.

Our brand recognition is strong throughout the markets we serve. We are committed to making a difference in people’s lives by giving back to the 40 communities we serve through our Tate Cares giving initiative, which includes arts and cultural, United Way and public education.

Why do you stay independent when there are so many great franchises to join?

We choose to stay independent because we believe this is a better way to serve our customers. Our established brand is more recognizable than franchise brands in the markets we serve. By remaining independent, we can spend our dollars promoting our brand and developing tools to benefit agents and clients in our area and supporting Leading Real Estate Companies of the World to gain exposure nationally and internationally.

Pat Riley's office space.

Pat Riley’s office space.

When did you decide to launch your independent brokerage and why?

Our founder and chairman, H. Allen Tate Jr., launched our business in 1957 as a one-man, one-office insurance and real estate company. It was his vision — to improve customer service in the real estate business — and his entrepreneurial spirit that allowed Allen Tate Companies to grow and thrive for the past 58 years.

What factored into that decision?

The Allen Tate Companies was founded on Allen Tate’s entrepreneurial spirit, and we have chosen to remain independent, despite courting from national franchise companies. What could a franchise company offer us that we don’t already have? Through Leading Real Estate Companies of the World, we have national and international exposure and relocation capabilities. We are local and regional, and through LeadingRE, we are global.

Why did you think it was the right time and the right move for you?

We have never been tempted by any of the franchise operations.

How old is your brokerage?

We just celebrated our 58th anniversary.

What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your brokerage off the ground?

The most difficult challenges were operating capital and name recognition in the marketplace.

What was the easiest part of getting your brokerage off the ground?

The easiest was building a reputation and getting involved in the local community.

What’s your approximate agent-to-staff ratio?

We have approximately 1,450 agents, with a 6-to-1 agent-staff ratio. This includes an active family of companies, including mortgage, insurance, relocation and title.

Are you part of an independent brokerage network?

Allen Tate Companies is a founding member of the Leading Real Estate Companies of the World network.

What’s the quirkiest thing about your firm?

We reinvest all of our profits back into the business; we’re always building for the future.

Describe your office. Where is it located? What does it look like?

We have 40 local offices with 1,450 agents in four regions of North and South Carolina — Charlotte, Triad, Triangle and Upstate South Carolina. Our offices are different sizes and have different configurations.

What kind of floor plan do you use?

We have a variety of office designs. Our newest offices combine a variety of options: semiprivate space, shared office space, and an open floor plan with a “landing pad” area for agents who prefer to work on the go. Our offices are located in business parks, along retail corridors, in historic neighborhoods and as stand-alone facilities.

How many agents and offices do you have?

We have 40 local offices and approximately 1,450 agents.

How do you recruit new agents?

We recruit agents from real estate schools, license lists, social media, and via leads from our careers website, careers.allentate.com.

Where and how do you market your brokerage?

We market the company throughout the footprint in North and South Carolina through a variety of print, online, outdoor and social media strategies. We also use digital marketing and direct mail, and we promote the company through our partnership with the Carolina Panthers NFL franchise.

Do you have office parties? What are they like?

We host a variety of events throughout the year for agent recognition and professional enrichment. These include a black-tie-optional annual gala and quarterly VIP events to recognize top producers, as well as an annual Realtor summit for the top 100 agents. Each spring we host an annual convention, which includes national speakers, education sessions, networking and after-party.

Describe your brokerage’s digital presence.

The centerpiece of our company branding and online media is our website, allentate.com, with more than 4.3 million visits annually. We also publish a company blog, blog.allentate.com, and have an active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest.

What’s the biggest business improvement you made last year? What’s the biggest improvement you have planned for this year?

Our biggest improvement has been the implementation of a very robust CRM platform. More than half of our 1,450 agents are actively using this platform. We continue to strengthen our commitment of time, energy and dollars to Tate Cares in each of our local communities.

Moving forward, we plan to complete the implementation of our Google apps platform throughout the Allen Tate Family of Companies and implement a new accounting system. We will also focus on Phase II of revisions to our website, allentate.com, which was remodeled in 2014.

Are you an independent broker who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email amber@inman.com.

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