Brokerage

3 ‘Ms’ of building an indie real estate brokerage

Make sure you have plenty of money, meetings and mentors

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My husband and I founded Lanier Property Group three years ago with the (admittedly audacious) vision of changing the real estate industry for both our agents and our clients. We wanted to build a place to work that was so awesome that it would make Mondays our favorite day of the week.

We set out to create a world-class brand that stood for something more than just profits. Starting an independent real estate brokerage is not for the faint of heart, but if you’ve got the guts, it might just be the best thing you’ve ever done.

1. Money. ​It takes real money to start a business and build a brand. You need a one­- to two-year runway for your personal expenses while you become profitable. We started with $7,000, but let’s get real, we’ve spent significantly more as we’ve grown to get to this place. You can’t imagine the dollars that will be spent perfecting your brand. It took us six (!) revisions and thousands of dollars to get our final yard sign design right. Our first shot at a sign was embarrassingly awful. It was corrugated plastic, and it kept flying out of the metal holder in every stiff breeze. The picture on the sign got road­burn so bad that our faces looked like they had been through a facelift gone wrong.

Now we’ve got it figured out, but this is a tiny taste of the iterations (and dollars) it takes to build something from scratch. Be prepared to go through this same process (to some extent) with your business cards, logo, website (that is a pricey one!), events … and pretty much every single thing you create.

2. Meetings. ​Get face to face with other broker-owners as much as possible. ​Two years ago at Real Estate Connect New York, I chased down Nick Segal in the hotel lobby as he was checking out. He was gracious and as likeable in person as he was on stage. I was particularly curious about how he set­ up profit-sharing at Partners Trust. Segal’s advice made an enormous impact on the way I set­ up our revenue-sharing plan at Lanier Property Group. This is one of the reasons why you should attend conferences and ask for meetings with influential people as much as possible.

My experience is that broker-owners love to share advice and encourage one another. Just ask! I keep files for inspiration on how these companies are growing, how they hire, and how they create marketing. Inspiration is literally everywhere. Commit to attending a conference today: Go ahead and get registered; you won’t regret it!

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3. Mentors. ​I’m convinced the best mentors are local because you can get significant one­-on-­one, in-­person time with them. If they happen to share your same value system, it will be an incredibly powerful relationship. Mentors don’t need to be specific to the real estate industry, but they need to have created at least one, and preferably many, profitable companies. Spend as much time with them as possible and remain teachable: Take their advice, read the books or articles they recommend. Their time is eye-­poppingly valuable, but the good news is they won’t give it to you unless they believe in you.

Once you’ve gotten to know each other, allow them to speak truth in your life, especially in areas of leadership weakness. Be willing to show them your profit and loss statement and balance sheet. You’ll know you’ve got a true mentor when you can be real with them … the numbers do not lie.

There are so many ways to find success in building your own real estate brokerage, you’ll put your own spin on most everything. Use these ideas and build on the tools, relationships and resources you already have to create a brokerage that matters. We’d love to hear how you’ve been successful; find us online, and let’s collaborate!

Stephanie Lanier is the founder and CEO​ of Lanier Property Group, a boutique real estate firm in Wilmington, North Carolina.

Email Stephanie Lanier.