Inman is profiling independent brokers. Here’s Kyle Whissel of Whissel Realty.
Why do you stay independent when there are so many great franchises to join?
I don’t feel that the franchise name is nearly as important as it used to be when clients considered the company the brand. Nowadays, clients consider the agent to be the brand.
When did you decide to launch your independent brokerage and why?
I have always been independent, since day one. I worked with my dad who was independent for a few years before branching out on my own and starting Whissel Realty in 2010.
What factored into that decision?
I couldn’t fathom giving thousands of dollars per year away to a franchise just to use their name. I like being independent, as I’m able to pivot much quicker than the big franchises are able to.
Why did you think it was the right time and the right move for you?
I branched out from my dad because I realized he was holding me back due to his lack of tech-savvy. I knew it was time to take things to a new level, and it wasn’t going to happen under his tutelage.
How old is your brokerage?
I founded it in 2010. My father founded his independent brokerage in San Diego in 1979.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in getting your brokerage off the ground?
Hiring the right agents. In the beginning, I hired any and everyone just to fill up the office but soon learned that was a big mistake. We are a very young and tech-savvy office — our average agent is 30 years old. It’s not that 70-year-old people can’t do well in this business; they just don’t do well in our office and often lack the hustle that younger agents have. We went from 82 deals to 242 deals in a year when I learned the importance of culture.
What’s your approximate agent-to-staff ratio?
Three to 1.
Are you part of an independent brokerage network?
What’s the quirkiest thing about your firm?
We have a 1950s Coke machine in our office full of craft beer.
Describe your office. Where is it located? What does it look like?
Our primary office is located in the community of North Park, which is the “hipster” community of San Diego. We are at the top floor of a midrise office building with ocean views. The overall look and feel of our office is modern-reclaimed. We have a lot of reclaimed furniture including pallet table and refinished rustic tables. We commissioned a photographer to shoot photos of all of the city signs around San Diego and those were printed on canvas. These are hung up throughout our office.
What kind of floor plan do you use?
We have a few private offices and a big “cafe” area similar to a Starbucks. We’re not big fans of the traditional cubical-style office. All of our furniture is modular, which allows for easy brainstorming configurations.
How many agents and offices do you have?
Three offices with 14 agents total.
How do you recruit new agents?
I do a lot of speaking engagements, which typically causes agents to reach out to me about joining our team.
Where and how do you market your brokerage?
Anywhere and everywhere!
Do you have office parties? What are they like?
We regularly do office events like bowling, attending the horse races, happy hour. …
Describe your brokerage’s digital presence.
We have a huge digital footprint, including our website, blog, videos on YouTube, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
What would you say are the biggest advantages to operating as an independent brokerage versus as a franchised firm? What are the biggest challenges?
We don’t have to spend money on franchise fees. Instead, we can spend that money on marketing our clients’ homes.
The biggest challenge is that we don’t have a big corporate team-building systems and marketing materials for us.
What sets your brokerage apart? What makes you different from your competition?
The average agent in our office does 20-plus deals per year, as opposed to the average agent in a franchise office doing fewer than five.
What makes us different is that we love what we do and do what we love. We all have a true passion for the industry that is magnetic. It draws agents to our team and buyers and sellers to our company.
What’s the biggest business improvement you made last year? What’s the biggest improvement you have planned for this year?
We made a mental mindset shift that we are luxury. We talked about it, studied it, read about it, watched videos on it … and this has led to our team increasing our average price by nearly 25 percent. This year, we’re working on taking over the $1 million-plus market in San Diego.
Are you an independent broker who’d like to participate in our profile series? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.