Inman is profiling leaders in the real estate industry. Here’s James Becker, Managing Partner at Fusion Real Estate Network.
Describe a time when you felt particularly insecure about the future of your company. How did you bounce back?
I had a time where I had some key executives leave the company all at once. And had cash flow issues at the same time. And I went into hyperdrive decision-making. I had to focus on allocating our resources and identifying the highest and best use for our time, our employees, and our money. We needed to (unfortunately) get smaller, let some agents go, let some employees go, and focus in on the agents who were the best fit.
I would not want to go through that again. But we stabilized the business and were able to restart our growth. We had a complete turnaround in the company within 30 days and have been in the black ever since.
What would you describe as your company’s biggest victory since you joined it?
The ongoing everyday positive feedback that we get from our agents who are benefiting from the services and partnership that we provide. Cumulative little victories every day. There’s not one that stands out.
What’s your favorite activity outside of work and why?
Playing tennis. It takes me out of the complexities of business and has me focusing on one singular yellow moving object.
What’s your favorite classic piece of literature and why?
“The Fountainhead” by Ayn Rand. The reason I like it is because of all the different flawed characters. I find myself wanting to relate to the hero, Howard Roark, but then realizing that all of these flawed characters — I have a portion of those people in myself.
Are you the first entrepreneur in your family?
No. I come from a family of serial entrepreneurs. My dad owned his own insurance brokerage. My brother is a developer, my brother in law has started a business in Silicon Valley, and my other brother is a freelance lighting designer and architect.
Why’d you decide to join your company?
There’s an incredible need to help good agents develop sustainable businesses. I believed that I had the skill set and the vision to be able to create a platform that would help a certain portion of those agents.
What’s been the biggest obstacle your business has encountered, and how have you dealt with it?
Doing things differently and having agents give us the time to truly try and understand why we do things in a certain way to achieve results. We’re innovating some processes and systems that are outside the norms. I’ve dealt with it by maintaining willpower to not give up and the demonstration of passions behind our beliefs.
What puzzles you most about the industry?
That the leadership in the industry is often advocating for practices and processes that are contrary to its overall long-term health. Focusing on the short-term, selling the magic bullet. “This one thing will fix everything,” they say. But it’s not that easy. There are no simple fixes. Some of the things they say just don’t ring true.
What is the most important lesson you’ve learned about building a business?
Don’t get into fights with pigs. You just end up getting shit all over you. The difference between you and the pig is the pig enjoys it. I already knew that lesson, but I forgot it and had to re-learn.
What’s the most overrated real estate technology?
CRM programs are incredibly important, but all the bells and whistles are never utilized. So things that go beyond the basic CRM are overrated because their adoption is minimal. For example, there are tons of CRM programs that say “these are the people you should most likely call” because of some algorithm about their behavior. But agents aren’t even making one call, so these additional tools are rarely utilized.
But basic CRM is critical. It’s just not worth the data and setup for the advanced stuff.
How will the role of the real estate agent change over the next five years?
There will be more of a move toward teams, fewer individuals. Rainmakers will lead teams and generate business, and associate agents will provide support services. There will absolutely be more of an adoption of basic business practices into the industry. The current average real estate agent cannot survive.
What motivates you more: power or money?
Power, I would guess. I want to be able to have influence on how things are done. I believe that when people utilize the talents or blessings that they have been given, that could things happen. And if I can influence those individuals to maximize those blessings, we will live in a better world and better communities, and it personally feels good to me to have that effect.
What is your biggest professional fear?
Letting down the people who are counting on me. Investors, employees, agents.
What is your biggest personal fear?
Not doing a good job as a parent. Letting my two kids down.
Who do you respect most in the industry?
Kurt Reisig of American Pacific Mortgage. He’s built a huge leading banking mortgage company based upon the service of others. And he is truly a person who leads and does not necessarily enforce his will. I try to emulate him—when I get into tough business decisions, I ask myself, “What would Kurt do?”
Describe what you do in one sentence:
I try to innovate solutions to problems and encourage others to implement those solutions.