- To build a saleable business, you have to have a well-organized recruitment strategy to attract the right people.
- You also have to have a consistent delivery of service of your brand and to be able to articulate what this is.
- Brokers should treat their agents as their clients.
Elizabeth Cooper-Golden, owner of @Homes Realty Group in Huntsville, Alabama, had always been a great real estate agent — but being a good broker and running a growing brokerage at the same time were two different things, she found.
“I got to the 12-to-14-agent mark and noticed I was in trouble,” she said. “I was trying to keep up my referral business, I was onboarding new agents — it was more than I could handle. I either had to stay where I was or grow so that I could step out of real estate selling.”
This realization helped Cooper-Golden take a look at what she wanted out of her business — to ultimately build it into a saleable asset.
“When I come to sell — I can either hire a broker to take over and then continue to take profit out of the company, or I can sell it in totality,” said Cooper-Golden.
Her intention is to “have a complete package for somebody to walk in the door” and buy, she said.
Cooper-Golden has big plans for 2016. “We did just over $40 million in sales volume last year and plan on increasing that by 50 percent this year,” she said.
So she’s working on turning her business into something she can sell even as she plans for and meets her productivity goals.
What you need to make your asset ‘saleable’
Staff and customer service
Cooper-Golden has no plans to retire anytime soon, but she knows the time will come.
One of the most important areas which will help make her business saleable is the quality of her staff and her customer service message, she has learned. The broker has been advised to change her commission split with new hires to make sure she is attracting the right people.
The broker has taken on seven agents since attending the recruiting module of the T3 Fellows program — a brokerage accelerator run by Leslie Ebersole, Jack Miller and Stefan Swanepoel — three months ago. (She’s using the program to help her make her brokerage “saleable.) Five of those agents are fresh out of real estate school and two are experienced producers, boosting her total staff level to 23.
It wasn’t completely straightforward.
“I interviewed an agent and just loved her — but she had a situation that was going to make it a hardship to leave her old broker,” said Cooper-Golden.
She was advised to find out what was causing the pain for the agent and try to solve it. She wrote the agent a check, and the agent was on board two weeks later.
Grooming a successor
Meanwhile, Cooper-Golden has spent every morning for the past two months with her new agents.
“I really want them to know the business — I’m taking them on showings, lenders and closing attorneys are coming in; we are doing comps right now; it’s been a real in-depth training.”
The Alabama broker intends to grow her staff by another 20 percent by the end of the year and to remove herself from selling and generating leads.
And when she is ready to stop selling altogether, she thinks she has a successor.
“I have got someone in my office who been with me for three years, an inside sales agent. She is our director of happiness — she would be a great person to take over my position.”
Building a team and a brand
“My agents are my clients — I have to make sure they have a happy experience,” Cooper-Golden said.
“They are the ones who keep our door open. I will provide them with a great brand, market knowledge and market stats every month — they need a lot of support.”
It’s about creating something that will transfer, said Ebersole.
“Until quite recently, real estate agents or teams of service providers have had a shelf life for exactly as long as they could sell properties and stick signs in the yard and a book of business that lasted as long as they could actively look after it,” she said.
“The idea of creating a real estate business should be no different from creating a dental practice, for instance. It’s not just the owner who pulls the tooth,” said Ebersole.
Once you create a brand around your business, you are on the path to creating an asset.
Your story has to resonate with clients, and small brokerages like Cooper-Golden’s can have a better chance of doing this than a larger, more faceless brokerage, said Ebersole.
Stepping back from sales
As for the broker stepping back from her own clients — she will do it reluctantly, but it is happening, said Ebersole.
“Elizabeth had to make a decision that chasing results for other people was more important than achieving results on her own,” she said. “Often there can be a sacrifice of income, but Elizabeth is a born teacher and leader, and helping her agents become successful has become more important to her than the joy of serving one client.
“Elizabeth is having a good year. If you are very clear with your messaging, you do more.”
Why not the franchise route?
Cooper-Golden could work with a franchise to expand her business, but she said she does not want to.
” I worked for Century 21 and then Re/Max — but I’ve never considered buying a franchise,” she said.
“I don’t want to be the largest brokerage — I don’t care about being no. 1,” she said. “I just want the best agents, and I want our customer service to be reflected in every transaction.”