Starting a brokerage from scratch can sound like a daunting task thanks to the obstacles that come with running a business, let alone one in the ever-evolving real estate industry.

  • Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, Compass founder Robert Reffkin and The Agency founder Mauricio Umansky shared their insight on bringing brokerages to new heights at Inman Connect San Francisco.
  • Reffkin keeps his company fresh by investing heavily into his research and development department, which he says helps both the innovation and culture of Compass.
  • Training agents with your company culture in mind is one way to help create the sustained success The Agency, Compass and Redfin have all seen.

Starting a brokerage from scratch can sound like a daunting task thanks to the obstacles that come with running a business, let alone one in the ever-evolving real estate industry.

Mauricio Umansky with Publisher Brad Inman.

Mauricio Umansky with Publisher Brad Inman.

So who better to give you some pointers than some of the best in the industry? Sitting down at Inman Connect San Francisco, Redfin CEO Glenn Kelman, Compass founder Robert Reffkin and The Agency founder Mauricio Umansky shared their insight on bringing brokerages to new heights in real estate.

Reinvest

“We’ve continued to reinvest our own money, reinvest our own profits, and that’s how we’ve grown,” Umansky said. “You have to dare to be bad at something in order to be great at something.”

Compass President Leonard Steinberg, left, and CEO Robert Reffkin, center, in conversation with Inman Publisher Brad Inman.

Compass CEO Robert Reffkin, center, in conversation with Inman Publisher Brad Inman.

Gaining traction is only the beginning of starting a brokerage. The harder part, according to all three panelists, is sustaining success. Reffkin keeps his company fresh by investing heavily into his research and development department, which he says helps both the innovation and culture of Compass.

“What R&D really means is agent ideas,” he said. “Technology makes you smarter, faster and look better.”

Sustainable culture

Keeping a brokerage up and running requires more than just money — it requires strong workplace relationships. Chemistry and getting along are still important no matter how interactive technology gets, according to Umansky.

Glenn Kelman explains the appeal of Redfin to consumers at Real Estate Connect San Francisco 2014.

Glenn Kelman

“We’re collaborative,” he said. “We have a no-asshole rule.”

All three believe in the power of teams, but they also stressed the need to define roles of everyone involved. “Be clear about who the top dog is,” Kelman said.

Another part of company culture is showing agents how much they matter. Reffkin believes his agents are his true clients, and it’s on Compass to give them the support they need. Kelman said Redfin tries to encourage a day off every once in a while and that finding the right work-life balance for each individual is a top priority when someone new comes in.

Hiring the right people

Kelman said Redfin has an in-house apprenticeship program for new and inexperienced agents, forcing them to shadow agents in the field and perform financial and logistical duties to help them better understand the minutiae of real estate before taking on leads.

Training agents with your company culture in mind is a great way to help create the sustained success The Agency, Compass and Redfin have all seen, but there’s nothing wrong with keeping the door open for top-tier talent, according to Reffkin. Still, growing at a grass roots level is essential to keeping the vision of the company.

“You can’t grow as a brokerage purely by hiring from other brokerages,” Reffkin said.

Umanksy wants people who are about connecting and working together, even if they’re not part of an official team– which is why he views special divisions as unhealthy for his office.

“Divisions break up the company,” he said. “They cause conflict.”

Email Thomas Mitchell

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