- Brent Watson has returned to Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage North office after a year with Compass.
- He found that he missed the agent networks and business he had at his previous brokerage.
Brent Watson was always the one whom other Coldwell Banker agents would tap when they came to sell their own homes at Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage’s Beverly Hills North office in Los Angeles.
Watson and around 25 other luxury agents would have a breakfast meeting once a month; they’d share information about pocket listings, market conditions and what they were working on.
But when he left in December 2015 to go to Compass’ new Beverly Hills office at around the same time as another Coldwell Banker rainmaker — Stan Richman, Compass’s Beverly Hills’ regional vice president — these connections and pocket listings evaporated.
Unwilling to lose these networks for good — and for a number of other reasons — Watson has made a return to Coldwell Banker this month after a year away. He had been with Coldwell Banker for eight years before leaving.
“Coldwell Banker Beverly Hills North has always had available the most extensive resources benefiting agents and their clients. It’s clear they continue to be ahead of the curve in marketing and technology,” he said.
“I’m thrilled to have boomeranged back home. As an experienced agent I must be associated with the most experienced and successful brokerage.”
While he had a very good year at Compass, with a $35 million sales volume, Watson, who’s been selling real estate for 27 years, said he didn’t think staying another year would benefit his business.
The Compass Beverly Hills office also recently lost another big name, Scott Segall, in December 2016 when he returned to Douglas Elliman after a year with Compass.
What didn’t work for this top producer at Compass
Watson thinks that culturally, Compass made some missteps in L.A. — for instance, putting its Beverly Hills office on the fourth floor of an office building instead of at street-level.
Compass’s open-plan office didn’t suit the way he ran his business, either, he said. There was nowhere for his assistant to have private conversations with his luxury clients.
The veteran agent also found there was an over-reliance on tech at Compass, which was not a priority for him.
“Compass is great place if you are 20-something — you can fall under their umbrella, learn the business — but for experienced agents like me, it can be problematic and alienating,” he said.
Watson suggested Compass create a luxury brand, a black-label Compass brand, but recalled that Compass CEO and founder Robert Reffkin was not receptive, saying he wanted to keep the branding uniform.
Watson also said he found the marketing support did not meet his or his clients’ standards.
“I was actually doing my own advertisements,” he noted.
Back in the fold at Coldwell Banker, he feels comfortable. “It feels so good going back.”
How to respond as the broker when you lose a top producer
Beth Styne, VP and COO of Coldwell Banker Residential Greater L.A. region — who has welcomed back around 30 to 35 agents in the last 6 months from a number of brokerages — was the one who had the conversation with Watson to bring him back.
“When he left, we made sure he was very clear in understanding that he would always be welcome back. With someone of Brent’s caliber and his clientele, we had a sneaking suspicion that he would not stay that long,” she said.
Her message to Watson and other returnees: “When something shiny comes along, we make it clear that they know that the door moves both ways — especially if it is somebody that you love.”
Styne explained Watson’s reputation for being the agent’s agent, the guy who agents will ask to sell their house.
“Brent has never been mean or rude; he’s got a kindness about him, and the knowledge and ability to connect A with C, and he’s the B. He knows how to pull people together.”
Styne said she acted quickly when she knew Watson might be open to a conversation.
When he made contact about a transaction, she invited him to lunch.
“I knew he’d been trying to catch up with Loren, our branch manager. I knew that we really wanted Brent back — I had a moment in time; I knew he needed to hear he was wanted, so at that lunch, I said: ‘We really need you to come back.'”
That conversation happened around Christmas.