- A broker-owner in LA has added an extra layer of management to take the minutiae of transactions out of agents' hands, and it's leading to higher productivity.
Successful agent Cyndi Lesinski admits she has always been one of those people with “one foot out the door” of her brokerage.
But in her current position with JohnHart Real Estate, a firm with 277 agents and 50 staff members in Los Angeles, Lesinski plans to stick around because she has seen her transaction sides double from 28 in her first year with the company to 56, thanks to a set of systems supporting the brokerage’s agents.
The team leader is especially attached to her “agent liaison,” a licensed staff member who directs the transaction and all communication with support staff and has become a secret weapon of sorts to boosting productivity at JohnHart. An agent liaison is not to be confused with a transaction coordinator, Lesinski said.
“The transaction coordinator will tell you, you are missing this — my agent liaison takes care of the missing piece,” Lesinski said.
JohnHart’s agent liaisons are licensed and must have completed a minimum of 500 transactions; they do everything from prepare listing presentations, help with showings, communicate with the outside agent’s transaction coordinator, prepare offers, process the counters, the list goes on.
“By having them handle the contracts for our agents, we are not only providing a service to our agents by freeing up their time to prospect more, we are also effectively putting in place quality control,” said company founder and CEO Harout Keuroghlian.
The broker, who has a structural engineering degree, is all about maintaining control over the agent responsibilities that keep brokers up at night. “We teach and coach the agent to go out and get the business; they don’t have to worry about the minutiae,” he added.
The JohnHart system helps busy agents like Lesinski the most, according to Keuroghlian. “When you have five-plus listings on the market at the same time, all of those minor things become overwhelming. You eventually plateau, or you have to start carrying serious overhead to help,” he said.
Keuroghlian worked in a small independent brokerage and for franchisor Re/Max before launching his own brokerage in 2009 after recovering from stage four leukemia. The broker and CEO was the sole agent for some time and instead of hiring agents right away, he brought on staff to help the transactions go smoothly. That worked pretty well, but when he did start to hire agents to join him four years ago, there were teething problems, and the need for a role like the “agent liaison” became apparent.
“Staff was confused, agents were confused, it was a mess. A disaster,” Keuroghlian said. “So now, and for the last few years, the agent deals with the agent liaison and the agent liaison directs the entire staff. Our software allows us to make sure the entire process is seamless.”
Agent liaisons are paid a salary and receive bonuses so they have a vested interest in helping the agent. There are currently eight agent liaisons in the company, and they each have at least one licensed assistant — the CEO is currently recruiting two additional liaisons and five more assistants.
His agents are doing, on average, eight transactions a year at the listing-centric company.
Keuroghlian likes to keep all parts of the business in-house — from the marketing to attorneys, social media and software developers. He has a former Whatsapp engineer building the company’s apps.
To pay for the significant support, Keuroghlian offers an 80/20 commission split to all his agents, which is never capped. He finds brokerages who offer caps in many cases ignore their agents once they reach that cap, and that doesn’t sit well with him.
“Our model works because our agents understand that although they’re giving up more of their commission, they’re closing more transactions,” he said. “We say 80 percent of $30 million is a lot more than 95 percent of $8 million.”
The brokerage passed $1 billion in sales volume last year and expects to do $1.5 billion this year.
JohnHart, headquartered in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale, currently has nine offices and three satellite branches with three more planned this year. A new office just opened in Northridge, Los Angeles, and Beverly Hills will be next, followed by Long Beach and then Thousand Oaks later in the year. Keuroghlian expects to add 168 new agents plus associated staff in 2018.
The CEO has had some calls from the big industry players but he has refused overtures.
“My whole thing is I don’t want to give up control; we’ve done very well, the company is very profitable,” said Keuroghlian, who plans to go to Florida, Texas, Arizona and Nevada with his model once he gets to 12 or 13 offices.
The goal down the road is an IPO, meanwhile, in the next couple of years, he will be introducing private company shares to agents, which they can buy or earn when they hit certain milestones.