This is part of “Fighting back,” a new series of profiles on how broker-owners are responding to industry disruption.

A raft of new business models are entering the real estate scene — Purplebricks, Opendoor and eXp, and new tech brokerages such as Redfin and Compass are rapidly getting market share.

How are brokers adapting or changing? We put that question to company owners around the country.

Eddie Berenbaum

Eddie Berenbaum is the co-founder and president of Century 21 Redwood Realty. A 1997 graduate of Penn State University, Berenbaum moved to the D.C. area immediately after college to begin his career in real estate.

He founded Redwood Realty in November of 2002 with his friends and co-workers, Shawn Milletary and Nick Pasquini. He drinks caffeinated coffee, likes Thai food and roots for the Pittsburgh Steelers.

He is an innovator and great marketer but also nerdy, building much of his own technology.

What is your no. 1 asset in this environment?

Our no. 1 asset is always our people. Our agents, staff and ownership are what set us apart in every environment.

The business of real estate is fundamentally about people and what they need; what is true on the inside of a company is true on the outside — if a company treats its agents like commodities, so too will the end-consumer be treated.

How do you leverage what you have?

As a privately owned company with three equal partners who’ve grown from three guys working out of Shawn’s [Milletary] basement to one with 500-plus agents pacing [approximately] $2 billion in sales, we have a huge edge over these newcomers in terms of first-hand real estate knowledge.

While as a bootstrapped, debt-free company we may not have the development budget of our newer competitors, our intense comprehension of what it takes to partner with agents to grow their business enables us to move forward in a much more efficient and effective manner.

What new things must you do to compete?

We have to arm our agents with the best coaching, training, leads and systems to enable them to grow their business. When it comes to tools, we constantly strive to develop or align ourselves with intuitive systems that enable our agents to be more effective than they could be with our competitors.

Our goal here is to keep our agents in front of their clients performing income-generating activities as opposed to being bogged down with back-office tasks.

Specific Redwood success stories in this arena are our C21Redwood marketing platform, from which our agents use drag-and-drop technology to build brochures, postcards, property websites and listing presentations.

Our Redwood agent websites are built on our proprietary VOW (virtual office website) home search along with accessRedwood, which connects our entire toolbox via SSO (single sign-on) and is home to our online support center.

Are acquisitions the way to fend off change?

We’ve never looked at acquisitions in this light. We view acquisitions as a way of taking companies with solid ownership and a loyal agent base to the next level.

It takes scale and a willingness to invest to win in brokerage in this environment, and that’s what we bring to the table.

We are always careful to invest in relationships with competing broker-owners that we admire in our marketplace and always make it clear that we would love to play a role in their exit strategies when the time comes.

Do you explore alternative business models yourself?

Constantly. We are always looking for alternative ways for agents to grow their business. We would never consider an alternative business model that competed with agents in any way, though. Partnering with agents to grow their business is what we do.

Does your technology strategy change?

A brokerage’s technology must always evolve, but it must do so in a manner that raises every boat.

Earlier this year, we appointed our lead software engineer as the general manager of our corporate team, and the results have been spectacular.

We’re rethinking everything from accounting to marketing to ensure that we operate with maximum efficiency and that the very thing that sets us apart from our well-funded competitors, our hands-on industry knowledge, is at the center of everything we do.

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