This is part of “Fighting back,” a new series of profiles on how broker-owners are responding to industry disruption.
Bill Lublin is the CEO of Century 21 Advantage Gold. His firm is Pennsylvania’s no. 1 C21 firm.
Lublin has spoken on the use of social media and technology to the federal government, Harvard University, the National Association of Realtors (NAR), the Canadian Real Estate Association and numerous other organizations in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
His ability to connect real world business experience with the use of social media, combined with an ability to make complex things simple, has helped to grow his business.
What is your no. 1 asset in this environment?
Without question, the no. 1 asset any brokerage has is the people of the company, from their leadership team to the newest agent at the firm.
Whether it’s one person or one thousand people, without a team that is committed to the company’s mission and vision, it’s difficult to maintain the positive energy that is crucial to prosper in good times and survive in bad times.
If you think that your no. 1 asset is a business model or a piece of technology — or even a well-developed technology stack — you are an accident waiting to happen.
The real estate business is dynamic, not static; and commitment to a single strategy as a path to success has proven to be ineffective. If business models were the answer, there would be only one business model.
If technology were the answer, everyone would duplicate or imitate that technology more rapidly than you can imagine. There is no “secret sauce” to a service business — service businesses prosper when the team delivering the service is committed to the mutual goals and culture of the company
How do you leverage what you have?
Every company should have a unique value proposition. Some “turf” you can claim as your own and a place where you can explain clearly why agents should affiliate with your firm. It needs to be demonstrable, and it should be easily explained in a simple elevator pitch.
Examine your company from the outside. Look at every tool and system you have, and determine how it benefits your agents. When we sell houses, we often try to sell features, but consumers don’t buy features, they buy benefits. It’s the same thing when you work with agents. We sell tools and systems, but they buy the benefits to their business and their life.
You should be able to explain to a prospective agent why they should choose your brand, why they should choose your company and how it benefits them specifically.
Be careful to choose something that is not market-specific. For example, competing on agent commission schedules may allow you to recruit several agents but may not allow your company sufficient profitability to survive market readjustments, which are inevitable in our business.
What new things must you do to compete?
Just as there is no “secret sauce” or “magic bullet” in sales, there isn’t one for running a business. You won’t know what the new thing you need is until you recognize a need to do something different.
Business is like being in a basketball game — when you have the ball, you don’t look down at the ball in your hands, you know where the ball is and what you’re doing with it. Instead, you need to look at the other players to see what they’re doing to try to take the ball away from you and score.
As business people, we should constantly be measuring our business against past performance and market performance so that we know what the ball in our hands is doing, but at the same time, we need to be looking at what the other players are doing, so that we can adjust our game — not to copy their efforts but to develop strategies of our own.
Are acquisitions the way to fend off change?
Acquisitions don’t fend off change, they build businesses. Acquisitions are a good way to enter new geographic markets, build agent counts, increase agent population and potentially reach new market segments. They can also bring new systems or tools to the existing company.
Do you explore alternative business models yourself?
I am constantly looking for new ways to increase efficiency and profitability for my company and for my agents. We have experimented with flat-fee models, hybrid models and a number of other innovative business programs.
We’re always willing to look at alternative methods of generating income or attracting talent, we just want them to assure that the company can be stable and profitable.
Does your technology strategy change?
Not really because our technology strategy isn’t tied to any set of tools or a specific tech stack. Our technology strategy is to utilize the best available tools to increase profitability and efficiency while decreasing costs. Technology doesn’t drive our business — it enhances the efforts of our agents and support staff.
That being said, the technology we use changes as new tools become available and as the needs of our agents and support staff change.