This is part of “Fighting back,” a new series of profiles on how broker-owners are responding to industry disruption.
OB Jacobi is the president of Windermere Real Estate proudly says his company is a family business. “Creating a sense of family has always been an important part of the Windermere tradition,” he said.
The company was born from family, starting with founder, John Jacobi.
From the early days of Windermere, he encouraged his children to get involved with the family business by answering phones, sweeping sidewalks and volunteering in the community.
His efforts paid off because 40 years later, the company he built is now in the hands of a second generation who continue to honor the company’s humble beginnings while keeping a firm eye on the future.
But it’s not a small family business anymore, with 6,500 agents and growing.
It was his news tip to Inman about Compass market share numbers that were rebutted by Windermere that inspired this series.
What is your no. 1 asset in this environment?
That’s an easy one — it’s our agents. Every decision we make at Windermere comes back to how it will support our agents and make them successful. We pride ourselves on being a bottom-up company, so we make it a priority to ask our agents for input and ideas so that we are investing our resources in the right places.
That can be challenging when you have 6,500 agents because everyone has different needs, but we’ve chosen to build our company around the Ninja Selling philosophy, so that helps us focus our energies.
Does a new tool, program or technology help our agents stay in flow with their clients? If the answer is no, we move on.
How do you leverage what you have?
Whether you’ve been around for four years or 46 years, you have equity that you’ve built in your business and your brand. But even with that equity, sometimes you need to step back and hit the refresh button to make it new and shiny again. That’s what we did earlier this year with the refresh of the Windermere brand.
It hadn’t had a major update in almost 20 years, so it was time. Same goes for our website; on July 3, we launched a refreshed version of Windermere.com.
Neither of these refreshes required an entire overhaul or the massive expense that comes with it — sometimes all you need is a face lift.
Remember, even if you have the top market share where you do business, you cannot rest on your laurels. You must always look around and find ways to improve upon what you already have.
What new things must you do to compete?
Late last year, we sent out a survey to everyone in our company and asked for input on what they needed help with. One of the most common answers we got was social media.
Obviously, social media is not new, but many agents don’t know how to use it effectively as a marketing tool. As a result, we enlisted the help of an outside agency who helped our team build what we call our Social Media Playbook.
This playbook is essentially a blueprint for how to use social media to keep in flow with clients. We are rolling it out to our agents later this month along with a library of how-to videos, branded templates, content and other tools that will help agents implement a business-building strategy on social media.
Do you explore alternative business models yourself?
We’re big advocates of exploring different business models, but maybe not in the way you mean.
During the economic downturn, we actually took a long hard look at our technology strategy and decided to bring everything in-house. When most companies were hunkering down due to the struggling real estate market, we actually decided to double down and explore different business models.
What resulted is what is now known as Moxi Works, which develops and sells integrated tools that build agent productivity. As you can imagine, the cost to run a technology company is pretty high, so a few years ago we approached our friends (and Moxi customer) at Howard Hannah to see if they’d be interested in coming on board as our business partner.
That partnership was so successful we also approached Long & Foster. Now you have three of the largest regional real estate companies running a technology company together that provides tools and services to over 50 real estate brokerages and 80,000 agents around the country. If that’s not an alternative business model, I don’t know what is.