Starting my own brokerage was the most daunting thing I’ve done to date. At least at the time, having bootstrapped it myself, it felt like a huge risk — partly because it was a huge risk.
Before I left, I was a broker at a large brokerage where I sat pretty in my corner office and knew what to expect everyday. If I’d have stayed on that path, I’d probably be doing OK financially, but I wouldn’t be fulfilled.
Instead, I decided to break out on my own and see what I could make happen for myself.
Fast forward 10 years, and I’m running a successful indie brokerage with my name on the door and 10 agents under my wing.
This past year, we were ranked no. 5 Hottest Residential Real Estate Firm in Portland by the Portland Business Journal. But that success hasn’t happened on it’s own — I’ve made strategic moves along the way to get here, and I’m going to share a few tips on starting out on your own (and get into some benefits that I’ve seen come out of it).
1. Finding your motivation
First, it’s important to note that when starting your own real estate brokerage, you have to be motivated by more than money. There are obvious financial risks when starting out on your own in real estate — after all, at the end of the day, you’re the one responsible for the business.
Second, it’s not always a picnic. There are hard times and hard choices that you may have to make. But along with those situations comes the freedom to run your business how you see fit and the possibility of sustainable, long-term growth.
2. Picking your team
The most obvious benefit to owning my business is that I get to pick who’s on my team. This is the make or break step for most.
I’ve surrounded myself with an incredible range of talented, invested brokers and great people. If I don’t know how to do something, I hire someone who does. There are no big egos here. Since we’re a small brokerage, we all wear several hats.
We work as a team, and we all step up whenever we need to. Most of what the company has become today is a direct result from collaborating with the team.
3. Walking the walk
One of the smartest things I’ve done in my business is walk the walk. What do I mean by that? Well, I own the real estate that the office is located in, and I rent that out to my real estate brokerage.
Owning property has allowed me to build a secondary investment vehicle that fuels the business. It’s a symbiotic relationship. An older gentleman client remarked to me, “When you go to buy a Cadillac and the sales guy is driving a Cadillac, it really says something. And you’re driving a Cadillac.”
If we’re selling real estate all day, we should also be investing in it. It’s just smart business.
4. Being valued
A huge unforeseen benefit of having my own team-based brokerage is that people value my time more. Every month at Sean Z Becker Real Estate we lead what we call our Condo Curious tour, a guided info session for interested buyers who want to learn more about the ins and outs of owning a condo.
On a recent tour I lead, a woman was pleasantly surprised that she was meeting me, the owner, in person. She couldn’t believe that I’d take the time out of my day to be there.
Remaining active with clientele in all aspects of the business adds a level of authenticity that’s hard to compete with. Since opening up shop, I’ve noticed people tend to treat me a little differently; it’s as if I have achieved a higher level of credibility within the industry and with my peers.
5. Ability to pivot
One of my favorite things about having a business is that we get to build our own systems that work just for us. At the average franchise, you’re tied to whatever structures and systems have already been put in place. Some are good, some are archaic.
Instead, our team works directly with vendors to build out systems that fit exactly what we need. There’s no short-term benefit to doing this, but by tearing apart the status quo and piecing it back together in a way that’s unique to us, we’ve gained an incredibly thorough understanding of how our systems work and how to scale our business into the future.
We’re able to adapt quickly to changes in the market and pivot strategies if something isn’t working to its full potential.
6. Being transparent
I’m a little unconventional when it comes to running my business. I like to be very transparent. I sit down with my team quarterly to update them on exactly what we’re making as a company.
There are no secrets.
I’ve found that by peeling off the layers of bureaucracy and hierarchy, we’ve been able create a shared investment in the health and longevity of the company. Transparency can be a really energizing tool. It gives our team a look at the bigger picture so everyone can understand where we’re headed and how to get there together.
7. Creating your own culture
At a large brokerage, company culture can at times feel contrived. At our size, I’m able to see through on my personal values and set my own value proposition for our clients and the company.
For instance, community engagement is incredibly important to me, especially as a Portland native, so we’ve worked to become partners with the greater community. We want each and every client of ours to feel like they’re part of our family.
We’re not just another brokerage, and they’re not just another client. Owning a small brokerage that’s woven into the fabric of Portland has enabled us to build deeper, long-lasting relationships with clients.
We’ve become a fixture in our community, and we couldn’t be more thrilled.
Sean Z. Becker is the owner and principle broker at Sean Z Becker Real Estate.