This is part of “Fighting back,” a series of profiles on how broker-owners are responding to industry disruption.
Ryan Rodenbeck is the founder and owner of Austin-based boutique firm Spyglass Realty and Investments. By no means a rookie, Rodenbeck has been involved with real estate investing since 2001; he started Spyglass in 2008 and has grown his team to over 14 real estate agents.
Rodenbeck’s team helps sellers through renovation coordination, home staging and subsequent marketing through social media and retargeting. He is currently serving as a director for the Austin Board of Realtors.
Rodenbeck attributes his growth to strong tech, educating consumers through social media and evolving with the industry — that includes keeping close tabs on disruptors.
What is your No. 1 asset in this environment?
I would have to put this into two categories — one is sales and marketing and the other is technology.
As an independent broker, it can sometimes be tough to know where you are going with regard to structure. All the big-box firms have systems in place for their team leaders, brokers and franchisees, but not everyone wants to be with a big firm. I get that same support and structure through Curaytor.
Not necessarily just because of the systems, but also because of the owners and the community. Chris Smith, Jimmy Mackin and the rest of their team, as well as other team leaders in the community, have become family to me.
The second category is technology, and there is no doubt that Workplace by Facebook is a huge asset for me. It provides a great way to communicate with my agents who don’t come into the office every day. I also do project management with Workplace and house our listings on the platform. It also helps with camaraderie, training and onboarding.
I believe every brokerage will be on Workplace within the next three years, and I honestly can’t imagine not having it.
How do you leverage what you have?
I leverage both those assets to compete with bigger brokerages and grow my own. I think a lot of the big brokerages are touting their tech because technology is such a buzz word right now.
From what I’ve seen, the same technology is available to me, and I’m using it. The difference is that for me it’s à la carte, so I have to use multiple platforms to access it all. Compass seems to have everything on one platform, and there is value in that.
One thing I don’t have access to is that sign at Compass. That really is slick.
What new things must you do to compete?
You need to keep an eye on disruptors in the industry and be able to really let your audience know how you are different. You also need to educate them. Discount brokerages and flat-fee brokerages are usually not going to be best for most consumers.
I believe agents who are on salary are not going to be as motivated as agents on commission, which will affect the bottom line of consumers when buying and selling. Letting your audience know what makes you and your team special is very important. We do that through education — primarily Facebook Live and YouTube videos and then repurposing them into blog posts.
Are acquisitions the way to fend off change?
I seriously considered eXp Realty and ultimately decided it wasn’t for me. And I’m a broker, not a network marketer. Their downflow packages are appealing, but that’s not what I do. Plus, their marketing, image and logo just aren’t my style.
As far as branding and design goes, I feel like Compass is the exact opposite, and I was really impressed with how they pay so much attention to every aspect of their design.
I’ve been open for 10 years now, so it’s hard to imagine joining or being absorbed by a large firm — it’s something I’ve struggled with recently. At the moment, I’m staying independent, but I’m also keeping an open mind.
Do you explore alternative business models yourself?
I’ve explored them and dug deep into them and decided, at least for now, they’re not for me. You have to be willing to change — and I am — but I took a big dive into many different models and ultimately decided the course I’m taking right now is best for the time being — it has allowed me to double in size and double my revenue in the past two years alone.
Does your technology strategy change?
All the time. You have to always be looking for the next big thing. Right now, that thing is Workplace. We haven’t even begun to scratch the surface on all the uses for Workplace by Facebook.
We’re about to explore using it for marketing. I already use it as a project manager for Instagram research, and I think the next big thing is using an application programming interface (API) to notify agents when new leads come in or come back to one of our sites. I’m extremely excited about the future of Workplace.
Another tech strategy to keep your eye on is live video. Live streaming video is the future of internet marketing. Those videos, if done right, can then be repurposed into YouTube posts, blogs, training events and hooks for lead capture.
Right now, I have my eye on video streaming platforms Be Live and Ecamm. Both are great providers of live streaming, but each one has a couple deficiencies that the other does not. I expect that to change very soon.